Sunday, December 10, 2006

Redefining "The Family"

Proposals to redefine the family in the constitution should be approached with the utmost caution. We should not risk reducing the status of the family to the lowest common denominator, merely to satisfy the demands of an increasingly self-indulgent society.

The status of marriage has been significantly undermined in the past decade e.g. in over one-third of births in Ireland the child's parents are not married. But proponents of traditional family values can hardly look to the current Government with any optimism. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's own unfortunate marital situation has been widely publicised, mainly by his own actions, including the decision to bring his then partner as his official consort on Government trips abroad. (The impermanence of that relationship was retrospective proof, if any was needed, of just how inappropriate this was.) In this highly compromised situation, the Taoiseach would be in no position to credibly lead any public debate in defence of traditional marital values.

Much, though not all, of the pressure to make changes to the definition of family is driven by personal financial considerations. Charlie McCreevy’s Tax Individualisation confirmed the FF/PD Government view of the family as primarily an economic rather than a social unit. It is logical, therefore that normal business procedures should apply, where financial benefits generally flow from contractual arrangements, freely entered into.

There is no reason why it should be otherwise in considering what financial benefits may flow from family formation. Arrangements should, of course be put in place for to allow same-sex couples to make such a contract, as they are clearly precluded from forming current civil or church unions.

There may be many areas where non-standard unions can be granted some legal recognition e.g. in medical matters, but any areas involving exchequer considerations should be confined to couples who have made a formal, legally recognised commitment to one another.

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