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Aug 29 2012

We must protect the sanctity of civil unions!

In Sao Paulo, Brazil, a notary has approved a civil union between one man and two women, to the outrage of religious groups:

Public Notary Claudia do Nascimento Domingues has said the man and two women should be entitled to family rights.

She says there is nothing in law to prevent such an arrangement. …

But lawyer Regina Beatriz Tavares da Silva told the BBC it was “absurd and totally illegal”, and “something completely unacceptable which goes against Brazilian values and morals”.

Ms da Silva, who is president of the Commission for the Rights of the Family within the Institute of Lawyers, says the union will not be allowed to remain in place.

Some religious groups have also voiced criticism of the move.

It’s amusing to see people rushing to the defense of a certain narrow interpretation of civil unions, much like how they’ve tried to “defend” marriage from LGBT people who want to get married. The key difference, which makes such efforts even more absurd, is that civil unions are a completely new legal invention intended to keep gay people out of the institution of marriage. There is no tradition or history behind them, so there’s no traditional or historical concept of “civil unions” for people to defend. They’ve only been available in Brazil for 8 years. Is that really long enough for Brazilians to have developed lasting, concrete and coherent “values and morals” pertaining to civil unions, values and morals which must be protected and upheld? I highly doubt it. Civil unions do not come with the same esteem and universal recognition as marriage, precisely because of their recent creation in what was purely an act of discrimination.

Really, if you’re going to create a new legal category to segregate families which don’t consist of one (legally recognized) man and one (legally recognized) woman, how can you be surprised when that category includes families that don’t consist of one man and one woman? If you didn’t want these commitments to be recognized as marriages, then why insist they must maintain some degree of resemblance to your ideal of marriage? By all means, keep pretending that secular, legal marriage is the exclusive property of your religion and must be protected by ensuring that it exactly matches your particular faith’s concept of marriage. Such a claim can be handily dispatched on its own. But if that’s the line of argument you choose to pursue, you don’t get to pretend that your religion also owns the new “marriage-lite” that was created to divert the unworthy from your precious institution.

8 comments

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  1. 1
    The Nerd

    I am a little irritated by the fact that the marriage rights movement had to pretend like this wouldn’t happen. Because, honestly, it’s terrific that these people would have access to legal protections.

  2. 2
    internetpal2012

    I’m sure most of the people who object to this union of a man marrying two women are secretly jealous of them.Why should anyone care about what consentiing adults do with themselves?If they didn’t get married they still all be living with each other.These days most marriages don’t even last that long anyway.They should should make getting married (no matter what kind it is) as hard to get as it is to get a building permit.

    1. 2.1
      Pierce R. Butler

      How long since you last pulled a building permit?

      More than one local liberal acquaintance of mine, driving past the municipal codes/permits/etc office, likes to say, “This is where we turn Democrats into Republicans!”

      Marriage licenses are relatively easy to obtain: nobody even asks for blueprints.

  3. 3
    jamessweet

    I can’t decide if it makes me happy or sad that apparently all of the opposition to this was religious rather than feminist in nature. Polygyny is a sticky issue for feminism — it is not difficult to find even 3rd wave feminists who oppose it unequivocally (my own opinion is more ambivalent, where I feel that ideally consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want, but I worry about the historical association between polygyny and abuse and how exactly that is going to play out). There could have been some reasonable objections on those grounds… but it seems all of the opposition is religious.

    I can’t decide if that’s a good thing, because it means Brazilian feminists have largely found a way to make peace with polyamory, or if it’s a bad thing because the religious are just such dicks about it that they drowned out any voices that were trying to object on non-supernatural grounds. Bleh.

    1. 3.1
      VV

      Polyamorous Brazillian feminist here.

      The people who did this wanted to hold back the information until there was a civil union between two men and a women (and it’s coming soon) exactly so as to prevent people focusing on their gender. Unfortunately the news was picked up and it couldn’t be helped.

      Most feminists who did voice opposition were pretty much missing the whole fucking point, so I’m actually glad most of them understood that it was not about sexism or domination or even pollygyny. Both women are also “married” to each other, it’s not a man with two women, it’s also about a woman with a man and another woman.

      Also glaringly omitted, clearly, is the fact that the women in that union are completely free to pursue relationships with other people, be they man, women, or something else, if they so wish.

  4. 4
    Nothing

    The problem here in São Paulo and the whole of Brazil is that not only our legislative power consists solely of moronic fucks like US’s right-wingers, they’re actually semi-literate and absolutely corrupt.
    I can’t think of a single free thinker around here who isn’t cynical and jaded to the point that they’d rather read about and root for the secular society in real countries (as in the ones above the equatorial line). Social justice here is a joke without a punchline.

    1. 4.1
      Marcelo

      I’m less cynical than you. It isn’t all of them that are moronic, semi-iliterate and corrupt. It’s probably about 80-90%, tops.

      You know what, never mind. I am just as cynical, got this news here before the brazilian media, and have for sometime been reading more of Ftb than local news.

      Sometimes it does feels hopeless. Election times now, the campaigns just make so fucking sad.

  5. 5
    peicurmudgeon

    The situation in Barzil may be different, but in many parts of the world, marriage as a secular rather than a church union does have a long history. From my reading, Martin Luthor belived that marriage was secular in nature, and the French Revolution resulted in France declaring that only state sanctioned unions were lawful. This led to the requirement of religious leaders to become licenced by the state to perform marriages. In many countries, the actual requirement for amrriage is the swearing in and the signing, with witnesses and notary, of the marriage agreement.

    Polygamy has implications in many other legal situations than does same-sex marriage. In fact, many laws wriiten around marriage would supercede even domestic partnership agreements. In practice, most polygamous societies only allow polygynous marriages and have very few rights for women.

    Having said that, there are many polygamous relationships that have survived a considerable length of time, despite the lack of legal sanction. Also, it would be worthwhile to examine the legal implications of polygamous marriages and determine what changes would be required to provide protections for all involved.

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