Opinion

What Will Happen If Same-Sex Marriage Is Allowed In Fiji?

This would have a direct impact on the rights of people to freedom of religion and the freedom to worship and practise their beliefs.
11 Apr 2019 15:14
What Will Happen If Same-Sex Marriage Is Allowed In Fiji?

Legal clashes are bound to happen if same-sex marriage and associated anti-discrimination provisions are made law.

They will be between the advocates of same-sex marriage and the religious bloc over the rights of free speech and action based on religious beliefs.

For example, if you are a marriage celebrant, meaning you have a licence to conduct a marriage ceremony, can you refuse to marry a same-sex couple because of your religious belief? Are you violating the law on the grounds of discrimination?

In some jurisdictions, where same-sex marriage in legal, it is generally known that some celebrants skirt around the law by saying they are fully booked for the planned wedding dates.

Will they face prosecution if they are found to have no genuine reason to turn down a request?

Once we move into this space it opens up a Pandora’s box of challenges.

This would have a direct impact on the rights of people to freedom of religion and the freedom to worship and practise their beliefs.

One of the global churches that has done extensive work in the battle against same-sex marriage internationally, particularly in the United States, is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, US. It has more than 16 million members worldwide including more than 20,000 in Fiji.

It has produced a document addressing this issue comprehensively.

It highlights one of the challenges advocates of traditional marriage face in the US is that some states have challenged the long-held right of religious adoption agencies to follow their religious beliefs and place children only in homes with both a mother and a father.

As a result, Catholic Charities in several states was forced to give up its adoption services rather than be forced to place children with same-sex couples.

In the US, it is noted that the First Amendment right of free exercise of religion is coming under pressure from proponents of same-sex marriage.

The Church of Jesus Christ paper says some of these proponents advocate that tax exemptions and benefits should be withdrawn from any religious organisation that does not accept such marriages.

“The First Amendment may protect clergy from being forced to perform same-sex marriages, but other people of faith have faced and likely will continue to face legal pressures and sanctions. The same will happen with religiously affiliated institutions and educational systems.”

Some examples:

  • A Georgia counsellor contracted by the Centres for Disease Control was fired after an investigation into her decision to refer someone in a same-sex relationship to another counsellor.
  •  In New Jersey, a ministry lost its tax-exempt status for denying a lesbian couple the use of its pavilion for their wedding.
  •  New Mexico’s Human Rights Commission prosecuted a commercial photographer for refusing to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony
  •  When public schools in Massachusetts began teaching students about same-sex civil marriage, a Court of Appeals ruled that parents had no right to exempt their students.

The paper says similar limitations on religious freedom have already become the social and legal reality in several European nations, and the European Parliament has recommended that laws protecting the status of same-sex couples be made uniform across the European Union.

Where same-sex marriage becomes a recognised civil right, it inevitably conflicts with the rights of believers, and religious freedom is diminished.

How Would Same-Sex Marriage Affect Society?

Proponents of same-sex marriage say it is essentially harmless and will not affect the institution of traditional heterosexual marriage in any way “so why should you care?”

The paper says while it may be true that allowing same-sex marriage will not immediately and directly affect existing marriages, the real question is how it will affect society as a whole over time, including this generation and future generations.

In addition to undermining and diluting the sacred nature of marriage, legalising same-sex marriage brings many practical implications in the sphere of public policy that will be of concern to parents and society.

When a government legalises same-sex marriage as a civil right, it will almost certainly include a wide variety of other policies to enforce this, the paper says. “The implications of these policies are critical to understanding the seriousness of condoning same-sex marriage.

“The all-important question of public policy must be: what environment is best for the child and for this generation? “While some same-sex couples will obtain guardianship over children, traditional marriage provides the most solid and well-established social identity for children.

“It increases the likelihood that they will be able to form a clear gender identity, with sexuality closely linked to both love and procreation. By contrast, the legal recognition of same-sex marriage may, over time, erode the social identity, gender development, and moral character of children. No dialogue on this issue can be complete without taking into account the long-term consequences for children.

“As one example of how children will be adversely affected, the establishment of same-sex marriage as a civil right will inevitably entail changes in school curricula. When the state says that same-sex marriages are equivalent to heterosexual marriages, public school administrators will feel obligated to support this claim.

“This has already happened in many jurisdictions, where from elementary school through high school, children are taught that marriage can be defined as a legal union between two adults of any gender, that the definition of family is fluid, and in some cases that consensual sexual relations are morally neutral.

“In addition, in many areas, schools are not required to notify parents of this curriculum or to give families the opportunity to opt out. These developments are already causing clashes between the agenda of secular school systems and the right of parents to teach their children deeply held standards of morality.

“Throughout history, the family has served as an essential bulwark of individual liberty. The walls of a home provide a defence against detrimental social influences and the sometimes overreaching powers of government. In the absence of abuse or neglect, government does not have the right to intervene in the rearing and moral education of children in the home.

“Strong, independent families are vital for political and religious freedom.”

Civility and Kindness

The Church acknowledges that same-sex marriage and the issues surrounding it can be divisive and hurtful.

As people strive to protect marriage between a man and a woman, they should show respect, civility, and kindness toward others who have different points of view.

In the Church’s bi-annual world conference in Salt Lake City last weekend, major policy changes were announced. The church President, Russel M Nelson, 94, regarded by members as a prophet, announced that children of LGBT couples do not have to get his approval to be baptised in the Church.

Local church leaders now make the decision. His first counsellor Dallin H Oaks also announced that “Previously, our handbook characterised same-gender marriage by a member as apostasy.

While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline. Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.”

These positive policies should help affected families.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with many other churches, organisations, and individuals, will continue to defend the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, because it is a compelling moral issue of profound importance to our religion and to the future of society.

There will be social upheaval if same-sex marriage is allowed. It will not happen right away, but over time.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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