The tensions of social change


This year has seen the proposal of laws in France and Denmark to legalize gay marriage, and in France’s case, the allowing of homosexual couples to adopt. These new laws have triggered deep divides in politics and religion.

Denmark became the first country to legalize civil unions for gay couples in 1989, but no further legislation had been put forward to legalize marriage until this June. Now, homosexual couples have the right to be married in any church of their choosing, and should a priest refuse to officiate over the marriage, the presiding bishop must find a replacement. While Denmark’s church minister, Manu Sareen, approves of the new law, other high-profile religious figures in the country have expressed outrage, along with the Danish People’s Party. Despite their campaign against the law, it received a majority vote in parliament: 85-26. However, this was not simply a political issue. Former right-wing politician Stig Elling spoke to a Denmark TV station, telling them the majority vote was positive. “We have moved forward,” he told the TV station in announcing his plan to marry his partner.

In Denmark, the small but loud opposition to the new marriage and adoption laws set to be instituted in France, are mainly Catholics and social conservatives. Polls indicate that two-thirds of the French population is in favour of gay marriage. However, France is more divided on the issue of gay adoption. Opponents of gay adoption site their concern for the rights of children, even though France’s press agency (AFP) found that the majority of child psychiatrists believe that being adopted by a gay couple would not harm them. The law still does not allow artificial insemination for lesbian couples or surrogate mothers for gay couples. Mainly it is meant to accommodate homosexual co-parenting arrangements.

Despite the approval of the law by the majority popular, Catholic groups are still responding with protest. In August of this year, the Catholic Church in France revived the day of national prayer for the country, started in the 17th century by Louis XIII. The text of the prayer was composed by the Catholic Bishops Conference, asking God to grant that elected officials put the “common good of society” over “special requests,” and  that children “cease to be objects of desires and conflicts of adults to fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother” (translation courtesy of Pink News). Some Christian news sites such as Patheos and LifeSite have approached the new French law as a form of religious persecution.

Both sides of this debate that is taking place across the world believe they are fighting against persecution. Now, in France and Denmark, gay couples have come one step closer to having the same opportunities their heterosexual counterparts do. This trend is spreading; after France’s law comes into effect, twelve countries will have legalized gay marriage on a national level. It appears that an adaptation in social ideas is necessary for the churches of France and Denmark to again be in harmony with government.

Photo credit: Nikolai Alekseev, wiki commons


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