Saturday, March 17, 2007

Same-sex Unions Recognized in Mexico City

The capital of the massively Catholic nation1 approved same-sex civil unions as of Friday, says the BBC. The northern state of Coahuila has also legalized same-sex unions. Parts of Mexico therefore join a growing complement of nations with a significant level of recognition for same-sex unions. This list includes South Africa (2006),2 Israel (2006),3 Belgium (2003), Czech Republic (2006),4 Germany (2001/2004), Hungary (1996!),5 Netherlands (2001),6 Portugal (2001),7 Slovenia (2006), Spain (2005),8 United Kingdom (2005),9 Canada (nationally, 2005), the state of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil (2006),10 the province of Rio Negro and the autonomous Buenos Aires in Argentina,11 Colombia (2007),12 and New Zealand.

In the United States, only Massachusetts fully recognizes same-sex marriage. Vermont, Connecticut, and New Jersey offer civil unions, and California, Maine, the District of Columbia, and Hawai'i have laws protecting same-sex domestic partners with regard to property, benefits, and so on.

Now, you might ask why I list the Catholic-ness of a lot of the above nations, and the reason is this: the new Pope Benedict XVI has restated (yes, again) that the Catholic Church is not now, nor will it ever, be open to certain reforms, including same-sex marriage.13 He also gave tacit support to Bishops choosing to deny communion to Catholic politicians supporting any of these causes, e.g. John Kerry in the last US presidential race. Kerry supported abortion rights.

Now, it must be acknowledge that the dearly departed Pope John Paul II held many of the same doctrinal beliefs. In a sense, Benny16 is just following the party line JP2 set out. But here's what I see as the fundamental difference between the two (and the reason I maintain a personal affection for JP2 while having no warm-and-fuzzies for Benny16): Pope John Paul II sincerely believed that the primary medium, message, and methodology of his religion was love. He believed that faith and reason could be reconciled, that women were equal to men notwithstanding that they could not be ordained as priests. His affection for non-Catholics was both ecumenical and personal. His stances on abortion, homosexuality, priestly celibacy and other matters might run in opposition to what I believe (in some cases, what most of the world believes) but they were honestly held, stemming from centuries of teachings, and I think it is horrendously arrogant and narrow-minded of us to criticize him for not reversing the core beliefs of his faith. Through some miracle of personal strength, some super-humanly deep well of charity, Karol Józef Wojtyła managed to actually do what so many religious figures can only purport to do: he did, in fact, hate the sin and love the sinner.

How can such a beacon of light not shine particularly bright in a world where we increasingly insist that people pay lip service to accepting the "sin", while secretly but virulently hating the "sinner"?

I find the question increasingly relevant to my own crisis of faiths. I am a baptized-but-unconfirmed-High-Anglican, who grew up semi-practising lapsed Catholicism, with strong neo-pagan beliefs and a deep commitment to small-u universalism. In short, I am a member of the Church of the Census Taker's Worst Nightmare. And now the Canadian Anglican Church is considering reversing its heretofore positive/permissive stance on same-sex unions, an action which would compel me to permanently cut ties with them. As a philosophical or spiritual action, this would have little effect on me--I don't believe I need the Church or its sacraments to attain...well, whatever it is we attain. However, as a personal matter, I would be heartbroken to lose the history, the family connections, the collectivity and rituals I grew up loving.

  1. 89%, according to the CIA World Factbook:
  2. Since the recent Fourie case:
  3. Oddly enough, Israel can only recognize same-sex unions legalized outside the country. As I understand it, this is because of a highly peculiar internal system whereby there is no secular family law. So until the Sharia courts, Rabbinical courts, or ecclesiastical courts give same-sex unions the thumbs up, they can't be performed in Israel.
  4. No adoption rights, however.
  5. Hungary's common-law partnership laws have included same-sex couples since 1996, but full same-sex marriage is still being tweaked by legislators.
  6. The first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage! Raise your hand if you are at all surprised...yeah, me neither.
  7. Civil unions are okay, and while same-sex marriages aren't officially legal, there's a case going forward and they're constitutionally protected, so it seems likely. I would also like to point out that Portugal = Catholic, with a whopping 94% identifying as such (according to the CIA World Factbook:
  8. Also 94% Catholic:
  9. Technically only civil unions, but functionally equivalent. I mention this mainly because the government kept insisting they were not "marriage".
  10. 73.6% Catholic:
  11. 92%, though many non-practicing:
  12. 90% Catholic:
  13. Halifax ChronicleHerald:

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