Catholic World News News Feature
Legislating a Lie January 01, 2005
On October 1 the Spanish government that came to power last spring, led by Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, gave its approval to proposed legislation that would reform the nation’s civil code to confer full recognition on same-sex unions—giving homosexual couples the right to legal marriage. The secretary general of the Spanish bishops’ conference, Father Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, SJ, promptly remarked that “to approve this legislation is to introduce a virus into society,” or to issue “false currency that will seriously devalue the institution of marriage.”
This legislation, the bishops’ spokesman continued, would impose upon Spanish society “something that has not existed in any civilization, and that goes against reason. No legal system in the world has ever held that homosexual relations are equal to real marriage.”
[Actually the Netherlands gave civil unions between homosexuals the legal status of marriage in 2001, and Belgium followed suit in 2003. Same-sex unions are also treated as legal marriages in several Canadian provinces and one American state (Massachusetts). – Ed.]
Ignacio Sanchez Camara, who teaches philosophy of law at the University of Coruna, commented that “to describe other unions as marriages constitutes a giant backward step in the history of Western civilization.” The legislation, he said, would entail “really changing the entire meaning of the family in the West.” In order to allow for legal recognition of homosexual unions (and other non-matrimonial relationships), the legal system would need to alter other formulas—in the area of contract law, for example—he said. The government’s decision, he complained, came as a complete shock: without legal precedent and without public discussion. To adopt it, he argued, would “most likely require changing the constitution.”
Daniel Tirapu Martinez, a law professor at the University of Jaen, agreed. Giving homosexual unions the legal status of marriage, he observed, would “contradict article 32 of the Spanish constitution, which protects marriage as a male-female union.” Moreover, he said, the change:
… runs counter to all history and to any culture. No culture, ancient or modern, has recognized the possibility of marriage between homosexuals. Greek and Roman culture, even though they were deeply influenced by homosexuality in many ways, still did not attempt to equate homosexual practices and relations with marriage or with the family life that originates in marriage.
A majority of the members of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), the top administrative body in the Spanish legal system, also deemed the government’s proposal both radical and dangerous. The CGPJ asked the government to submit a draft of the proposed legislation, so that the Council could issue an advisory ruling on its constitutionality. Justice Minister Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar declined the request, explaining that it was “not mandatory” for the government to obtain an opinion before proceeding with the legislation. The CGPJ has continued to press its case, insisting that it will undertake a review of the proposal.
THE BATTLE IN OTHER COUNTRIES
Spain is not the only Western country where the drive to approve same-sex unions has been on the political agenda this year. But in other democratic nations the momentum seems to be swinging in the opposite direction. In France, a proposal similar to the one put forward by the Spanish government has caused sharp divisions within the Socialist Party. The former Socialist prime minister, Lionel Jospin, among others, has indicated that he is uncomfortable with the move to provide recognition for same-sex unions, believing that the move has been given unnecessary prominence on the party’s agenda. In Jospin’s view, there is a clear line to be drawn between accepting the desires of some individuals and tampering with an institution as fundamental as marriage.
Segoline Royal, the family-life minister in the former Socialist government, has also been open in her opposition to the movement to recognize same-sex unions and to allow adoption by homosexual couples. Royal has an unusual perspective on the issue; she is the steady companion of Socialist Party secretary François Hollande, and the couple has four children, although they are not married. But she believes: “The family and parental authority are values that we must reinforce in our society.” In her view, there is no need for legal recognition of same-sex unions beyond the level of domestic partnerships, which are already available for couples of all descriptions.
In the United States, too, the political trend is distinctly unfavorable to the recognition of same-sex unions. Even before the 2004 elections, six states had approved constitutional amendments to define matrimony as the union between a man and a woman. In November voting, the citizens of 11 different states approved various measures banning same-sex marriage, by an overall margin of 2-to-1 among 20 million votes cast. In every state where the question appeared on the ballot, the vote in favor of preserving traditional marriage was clear-cut. The closest vote came in Oregon, where the ban on same-sex marriage was approved by 57 percent of the voters; in Mississippi, the measure won a resounding 86 percent support.
