Democracy doesn’t equal majority rules

I recently came across the Family Planning Institute.  They call themselves a “non-profit research and educational organization dedicated to articulating and advancing a family-centered philosophy of public life”, but as far as I can tell it is really just one man, Errol Naidoo, who spends his free time campaigning in the media and writing articles for his website for the purpose of removing the rights of vulnerable minorities.

On his website he declares that he believes that “God is the author of life, liberty, and the family”, that he “promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society” and that he “is committed to restoring and upholding marriage as a one-man, one-woman institution, defending the sanctity of human life, protecting religious liberty, fighting for family tax relief, and combating judicial activism that leads to court rulings that harm the family”.  I always find it amusing when people decide that their particular brand of religion is the one that should be enforced on the rest of society, because, you know, they alone have a direct line to Dog.

I was particularly amused by this article, so much so that I’ve decided to respond in detail.  It’s not that I believe the piece deserves a response, it’s just that I found it so hilarious that I couldn’t resist.  I’ve quoted the article in full below, with my comments appearing in red.

Civil Union Act Undermines the Sacred Institution of Marriage

05 October 2009

Family Policy Institute is saddened by the passing of the Civil Union Bill by the National Assembly on 14 November 2006.  Yeah, well, you’re a little late.  This happened almost three years before your sadness prompted you to say something about it.  On that day of infamy two of society’s most fundamental institutions were dealt a fatal blow that will invariably lead to the weakening of the foundations of our young democracy.  Now, I am not a constitutional scholar, but even I can tell you that the foundations of our democracy have more to do with representative government, political self-determination, equality before the law and freedom than the perceived right of a certain section of the population to take away the rights of another section.  In fact, one portion of society witholding the rights of another portion is exactly how we got where we are in the first place.

The institution of marriage – the first and most critical pillar of society – was severely undermined and devalued by our legislature to primarily legitimize the unnatural sexual behavior of a small sector of our society.  Marriage is not a pillar of society.  The concept of marriage has taken many different forms through the long history of human civilisation, including polygamy and slavery of women.  Also, what may seem unnatural to you is seen as perfectly natural and delightful behaviour by many, many more people than you’d care to imagine.  But that is beside the point.  Gay people don’t want to marry so that they can have sex.  They don’t need your or the government’s permission to have sex.  They’ve been having sex without your consent for thousands of years.  They want to be able to marry so that they can enjoy the same basic rights that you take for granted, like being able to make medical decisions for their loved ones, or leaving their dependents with the benefit of a pension if they should accidentally die.  This has absolutely NOTHING to do with sex, which you seem to be so obsessed with.  You are like a child, trying to derail an adult conversation about family responsibility by shouting “Daddy should take away Mary’s bicycle because she kissed Hannah behind the shed”.  The second institution to be weakened by this grossly negligent act of Parliament is our fledgling democracy which was seriously undermined as the rights of our citizens to determine the future of the family were trampled upon.  What right are you talking about?  Reading throught the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I cannot find this right you are referring to.  Again, you seem to be talking about a section of society believing they have the right to take away the rights of another section of society.  The protection of the rights of minorities is the very foundation of the South African democracry, which was forged in the furnace of exactly that evil which you seem to consider to be your right.

