06 October 2007

It is not only about marriage...by Mario Gerada (Times of Malta, October 7, 2007)

The debate on God, gay marriage, secular state versus the Roman Catholic religion goes on. Various important issues are raised, about our way of living on this island, the way we organise our society, issues mainly about discrimination and exclusion.

The argument that the secular state needs to be separate from religious authority is not a novel notion but rather a way of life that has proved to be a relatively peaceful solution for most western countries, a notion which seems to be also accepted by the Catholic Church herself at the end of the day.

Having said that, to ask the Roman Catholic Church to simply remain somewhat hidden behind closed doors and not to participate in "political matters" is really a non-understanding of the Roman Catholic Church and not very democratic either.

I do hope that we do move beyond the "either or" solution. I believe that our European history shows us that an "either or" solution proves to be disastrous in both extreme cases.
However, we can either engage each other through fundamentalism, mere preaching and patronising arguments or choose to discuss and debate in a rational manner, allowing each party to express his or her own views. All parties may have valid arguments and important issues that need to be addressed, like for instance the gay community in Malta.

What is of concern is that much of the debate has shifted to marriage and it all just sounds like terrible news to the gay community. What is life giving to the gay community? Who is going to proclaim the good news to the gay community? Who is going to speak about this? Why is it that correspondents like Jacqueline Calleja feel very compelled to remind us the official teaching with regards to sex between same-sex persons while almost completely ignoring all other issues concerning the LGBT community and their families?

Gay issues are also about discrimination, about bullying in schools and at the workplace, about people who still live in fear to be who they are in a country which is both democratic and full member of the European Union. Gay issues are about people who up to this day consider suicide or have committed suicide as a way out to what seems to be an irresolvable conflict. Gay issues are about people who more often than not feel they have to choose between their faith and who they are, as if one excludes the other automatically.

This whole debate is about inclusion and not further exclusion. This whole debate is about families, gay families or families of gay people who also happen to be sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. This whole debate does not only affect the gay person but also those who are related to one and those who genuinely love the LGBT person and desire his or her well-being. For those who are Catholic and/or Christian it is important to remember that Christianity applies to the above mentioned situations too and not only to sex matters - and it needs to be applied more and more where it comes to the LGBT person.

As much as the gay issue may sound like an irresolvable controversial issue, the ultimate factor to determine if we are a Catholic country or not, I believe, is an issue which calls for serious and healthy rational dialogue from all parties, those who have the secular state at heart, those who have religion at heart, those who have both at heart and above all, those who have LGBT people at heart. At the end of the day, after much dialogue and meeting the "other", we may find that solutions are possible. Finally it is up to politicians to decide if they would like to take up this issue seriously or not, and up to Maltese citizens to vote accordingly.

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