Since 1996, 39 American states have approved a Defense of Marriage act, which stipulates that only a male-female union can be legally recognized as marriage. Twenty of those states have also passed resolutions calling on the US Congress to approve a constitutional amendment that would bar same-sex marriage on a nationwide basis.
A POWERFUL MINORITY
A survey conducted by Spain’s National Institute for Statistics (INE), and presented to the public on July 27 by health minister Elena Salgado, confirmed the general belief that homosexuals form a very small—albeit highly influential—minority. The survey, carried out in late 2003, involved 10,838 people. Questioned anonymously about their sexuality (with all responses voluntary), only 1 percent of the respondents said that they were involved exclusively in homosexual activities. Even by a much broader measurement—including those who reported ever having had homosexual relations—the number of Spaniards who could possibly be classified as homosexual remained quite small: 3 percent.
These figures match closely the results of studies in other countries. In the United States the best statistics show about 1 percent of the population as actively homosexual. In Canada, in a survey of 84,000 people, just 1.3 percent of the male respondents, and 0.7 percent of the females, identified themselves as homosexual.
In countries where same-sex unions can be legally registered, the statistics show a similar pattern. In Norway, between 1993 and 2001, 1,293 homosexual couples registered their relationships, as compared with 190,000 heterosexual couples who were issued marriage licenses; thus 0.7 percent of the registered couples were homosexual. In Sweden, from 1995 to 2002, there were 280,000 unions registered, and only 1,526—or 0.55 percent—involved same-sex partners.
In Spain the most recent census figures, from 2001, included for the first time an accounting of homosexual couples living together. There were a total of 10,474 such couples (3,619 female and 6,855 male), making up just over one-tenth of 1 percent of Spain’s 9.5 million households. The Federation of Gays and Lesbians argued that these statistics are misleading, because of the strong social pressure for homosexuals to remain “in the closet.” But that argument is not entirely convincing when it is applied to census data, since all individual responses to the census are held as confidential.
The figure most commonly cited by gay-rights activists—that 10 percent of the population is homosexual—cannot be confirmed by any of the available survey data. The origin of that 10-percent figure, of course, is the notorious Kinsey Report, based on a study of 12,000 volunteers between 1938 and 1947. Today scholars recognize that the Kinsey Report was based upon seriously flawed methodology; among other problems, the testing sample—taken primarily from schools, prisons, and hospitals—was highly unrepresentative of the overall population. No other study, using reasonably scientific methods, has put the number of homosexuals at any figure higher than 3 percent.
In Spain, therefore, legislators were being asked to undertake a legal devaluation of all marriages, for the benefit of the 0.1 percent of society involved in same-sex relationships—or, on the broadest possible interpretation, the 1 percent who are active homosexuals.
Divorce-Risk Patterns in Same-Sex Marriages in Norway and Sweden, a study undertaken by a team of social scientists, found that the rate of breakdown in same-sex relationships is far higher than in marriages. In Sweden, for example, where the rate of divorce is already very high (53 per 100 marriages), homosexual male couples were 1.5 times as likely to split, while lesbian couples were 2.67 times as likely to break up.
Regarding the duration of same-sex unions, the Dutch psychiatrist Gerard van den Aardweg says that among homosexuals, “a faithful and lasting relationship is extremely rare—if it is possible at all.” During his 35 years of professional work with people who experience same-sex attractions, he reports:
I have not encountered a single homosexual relationship that lasted over the years, and could be considered a normal, adult relationship. There are exceptional cases involving ties of friendship that last for years between homosexuals, but not cases of living together faithfully. The relationships are characterized by tensions, jealousies, adolescent behavior, and neurotic combinations of attraction and revulsion.
Homosexuals typically have an average of eight partners in the course of a year, van den Aardweg reports; those who are more promiscuous might have 20 partners in a year. The average duration of a relationship that homosexual partners might characterize as “stable” is about 18 months—and those relationships are usually not exclusive. One study of “stable” homosexual partnerships in Holland found that the average man had 2.5 sexual contacts with others during the first year of that “stable” union; by the sixth year, the average figure was 11 sexual contacts with others.
