17 May 2010

Portugal gets gay marriage


If I had asked you twenty years ago to name the first six European coutries to extend marriage rights to gays and lesbians, would you have put Portugal in the mix?

Me neither.

Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, and the Netherlands would have been my picks, and Catholic Portugal woulda been way down the list somewhere around Spain and Malta, but the whole Iberian Peninsula* now has gay marriage. Portugal is the sixth European nation to decide that "Separate but Equal" isn't and that all citizens should be extended all rights. (And in case you have travel plans, the other five are: the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Norway and Sweden. I was close.)

The coolest thing? It became law over the signature of the center right president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, just three days after the Prada-wearing Papa Nazi, Pope Benedict XVI, paraded through in all his fancy robes and told them not to do it. President Silva, unlike Fr. Wild at Marquette, didn't cave to ecclesiastical pressure in a non-ecclesiastical issue and signed the bill that had been passed by the legislature in January.

Portugal is 90% (nominal) Catholic, and this current Pontiff has made maintaining Catholic Europe's orthodoxy and fidelity to Church teaching a key component of his papacy. And by orthodoxy, of course, the Church fathers mean on groinal issues. No women priests, no legalized abortion, restrictive laws on divorce, and certainly, beyond a doubt, no acceding to legal recognition of queer relationships.

Good luck with putting that cat back in the bag.

Of the nations at the bottom of the table for birth rates, for example, are 90%+ Catholic Italy (219 out of 221), Austria (215), Monaco (207) and Spain (197); the bottom quarter of countries and territories on the table is heavily Catholic. I don't think it's that hetero folks in these places are having less sex - I think it's that hetero folks in these countries are deciding that they can exercise some control over their own bodies; that women are deciding that they are not units of baby-making production; that it isn't AD 1636; that the Church is simply wrong on this issue, and intractable for no good reason.

And the more the Church harps on groinal issues which go against what is rational and empirical in their daily lives, the more Western Europeans - and Cubans and Puerto Ricans and Qu├ębecois and millions of others - realize the Church is wrong about other things as well. Like, well, gay rights. And intractable about being wrong for no good reason.

So Portugal, Catholic Portugal, has marriage equality now. Along with Catholic Spain. And Catholic Belgium. This would have been unthinkable twenty years ago, but by refusing to learn the lessons of Europe's greatest gift to the world, the Enlightenment, and refusing to accept or accommodate them, the Church is in danger of making itself irrelvant in its historical heartland.

So maybe it's time for the Church to pack up and move back to the Mideast, from whence it came - less need for rationality there, and more zest for following superstition and persecuting others (women, queers, Jews, those who believe in different made up superstitions than you). It could feel right at home!

Just leave the billions worth of art and music made for you. And thanks for Chartres, anyway!

*Except, of course, for Britons on Gibraltar.

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