Inside Story

Redefining marriage

We examine the global trend towards same-sex marriage and its implications on traditional family structures.
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2013 07:16

Thousands have marched in support of same-sex marriage in France after promised reforms will set to extend the rights of gay couples.

"A lot of that opposition is ill-informed and very hateful. Same-sex marriage is about love .... They want to make a commitment to each other ... that is a very noble value - the fact that they both happen to be of the same sex, is to me, irrelevant. Love is love whether it is between gay people or straight people."

- Peter Tatchell,  a gay rights activist

France is one of a growing number of countries planning to legalise 'marriage for all' - and allowing same-sex couples to adopt.

But many are against it, arguing children should be brought up by both a man and a woman.

It is an issue about bringing couples together - but it is proving highly divisive.

France and Britain have drafted bills to legalise marriage for gay couples and with that, joining 11 other countries which have already brought in similar legislation, including Argentina, Canada, Netherlands, South Africa and Sweden. Parts of the US, Brazil and Mexico, also allow same-sex couples to marry.

Countries where same-sex marriages are legal include: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United States, Brazil and Mexico.

"This is not about equality and discrimination. I don't agree with Peter that there is a worldwide trend in the direction that he says. I think the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people do not want a change in the definition of marriage and that's what this is really about. The demonstrations in France, there was certainly nothing like the size of demonstrations in favour of a change of the definition of marriage as there were against it. There were hundreds of thousands of people on the streets of Paris opposed to the re-definition and I think the fact of the matter is that the majority of people in this country don't want a re-definition. It is really only a relatively small number of people who want this."

- James Bogle, the chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain

Another 21 countries, France and the UK among them, recognise various forms of civil unions and registered partnerships between same-sex couples. Some of these legal pacts offer similar rights to a marriage, others give limited rights or none at all.

Last November, Winston McKenzie, the culture spokesman for the UK Independence Party, caused a storm when he said: "To say to a child, 'I am having you adopted by two men who kiss regularly but don’t worry about it' – that is abuse. It is a violation of a child’s human rights because that child has no opportunity to grow up under normal circumstances."

In 2006, a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded:

There is ample evidence to show that children raised by same-gender parents fare as well as those raised by heterosexual parents. There is no relationship between parents' sexual orientation and any measure of a child's emotional, psychosocial, and behavioural adjustment.

Maria Miller, the UK's culture secretary, says the new legislation will allow religious organisations to opt out of performing same-sex marriages: "This bill protects and promotes religious freedom, so that all religious organisations can act according to their doctrines and beliefs."

Discussing the issue of same-sex marriage on Inside Story with presenter Shiulie Ghosh are guests: Peter Tatchell, a gay rights activist and director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation and James Bogle, a lawyer and chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain.


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