Friday, 9 March 2012

Gay marriage: Cardinal O'Brien's misrepresentation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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Cardinal Keith O'Brien
Responding to Cardinal Keith O'Brien's diatribe against gay marriage earlier this week, it was difficult to tackle every single fallacy and misrepresentation that it contained. After all, once you've dealt with the fact that someone's compared gay marriage to slavery, you're pretty much done.

So with that in mind, I'm grateful to the excellent Pod Delusion for taking a closer look at another aspect of O'Brien's Sunday Telegraph article. As Dave Cross points out in the latest edition of the podcast, one of the Cardinal's favoured arguments against legalising gay marriage has been that doing so would contravene the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
"In Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, marriage is defined as a relationship between men and women. But when our politicians suggest jettisoning the established understanding of marriage and subverting its meaning they aren’t derided.

Instead, their attempt to redefine reality is given a polite hearing, their madness is indulged. Their proposal represents a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right."
But what does Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights actually say? The Pod Delusion decided to take a look:
  • (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  • (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  • (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
As you can see, in no way is "marriage is defined as a relationship between men and women" in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Of course, that fact is unlikely to alter O'Brien's views on gay marriage, but it would certainly be nice if he could take note and stop invoking this great document when making his case.

On the subject of gay marriage, we're pleased to announce that we have added our name (as the Rationalist Association, the charitable organisation which publishes New Humanist) to the list of supporters of the Coalition for Equal Marriage, which is campaigning for a change in the law. So far, over 23,000 people have signed the petition calling for equal marriage - please do take a moment to add your name, if you haven't already.

And as one final item before the weekend, I was interested to see that the Pope made some comments today about the dangers of gay marriage, in reference to the United States. There were, of course, the usual references to the "defence of marriage as a natural institution", but it was actually something else that caught my eye. For in addition to his remarks about gay marriage, Benedict XVI also had words for those living in unmarried heterosexual relationships:
“We cannot overlook the serious pastoral problem presented by the widespread practice of cohabitation, often by couples who seem unaware that it is gravely sinful, not to mention damaging to the stability of society.”
If unmarried and live with a partner of the opposite sex, and we're feeling left out by the Church's preoccupation with the evils of gay marriage, I hope you're reassured that the Pope's thinking about you too.
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