Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis, who have been together for 24 years, attend a gay pride parade in San Francisco last June. Recognizing same-sex unions as a marriage devalues the unique identity and social contributions of the union of a man and a woman, a Vatican official told the U.N. Human Rights Council. CNS photo/Susana Bates, Reuters

Recognizing gay unions devalues marriage, official tells UN council

By  Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
  • March 9, 2012

VATICAN CITY - The Catholic Church condemns violence and discrimination against homosexual persons, but recognizing same-sex unions as a marriage devalues the unique identity and social contributions of the union of a man and a woman, a Vatican official told the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Vatican observer at U.N. agencies in Geneva, told the council March 9 that the Vatican "condemns discrimination and violence against any human person, including those who are so targeted because of perceived sexual differences."

The Human Rights Council was discussing a report on "Discriminatory Laws and Practices and Acts of Violence against Individuals Based on their Sexual Orientation."

While the report noted international law does not require states to recognize same-sex unions, Archbishop Tomasi said Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, proposed that states have an obligation to "ensure that unmarried same-sex couples are treated in the same way and entitled to the same benefits as unmarried opposite-sex couples."

The archbishop said, "The Holy See expresses grave concern that, under the guise of 'protecting' people from discrimination and violence on the basis of perceived sexual differences, this council may be running the rise of demeaning the sacred and time-honored legal institution of marriage between man and woman."

Traditional marriage has "enjoyed special protection from time immemorial within legal, cultural and religious traditions and within the modern human rights instruments, starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," he said.

Marriage was afforded special recognition because the relationship between a man and woman, who commit to staying together for life and are open to having and raising children, benefits all the individuals involved, and "makes a unique and essential contribution to the public good," the archbishop said.

Marriage "provides the best conditions for raising children; namely, the stable, loving relationship of a mother and a father," he said.

Discrimination and violence against homosexuals or any other group of people violates internationally recognized human rights laws, he said, and acts of discrimination and violence should be punished by local or national authorities.

However, he said, the Vatican opposes efforts to "define new categories" of persons requiring special protection under international human rights laws.

The right to life, liberty and security "should and must be universally respected and enjoyed," he said. "Efforts to particularize or to develop special rights for special groups of people could easily put at risk the universality of those rights."

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