THE INTEGRITY OF MARRIAGE
This centre promotes the Christian truth that marriage is based upon the natural complementarity of man and woman and the union of both sexes, for it is from this union that each of us is conceived. Whilst acknowledging that this understanding of marriage is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is also based upon the objective, unchanging truth that the fullness of the human person can only be known from man and woman and their union. The integrity of marriage is based upon this reality which, in addition to being fundamental to Christian revelation, is also in accordance with the natural reality of the human body.
On 22 May 2015 the citizens of the Republic of Ireland voted in a referendum to change the definition of marriage in the Constitution of Ireland, 1937 so as to insert Article 41.4 therein which provides that: ‘Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.’ The referendum was carried by 62.3% to 37.7% of those who voted.
The Bill of the Irish Government which brought the referendum before the people ensured that the referendum was titled as the ‘Marriage Equality’ referendum but the referendum was truly about fundamentally changing the legal definition of marriage so as to remove the distinction as to sex between a man and a woman from its meaning in Irish law. Not a single political party opposed the referendum. The editorial of every national newspaper advocated for the referendum to be carried.
This country is the only one in the world to have removed the distinction of sex between a man and a woman from the definition of marriage by means of a referendum and by the change of its written Constitution. It is unfortunate that no real public debate ensued before or during the marriage referendum campaign in the Republic of Ireland as to how the rights of same-sex couples and the rights of child can be jointly served and balanced differently. In particular, no consideration was given by the Government or by any political party to giving constitutional protection and recognition to same-sex unions whilst preserving the meaning of marriage as between one man and one woman.
If this had been worked out in a calm and reasoned manner, the Republic of Ireland could have set an international precedent for addressing how the rights of same-sex couples can be vindicated in a way which does not infringe upon the rights of child to care and nurturing from a mother and a father. We are now left with the question as to whether our country forfeited an extraordinary opportunity in 2015, as a small nation state, to set a really pioneering and truthful precedent for Western society. This opportunity was to give same-sex unions constitutional status and recognition but in a way that does not confuse these relationships with what marriage truly is. This middle path would have allowed us to honour and respect the dignity of all committed adult relationships, irrespective of sexual orientation, while also protecting the inalienable right of every child to be parented by his or her own mother and father so far as this is possible.
In anticipation of the redefinition of marriage referendum, a booklet was produced by Integritas (written by Patrick Treacy SC, in collaboration with Dr. Rik Van Nieuwenhove) which suggested that this middle path be followed. A copy of this booklet, entitled The Integrity of Marriage can be downloaded here.