It is the Commission’s view that the Bill adopts a flawed understanding of human rights in an attempt to redefine marriage in such a way that would tear the core meaning away from this most fundamental of institutions.

The Bill is based on a spurious understanding of minority rights which now threatens the cornerstone of New Zealand’s societal structure. Not only is the definition of marriage as celebrated since time immemorial under threat, but an incidental consequence of the Bill, once enacted, will surely be that the idea of the importance for society of the indispensable role of a husband and wife in conceiving and raising children is also challenged. It has been a prevailing norm throughout history and recognised by all cultures that the union of husband and wife is the best way to ensure a stable environment for family life.

The Problems with Redefining Marriage Marriage has always been a heterosexual institution, and Parliament has now ascribed the term “marriage” to something that it is not. Despite ideology-driven attempts to change the definition of marriage, it will

always remain an inherently heterosexual institution because for thousands of years marriage has been understood as being an exclusive life-long covenant of the love of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others. Crucially, this union has the natural capacity to generate new lives, which has the purpose of supporting the well-being of the couple, as well as the procreation and education of children. This type of union is the ideal environment for the upbringing of children.

We know from the impact that divorce has had on society how important it is that children have a father and a mother. Why then deliberately create other situations that are not in the best interests of children, who have a right to know their biological parents and to be educated by them?

Is the Existing Marriage Act Discriminatory?

If marriage was merely a relationship of intimacy between consenting adults, the existing law would be unjustly discriminatory against homosexuals. However, marriage is much more than this.

The sexual relationship between two men or two women is not equivalent to the sexual relationship between a man and a woman because they do not have the biological capacity to generate new lives. Moreover, it is the right of children to live in complete communion with a father and a mother.

Therefore, it would be unjust toward married heterosexual couples for the State to treat their relationship as any other relationship of interdependence between consenting adults. Special treatment must be given to a man and a woman who marry, not because of the exclusivity, dependence, duration or sexual nature of their union, but because of its fundamental role of procreation and the way it encourages the complementarity between men and women for the greater good of their children.

It should be remembered that a minority does not have rights purely because it is a minority. It is the members of this minority who have rights, and these rights are either absolute or conditional. For example, the right to life is an absolute right, whereas a right to practice say, law or medicine, is conditional upon completing the necessary training. The right to marriage was traditionally viewed as a conditional right – it is set aside for those persons who meet the essential conditions that attach to this right, including sexual complementarity. As the New Zealand Court of Appeal noted in Quilter v A-G [1997] when refuting the idea that banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation implied a right of marriage between same-sex partners, “not all differences in treatment are discriminatory.”

Conclusion

Persons of homosexual orientation deserve the respect of all their fellow citizens. However, imposing uniformity in the name of equality may be well intentioned, but it is misguided. It will erode marriage by disparaging the importance of the union of a woman and a man, a wife and a husband, a mother and a father. Where to from here? Parliament’s recent passing of the Bill is a backward step for the family – but Catholics are called to be people of hope. The Second Vatican Council, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis I have invited us to go out “to the ends of the earth”, bringing the Gospel of God’s passionate love to a world hungry for truth. The road ahead calls us to ask for the grace and strength to accept that invitation and be the witness to Christ that all of us were baptised to be.

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