The Home Affairs Portfolio Committees Public Participation process turned out to be nothing but a charade as the wishes of the majority were completely ignored.  Let me give you a little history lesson.  Again, I am not a constitutional scholar, but even I know this much:  In its infancy the concept of democracy was centred around the idea of “majority rules”.  This resulted in many social injustices being committed by democratic states, such as slavery, the disenfranchisement of women and even systematic genocide.  Many people gave their lives to fighting these injustices, so that today we have a the more enlightened concept of democracy which hangs on the idea that all subjects have equal rights, which means that the majority will never have the right to vote away the rights of a minority.  The South African constitution enshrines this concept beautifully, which is why it is hailed as the most enlightened constitution in the world.  The Draft Civil Union Bill presented to the public for comment, was substantially altered a week before it was tabled in Parliament, making a mockery of the genuine concerns of thousands of South African citizens.  You think thousands of people sounds like a lot, because you delude yourself into thinking there are only a handful of gay people in our country.  Using the conservative estimate of 1 in 10 gives an estimate of 5 million gay people.  That’s right, 5 million!  What about their concerns?  Parliament’s total disregard for the deepest held convictions of the majority of its citizens has set a dangerous precedent and has widened the chasm between government and the people.  What happened here was the mechanisms of our democracy working perfectly, as they were designed to.  Unless the format of the government is altered, which is possible only if the ruling party wins a larger than two-thirds majority, the rights of minorities must always weigh more than the prejudice of the majority.

The peoples (sic) appeal to their political leaders to protect the God-given institution of marriage as a heterosexual union is based on their deeply held convictions, thousands of years of human history, and the witness of nature itself and not homophobia, bigotry and intolerance as suggested by various members of parliament.  How can you possibly believe that your stance is not bigoted and intolerant?  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a bigot as “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group … with hatred and intolerance.  Denying a basic right to a group of people just because you disagree with the way they live their lives seem pretty hateful to me.  Disagreeing with the sexual behaviour of a certain sector of society should not automatically relegate South Africans to the scrapheap of condemnation and negative labeling in our brave new democracy.  Again with the sexual behaviour.  You seem to want to reduce the whole of a person to a sexual act, probably to make it easier for you to hate them.  Homosexuals are people.  They have dreams and aspirations, they love and are loved, they have families and careers.  What they do in bed is a small detail in their lives, and frankly is none of your business.

The passing of the Civil Union Bill in its current form underscores the fact that the legislature is completely out of step with the will of its electorate. The overwhelming majority of South Africans of all faiths, cultures and creeds, are united in their opposition to the notion of same-sex marriage.  Mr Naidoo, I know absolutely nothing about you, but imagine for the sake of argument that you were a vegetarian (as you very well may be).  Now, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of South Africans are not vegetarians.  Would it be fair for the majority, who are meat-eaters, to deny vegetarians the right to marry who they choose, to adopt children, to have equal protections againts the law, because of their eating preferences?  No, it would not be fair, and more importantly, it would not be legal.

Same-sex unions cannot be considered equal to heterosexual marriage for the simple reason that homosexuals are unable to procreate and cannot therefore contribute to the most vital requirement for the survival of human civilization – children.  This is simply not true.  Gay people can and do have children.  They have biological children and they adopt and raise children that would otherwise be condemned to orphanages.  It is therefore not Christians who are discriminating against homosexuals but biology.  Parliament conveniently ignored an important paragraph in the courts ruling which states “that equal treatment before the law does not necessarily mean identical treatment”.  I am disgusted that you would try to quote this principle in defence of an argument for legalised bigotry.  This principle is used by the courts when identical treatment of different groups of people would not be equitable because one group of people has been previously disadvantaged.  It therefore means exactly the opposite of the argument that you are trying to make here.

While we fully appreciate Parliaments responsibility to comply with the Constitutional Courts ruling by 1 December 2006, we maintain that it was always the intention of the Court that Parliament would shoulder its responsibility correctly by balancing the rights of the homosexual minority with the deeply held convictions and rights of the majority of its citizens.  That is exactly right!  The beliefs of the majority will never weigh more than the basic rights of a minority.  It is our contention that Parliament not only lost its equilibrium by passing the Civil Union Bill in its current form but that it instituted a grave injustice against people of faith in South Africa.  What injustice are you talking about?  Have the rights of any religious people been removed here?  I would go as far as saying that all the signs are pointing to the fact, that Bible believing Christians are increasingly becoming third class citizens in their own country.  Rubbish!  Christians enjoy every conceivable right that they could possibly expect to have under our fine constitution.

