Saturday, December 24, 2005

Gay marriage in South Africa

The Constitutional Court in South Africa finally reached a decision at the beginning of this month to legalise homosexual marriage. Homosexuals will be able to legally marry in December 2006, and the Marriage Act will be changed accordingly. My own opinion is that this is a good thing. My wife and I know a gay couple who love each other very much, who live together, and who have been committed to each other for many years. I could never understand why they could not enjoy the same rights as my wife and I do, such as signing an marriage contract, or sharing insurance policies, bank cards and home loans. In our country’s past, couples of different race groups were not allowed to marry. I see this decision as a step closer to protecting the rights of everyone who lives in this country.

I’ve also read that those opposing the legalisation of homosexual marriage want the debate to be decided by a referendum. "Let everyone decide", they say, "we live in a democracy, after all". I believe that if a referendum took place, the majority of the population would vote against homosexual union. However, I think that democracy isn't about letting the majority decide on every issue; democracy is primarily about protecting the rights of those who live in the land, especially of those who belong to minority groups. When the rights of minority groups are in question, the decisions have to be made - not by the majority of people - but by the leaders (in this case the Constitutional Court). If the majority decided on every issue, I think that over time the minority would become increasingly suppressed. I could be wrong here, but I think a healthy democracy aims to strike a balance between the amount of decision-making power held by the majority, and the rights and freedoms of minority groups and individuals.

I for one am glad that we live in a secular country where we can enjoy certain freedoms - of expression, religion (or non-religion), association and speech. Christians should be thankful that they live in a secular society, as well, as they are protected, and thus can worship in church without being shot or tortured. However, in order to enjoy this freedom, majority groups - let it be racial groups, language groups or religious groups - have to sometimes make certain sacrifices so that the minority can also enjoy these freedoms as well. The sacrifice that Christians have made in this case is that they can’t expect the rest of society – especially those that don’t follow their religion – to adhere to Christian rules and norms. Human diversity, and recognition and protection of that diversity, is the key to a healthy society. I believe this month’s decision recognises just that.


Shmanky said...

I'm somewhat surprised that it's only now that this kind of thing is happening in Europe, in Canada, and South Africa. This seems like something that should have begun before I was born, last century. But I guess it was only recently that homosexuality has been respected and no longer considered a mental disorder.

Anonymous said...

I think that a big argument among people pushing for homosexual marriage is that Christians and others opposing it are trying to force their own views and beliefs on the rest of society. However, I would submit to you that opposition to gay marriage isn't really a matter of opinon. Our Constitution and all the rights it gurantees us was written based on a worldview known as the Judeo-Christian value system. That is, our Constitution, regardless of whether or not we choose to believe in God, stems from certain values that have origins (like it or not) in the Bible. This is not indicative of a theocracy because the of the freedom of religion, for example, which stems from the Judeo-Christian ideal that everyone should be free to choose their own way to worship, if any. In other words, it would go against their own value system for Christians to force their religion on anyone. However, in trying to take away the very principles from which our national document was born, we are ultimatly helping to errode our own rights. Everyone can agree that the Constitution should be what we look to as the standard in determining what rights and privelages we as Americans have. When we try to ignore where these rights and privelages originated, it is to the effect of knocking the foundation out from under a building. The structure itself cannot stand without its base, and neither can the Constitution. I believe that these values are inherantly opposed to same-sex marriage. The traditional, time-tested family that consists of one man and one woman can and should be the only family unit that our country embraces. Our future generations should not be subjected to families of multiple fathers and mothers because these relationships statistcially have more problems, and, going back to the Judeo-Christian value system, violate basic principles regarding our national "conscience" or set of beliefs. If the founders of this country were told that 200 years later there would be a huge debate in this country over whether nor not same-sex marriage should be allowed, they would be shocked. One might claim that times change and that their individual beliefs should be looked to not govern our laws today. In response to that I would suggest that these are beliefs that do not change with time, just as certain things like murder or theft that opoose these values have been and will always be illegal. Additionally, the values that these founders embraced are the very same values used to write our Constitution, where we are trying to look as a justification for legalizing homosexual marriage. Do you see the irony? The same applies to abortion, but that's a whole new can of worms. :)