A step forward in civil liberties

Portuguese MPs approve gay marriage
Portugal\’s parliament on Friday approved plans to legalise gay marriage, less than three decades after revoking the country\’s ban on homosexuality.

It went through with litte controversy. And this in a country which 35 years ago was still a Catholic Fascist (yes, both) dictatorship.

I don\’t consider myself a deep student of the political scene over here but I\’d put forward two reasons why there was so little fuss about it.

The first is purely speculation: both Spain and Portugal had this version of Catholic Fascism….different in some ways, yes, but similar in others. There was very definitely an attempt to hold back the moral changes of the 20th century. The Church\’s rules were hard encoded into the law.

Both countries since the overthrow of those systems in the 70s have moved further than some less Catholic countries in some ways. As an analogy, the creation of the dam created the flood later.

The second and much more important reason in this instance is that marriage here is purely a State matter. Sure, you can indeed have a Church marriage: Catholic or any other religion you please. But that Church or religious marriage is not valid in law. Only the civil ceremony (which will be separate, not like a Church marriage in the UK where the legal, civil, part of the marriage is when the bride and groom troop off to the vestry) is a \”marriage\”.

By very publicly divorcing what the Chruch (or churches) declare as being a marriage from what the State considers to be a marriage, it\’s easier for the State to have very different rules about what is and is not a marriage.

There is absolutely no implication that a Church must allow gays to marry in church, none that if a church requires marriage \”by their ceremony\” (say for a job as a couple caretaking a church) must now accept the gay civil marriage as being suitable. For they are indeed allowed to discriminate against those who have not had the religious marriage with a heterosexual marriage.

I would (and have been known to actually do so) that this is the solution everywhere. Marriage is a contract defined by hte State. It\’s also a sacrament in some churches, a contract differently defined in others. Fine: let the State set its rules and that\’s the only form of State recognised marriage. Anybody and everybody is subject to this: but they are also entirely capable of adding whatever other strictures, contracts or ceremonies they wish.

4 thoughts on “A step forward in civil liberties”

  1. My wife & I have been married for a few months over 50 years yet I am unsure what duties and benefits marriage brings. Is there a website where these duties and benefits are enumerated ?

  2. Gary, if you want one benefit, you’re her next of kin. If she’s ill in hospital, you have a right of access. An unmarried partner doesn’t, but hospitals can choose to admit.

    That choice is frequently denied to same-sex couples.

    You also get tenancy transfer rights, if something happened to my fiancée tomorrow, our landlord can ask me (and her daughter) to leave, but when we’re married, tenancy transfers to me.

    Again, the landlord could choose to keep me on anyway, but the survivor from a single sex couple frequently find that landlords are less keen on that.

    There are a huge number of others, but I’m sure you could Google, those are just two off the top of my head.

  3. Oh yeah, I came to respond to the actual post.

    Don’t be silly Tim, you can’t expect simple, obvious, liberal solutions to problems to be implemented. Nice analysis BTW, pretty sure I agree completely.

  4. “…like a Church marriage in the UK where the legal, civil, part of the marriage is when the bride and groom troop off to the vestry…”

    It’s exactly like that in Portugal.

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