Is marriage anything?

In the Dail yesterday Labour’s Brendan Howlin approvingly quoted Australian High Court judge, Michael Kirby, to the effect that marriage is “a civil status, created and defined by the law”. This was in the context of the ‘debate’ about the Civil Partnership Bill.

Does Deputy Howlin really believe this, because if he does, then he believes that civil marriage can be anything at all, defined in any way we like and that it has no essential characteristic without which marriage is not marriage.

For example, clearly Deputy Howlin does not believe heterosexuality is an essential component of marriage. But if heterosexuality is not an essential component, then why is marriage restricted to just two people? Why is this an essential component? And why must it have a sexual component? And why forbid certain degrees of affinity if the couple (or the three or four people who want to marry each other) don’t intend having children?

Deputy Howlin clearly subscribes to an entirely relativistic view of marriage. He does not believe that marriage is a given, something that pre-dates the State, something the State ‘discovers’ and then gives special support and help.

But even if we accept his view that marriage can be anything the State wants it to be, then Christians have as much right as any other citizen to say what it should be.

In the Dail debate yesterday religious believers were effectively told to mind their own business and that civil marriage was no concern of theirs. But religious believers live in society, they are part of civil society and are as entitled as anyone else to seek to influence the laws of the society in which they live.

Civil marriage is a vital component of society. Everyone, including religious believers, have a right to say how marriage should be defined. Or do our politicians no longer believe this?

What they appear to be telling religious believers, in effect, is ‘know your place’.

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