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Premature stand on same-sex marriages
With due respect to the views of Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph Harris, Anglican Bishop Claude Berkley and others who have been articulating against same-sex marriages, their concern is premature. They are making an issue of a matter that has not materialised into being one which will confront the society in the form of a draft policy. It may not even be mentioned in the document that is eventually brought forward by the Government.
Recently a group of Christian pastors even went so far as to protest outside Parliament against a bill legalising same-sex marriage which they said was to be passed that day. In fact, no such bill has been debated, drafted or even dreamed of. The archbishop, the bishop and the attorneys of a religious persuasion have come forward with their statements after Gender Affairs Minister Verna St Rose-Greaves gave an indication that her ministry and the Government will be bringing forward for debate a new gender policy.
The minister, however, did not indicate that same-sex marriages would be an item in the draft policy; neither have gay-rights groups been demanding any such thing. Instead the focus of the gay-rights groups has been on societal discrimination practised consistently against them for their sexual orientation.
As far as the groups are concerned, what is very troubling to them is the blatant discrimination they face when they seek to find employment or access services—even healthcare at public institutions. So too their protests are against the violence they say is perpetrated against them merely for being who they are rather than on account of anything they have done.
One possible danger of such premature commentary on same-sex marriages is that the emotional debate, not founded in reality, could predispose large segments of the religious community against the gender policy document as a whole when it is eventually made public.
That is not a far-fetched notion: on the last occasion when a draft gender policy was mooted for discussion and debate, it was scuttled when emotional outpourings against the legalisation of abortion were splashed in the public domain. Then, the debate on the proposals of the overall document never got off the ground because the country remained mired in the back-and-forth conflict over one issue.
So the danger could be that a full spread of information on all matters proposed for public discussion in the gender document could be denied the society and prevent advance in so vital a discussion as the need to transform outdated policies on gender.
The Catholic and Anglican leaders, like those in the legal fraternity and others anxious to have their voices heard on gender and how it is to feature in a draft policy, should not harbour fears that this or any other government could easily take to the Parliament draft legislation that will seek to change fundamental gender relationships in the society without first engaging the national community in discourse on the issues involved. In fact numerous such consultations have already taken place.
Powerful institutions such as the Catholic and Anglican churches and other advocacy groups must surely be aware of the considerable influence they have and have an institutional memory of how to exercise that influence at the right moment.
What the leaders of these groups must also recognise is the need for a holistic discussion. Hasty and unfounded campaigning on matters which may not even be contained in a draft policy could preempt full, reasoned, calm discussion. And surely no one can object to that.
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