The declared object and reason of the Bill on Civil Unions to be discussed in Parliament in the next few days “is to equate civil unions with marriages, in terms of procedure and substance in a manner that guarantees equal rights to parties in a civil union as are granted to spouses in a marriage”. The proposed legislation furthermore promotes “the equation approach” that “should guarantee enjoyment of equal rights and obligations across all areas of law and social life”.

The proposed Bill raises a number of fundamental issues when it states in article 3 (1) that “registration of a partnership as a civil union shall be permissible between two persons of the same sex”. It therefore creates a conjugal state between persons of the same sex and equates this union to marriage without calling it marriage. Article 4 (1) states that such civil union shall mutuatis mutandis have the corresponding effects and consequences in law of civil marriage.

In a matter of a few days the Maltese Parliament will be called to vote out the traditional concept of conjugality cherished by Maltese society for millennia. Up to now Maltese society has given special legal protection and social and religious support to the conjugal union between a man and a woman which we call marriage. This special status of marriage arises from the fact that, of its very nature, by the fact that a man and a woman become “one flesh”, marriage is open to the gift of parenthood. This special role of marriage, that of assuring society with progeny, is one of its major contributions to the common good.

Children, born of the union between a man and a woman, are ideally raised in the family which is given social recognition and support through the institute of marriage. In a nutshell marriage is for the family. It is not simply a socially recognised partnership. The proposed Bill intends to put all this behind us in the name of the asserted equality of same sex (homosexual) couples to couples of different sex (heterosexual) couples. This asserted equality is a no-brainer when we deal with human dignity and the right to freedom from unjust discrimination.

It does not stand the test of logic when it comes to the openness to the gift of parenthood. This is the essential difference between marriage and any other human partnership: the ability to become “one flesh” in the mutual expression of love and the natural openness to the gift of parenthood. The “equation approach” is therefore untenable and deceptive when we try to equate same sex unions with marriage.

I propose that the Maltese Parliament engage in a thorough debate and reflection before equating civil unions with marriage.

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