In short, homosexual relationships appear to be destined for breakdowns, and likely to entail routine outside affairs. The pressure exerted by the gay-rights lobby for changes in the legal treatment of same-sex unions is not a drive to give homosexuals the distinct benefits of marriage—the benefits that flow from a stable and faithful relationship—so much as it is a drive to change the way society thinks and talks about both homosexuality and marriage.
Father Tony Anatrella, a psychoanalyst, argues forcefully that there is no “discrimination” involved in asserting that only a man and a woman can be married and produce children. Father Anatrella—who was a major contributor to a controversial lexicon of terms involving family life, published by the Pontifical Council for the Family in April 2003—reasons that homosexuals suffer not from oppression by society, but from the inevitable consequences of their own choices.
Unfair discrimination, agrees Jesus Zarzalejo, implies the existence of an unjustifiable inequality of treatment. In Spain there is no such injustice, he argues. Nothing in the code of Spanish civil law prohibits homosexuals from entering into a legal marriage—which is, by definition, a union between a man and a woman. There is no provision in the law that discriminates on the basis of sexual preference; everyone has the same opportunity to marry a partner of the opposite sex.
At the same time, heterosexuality is not, in itself, sufficient as a condition for marriage; there are other legal restrictions. A father cannot marry his daughter, nor a mother her son. There is no serious lobby—in Spain or elsewhere—arguing that these restrictions constitute unjust discrimination.
In fact Daniel Tirapu, the legal scholar, contends that the recognition of same-sex “marriage”—rather than the failure to recognize such unions—would constitute an unjust form of discrimination. Triapu reasons that with the legal recognition of same-sex unions, the Spanish government would be taking the position that all couples who live together and exchange sexual favors should receive the full legal and social benefits of marriage. But in that case, he asks, how can the government justify the failure to accord those some privileges to relatives or friends who happen to live together without any sort of sexual relationship? On what basis should sexual activity constitute a grounds for legal privileges?
Another legal scholar, Ignacio Sanchez Camara, sees yet another argument against the notion that society is “discriminating” against same-sex couples. If Spain abolishes the requirement that marrying couples must be of the opposite sex, he points out, there is no obvious reason to maintain the requirement that only couples can marry. Would it not be equally discriminatory to maintain the ban on unions involving three or more partners?
In an effort to establish that they have been the victims of unjust discrimination, gay-rights activists have compared their situation to that of racial minorities in past generations. Ignoring the evidence that shows the psychological difficulties that accompany homosexual activity, and dismissing the fact that the world’s great religions treat homosexual acts as morally wrong, gay lobbyists persist in the argument that there is no reasonable basis for opposition to their activities. Thus they have invented the charge of “homophobia,” which is applied to those who oppose homosexual rights. And thus they have introduced the notion that homosexuals today share the suffering—and the moral status—of past victims of racism.
This argument, however, is based on the assumption that one’s choice of sexual orientation and sexual activities should enjoy the same legal protection as the most fundamental civil and human rights. Ordinarily, the world’s civilized societies recognize human rights as flowing from the dignity of the human person, not from an individual’s chosen activities. And this is particularly true with regard to chosen sexual activities. If society must accede to the desires of those who feel an inclination to homosexual activity, and recognize those inclinations as the basis for recognizing a new fundamental human right, there is no apparent reason why similar claims could not be put forward by those who feel an inclination toward voyeurism, exhibitionism, sadomasochism, transexuality, and other forms of perversion.
There is a similar absurdity in the notion that anyone who resists the claims of homosexual activists is engaging in a “hate crime,” or an assault on human rights. Many psychologists and psychiatrists believe that homosexual inclinations stem from an inversion or corruption of healthy sexual identity. Should the scientists who hold those views now be forced to justify them before legal tribunals?