Homosexuals are not being denied the right to marry because there is no such thing as same-sex marriage.  Marriage by its very definition is a heterosexual union.  Marriage has always been defined by the society which practices it.  It is a legal contract, not a biological function or a divine covenant.  What the South African Parliament has managed to do last week, in total defiance of the will of its electorate, was to create rights for homosexuals out of thin air.  No, they corrected a grave injustice by ensuring that all South African citizens enjoy the same rights.  Two men or two women do not have the right to marry because they simply do not meet the qualifications for marriage.  Governments (sic) undertaking that it would not tamper with the Marriage Act has turned out to be empty and meaningless.  The Civil Union Bill is a duplicate marriage act designed to placate the militant homosexual lobby and deceive the Christian majority into believing that the sanctity of marriage has been preserved.  The sanctity of marriage?  Yes, marriage is so sacred to South Africans that there are more than 30,000 divorces per year.

Evidently, the rights of the homosexual community seem to take precedence of the rights of other South Africans with much more serious needs.  It is an indictment on our legislature that while it prioritized the Civil Union Bill it has postponed the Sexual Offences Bill for the umpteenth time. Apparently, the rights of two men or two women to marry are much more important than the intolerable levels of crime and violence against our women and children.  The South African democracy was 12 years old before gay people finally got the equality they’ve spent so many years fighting for.  That would suggest that this was hardly a priority for our government.

Additionally, the rights of homosexuals to legitimize their unnatural lifestyles seem to take precedence over the rights of children as well.  Again, the right to marry is not about legitimising the “lifestyle” you get such a thrill from imagining.  It’s about equal protection under the law, being able to live a dignified life and providing for one’s family.  Social Science agrees.  Thousands of legitimate studies over the years agree that, overall, the married biological family serves children far better than any other family structure.  Sources, please..  It produces the most favourable rates in everything from academic excellence to avoiding crime, depression and suicide.  The Civil Union Bill doesn’t.  In the name of equality for individual adults, it ignores children and suppresses the reality that the traditional family produces better outcomes for children.  It also prevents the traditional family structure from being held up as the ideal.

Every child has a natural self-evident right to a mother and a father.  Marriage between a man and a woman protects that right, even in cases of divorce, where the courts ensure that the child has an appropriate level of care from and access to both parents.  France, quoting the United Nations, agrees.  Article 7 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that the child “shall have, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents”.  The Civil Union Bill will in effect grant adults the right to replace a natural parent with a legal parent of another gender, making the child essentially fatherless, or motherless.

Married, biological family provides the optimal environment for raising children.  There are exceptions to the rule, and some of us are living in them.  But the ideal we want for our children and our grandchildren is a stable family with a married mother and father, even if we can’t always provide that for our children.  We declare that since traditional marriage is the only family structure that provides a child with both a father and a mother, the government has a duty to support and defend it.  Government is obligated to consider the impact on children before redefining marriage.  The onlyway for you to convincingly make this argument would be to also argue for the abolition of divorce and the banning of all sex outside of marriage.  South Africa has a staggeringly large number of single-parent and child-headed households.  How on earth can it be better for a child to be raised by a sibling than a loving gay parent?  Why are you not out there handing out condoms to stem the tide of HIV, which is by far the leading cause of South African children growing up without proper parental care?

France, quoting the United Nations, agrees. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 3, states “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”  The Civil Union Bill undermines marriage, ignores children, and transforms marriage into a vehicle for validating adult relationships and changing mores.

We therefore reiterate our appeal that government urgently amends the constitution to protect marriage as a heterosexual union.  Let me leave you with a few words of good advice.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself and imagining that your rights are somehow being trampled on by people who actually know what it feels like to be persecuted and marginalised.  Spend your time doing something productive, you will find it much more fulfilling.  You only have one life, and you are ruining it with your hate and spite.

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