Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 19, 2006
Rights of child in family must be studied
Parliamentary 'mission' needed before vote on same-sex marriage
A Shepherd Speaks
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
Adopted children must be given the greatest possible protection from the risk that their parents will separate.
The mission began its work by examining the foundations of the family and considering how it has changed and where it now stands, because it wanted to see France as it is and not as it imagines it to be.
This enabled the mission to assess the extent to which families are child-centred at present: given the rising instability of couples' relationships, the child is increasingly seen as underlying the parents' identity and as the foundation of the family unit; children today are wanted, chosen; sometimes, children are even said to be a right.
Given these developments, the mission was persuaded of the need to make the best interests of the child the central factor in family law.
The mission considered the call for marriage to be available to same-sex couples, and concluded that it is not possible to think about marriage separately from filiation: the two questions are closely connected in that marriage is organized around the child.
Marriage is not merely the contractual recognition of the love between a couple; it is a framework that imposes rights and duties, and that is designed to provide for the care and harmonious development of the child.
Making marriage available to same-sex couples therefore presupposes that they will also be given the right to adopt and receive medical assistance for procreation and even the right to use surrogate mothers, because such couples are not fertile.
Although the mission was divided on this subject. it considered the consequences for the child's development and the construction of his or her identity of creating a fictitious filiation by law - two fathers, or two mothers - which is biologically neither real nor plausible.
A majority of the mission refused to support recognizing a right to a child.
They also accepted the fundamental principles of the law of filiation, which are based on the tripartite unit of "a father, a mother, a child," citing the principle of caution. For that reason, the majority logically chose to deny access to marriage to same-sex couples.
A majority of the mission were also in favour of preserving the rules that apply to child adoption, which provide that this option is available solely to married couples and single individuals. The majority did not go down the road of making adoption available to unmarried couples, because of the lesser permanency of such couples and the fact that there is no judicial involvement in the event of separation.
Adopted children have already suffered the trauma of being abandoned, and, quite often, being uprooted. They must therefore be given the greatest possible protection from the risk that their parents will separate. Marriage therefore offers children better legal security.
In late June of last year, with undue haste and inordinate pressure put on members of Parliament by party leaders, the House of Commons passed Bill C-38, which changed the definition of civil marriage to "the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others," allowing same-sex couples to wed.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he is keeping his campaign promise to hold a free vote in the House of Commons on whether the issue should be revisited. Prior to doing so, to ensure an intelligent and responsible vote, he should create an "Information Mission" to produce a parliamentary report on the family and the rights of the child.
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