The approval of a new law providing government recognition for same-sex unions would provide benefits to only a tiny minority of Spanish citizens (including those lawyers who might profit from the consequent increase in the number of divorces). But some optimists see another potential benefit: If the legal definition of “marriage” is seriously devalued by government action, Spanish couples may place greater value on the indissoluble, heterosexual union known as Christian marriage.
As a counter to the move by the country’s Socialist government the Spanish Family Forum (FEF) has launched a referendum campaign, seeking 500,000 signatures on a petition to define marriage explicitly as a male-female union. Under the country’s legal system, if the FEF meets its goal of 500,000 certified signatures within six months, the Spanish parliament will be required to discuss the initiative and bring the issue promptly to a vote.
When the group announced the referendum campaign, FEF vice-president Benigno Blanco predicted that there would be no difficulty in obtaining the necessary signatures. He assured reporters that there are far more than one-half million Spaniards who are determined to defend traditional marriage.
The Spanish hierarchy leapt into the fray in November, when the vice-president of the country’s episcopal conference charged that the Zapatero government’s plans—on marriage and other issues—betray a “nihilism” that will be damaging to the country.
Archbishop Fernando Sebastian Aguilar of Pamplona told the Italian daily Avvenire said that the government’s aggressive drive toward secularism suggested a belief that the people must be liberated from “the influence that the faith still exercises in society.” However, while attacking the religious principles on which Spanish society is based, the government “is not proposing anything new or better,” the archbishop charged. As a result, the government programs point toward “an empty and absolute form of freedom,” he said. “That is not reform; it is nihilism.”
Although the Zapatero government assumed office through a democratic process, the archbishop pointed out that the current government has a tenuous hold on the reins of power in Spain. “In any case,” he added, “the truth does not depend on a majority vote.”
“I have no doubt that the majority of Spanish people are against homosexual marriage,” Archbishop Sebastian said. He pointed out that practicing Catholics constitute 30 percent of the country’s population—although he conceded that many Catholics hold views that do not accord with Church teachings.
Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia, Spain, called on Catholics to “awaken their sleeping consciences” in response to “essential” questions such as the defense of marriage. In a pastoral letter to the faithful of his archdiocese, he lamented that most Spaniards seemed hesitant “to defend the family based on marriage as the foundation of any civilized society with any hope for the future.” The definition of marriage and the family, he continued, “does not depend on our personal tastes or whims, but rather it stems from a grasp of reality.”
The bishops conference of Spain announced that on December 26 it would dedicate the traditional “Family and Life” Day to the defense of marriage between one man and one woman.
During the announcement, Father Martinez Camino, the bishops’ spokesman, said:
Whoever attempts to erase that distinction between marriage and other forms of living together—whatever unfortunate person attempts to erase a distinction that is evident to anyone who has eyes to see—causes grave harm to reason and to society.
“The Church did not invent marriage,” Father Martinez Camino said. Marriage is a reality that “exists chronologically and culturally even before Christianity.”
THE CASE AGAINST SAME-SEX ADOPTION
The Vatican has argued that the adoption of children by same-sex couples is a form of child abuse. And the American College of Pediatricians has agreed that placing children in homosexual households is act of injustice against those children.
Psychiatrist Aquilino Polaino argues that “a child has the inalienable right to be educated and formed within a society.” Toward that end, he continues, the child must gain an understanding of his own identity, which he learns from his parents. He said it is indispensable for the child to have the benefit of both male and female role models, from whom he learns to understand his own nature.
Polaino goes on to say that adoption by homosexual couples causes serious psychological difficulties for the child. Household life is likely to be very different from that in a typical heterosexual family; the more frequent disruptions and upheavals have a profound effect on the already vulnerable psychic condition of the child. Children raised by homosexual couples are definitely more likely to become homosexual themselves. The proven instability of homosexual unions adds another argument against placing children in that environment.
The yearning of a couple for children is natural, Polaino concedes. But in the process of adoption, the desires of the potential parents do not ordinarily command top priority—nor should they. Adoption agencies and government bureaus usually appraise the household lives of the couples seeking to adopt children, to ensure that they fulfill the basic conditions necessary for healthy family life, and that the children will be living in a safe and natural environment.