Monday, May 24, 2010

Weekend Round-Up: Marriage Is For Breeding

As many of you are probably already aware, the Ministry of Justice has submitted a bill - currently in the parliamentary general committee - which would change the definition of "marriage" to saying "two individuals" as opposed to "a man and a woman". Should pretty much be a done deal, right? I mean, we have civil unions here already and all that, and Scandinavians are generally pretty liberal when it comes to sex issues.

True as that is, it seems the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland - the country's national church - is dead set against the idea. One would expect the few Westboro-style loonies here to rail hardest against this, and they have, but one of the written comments submitted to the parliamentary general committee - which comes from María Ágústsdóttir, a minister for the national church - has used a very familiar argument in her reasons for opposing the change:

"I feel it goes against the nature of marriage as an institution, which was created for the purpose of the propagation of mankind, within the framework of having and raising children."

Which is absurd, of course. Why marriage was created is neither here nor there. Even if we were to assume that María's history factoid is correct, there is no law - nor is there any such rule within the church - that forbids the infertile and sterile from marrying, nor is there anything forbidding couples who openly state that they will not have children from getting married, either.

This isn't about kids; it's about the church's hang-up with homosexuality. And they like to argue that passing this law would infringe upon their freedom of religion. To that I'd point out that churches have long been forbidden to establish "whites only" congregations and clergy. Is getting married any less a civil right than attending church or becoming a clergyman?

I think this conflict underlines the fact that the national church has been having its wedding cake and eating it, too. The Church of Iceland has simultaneously maintained, on the one hand, that Icelanders wouldn't stand to see separation of church and state, and on the other hand, that the church would not survive being separated from taxes. That's a pretty glaring contradiction, and also patently false. In fact, about 65% of Icelanders are in favor of separation of church and state, according to a poll conducted by the Humanist Society.

The Church of Iceland needs to see the writing on the wall. They cannot enjoy the tax revenues of a people whose civil rights they violate. It is inexcusable for them to be able to do so. But then again, I guess I'm old fashioned about the whole "keep religion out of politics" thing.


  1. The supernatural demands that the union must be between members of the opposite sex and don´t you ever forget it!

  2. That's funny -- most Icelandic parents I know are single or in cohabitation.