Opinion: Same sex marriagePOSTED: 10/24/13 5:48 PM
Prime Minister Wescot-Williams made a clear announcement when this newspaper asked her yesterday about the government’s position on the issue of same sex marriage.
Nobody has to explain to us what the current political climate for this issue is: there is no majority in parliament to support legalizing same sex marriage. There is also no support – at least not enough – among the population.
Wescot-Williams however, said that the time approaches to have a debate about marriage for all. And indeed, why not? It is maybe not the most pressing issue for a cash-strapped country with plenty of other headaches that it also has to deal with, but it is an interesting moral issue that deserves some attention.
The reality is that the practice of marriages between two men and between two women is becoming more common every day around the world. We will not bore our readers with a listing of all the countries where marriage is open for all because what happens in some faraway country or in some of the states in the US seemingly does not have a lot to do with Sint Maarten.
So let us stick to the Netherlands and France. To begin with the Netherlands – marriage for all is legal there and it is therefore also legal in the Dutch public entities Saba, Statia and Bonaire.
A ruling from the Dutch Supreme Court from April 2007 – yep, that is already six years ago, and counting – established that documents drawn up anywhere within the Kingdom are valid throughout the Kingdom. What does this mean?
In the practical sense it means that somebody who gets married in The Hague, Amsterdam, or any other place in the Netherlands, or in Bonaire, Saba or Statia has a legal status that is also valid in the autonomous countries Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten.
So when two men or two women who married in those territories come to Sint Maarten and want to register at the census office, said office has to register these couples as married. And not only this: these couples are also entitled to all benefits that befall heterosexual married couples.
So whether Sint Maarten wants it or not, sooner or later the census will have its share of same sex married couples on the books.
Then there is the situation in neighboring France. Sint Maarten borders on France through the Collectivité d’Outre Mer de Saint Martin. That is where two weeks ago, the first two men tied the knot officially at the Hotel de la Collectivité.
What would happen if this couple decided to move to the Dutch side? They have a legal marriage certificate, obtained in a country that can hardly be described as a rogue state. Does our census office then have the right to turn them down and say: we do not accept your marriage? We think that would cause a diplomatic ruckus with the French.
Lastly there is of course the reality that there are gay and lesbian citizens in our community. They are not very vocal – we do not have a Gay Pride Parade, for instance – but they are there. Read Lydia Henderson’s book for a taste of the sexual experiments that are going on in the Friendly Island.
On the other side of the fence stands obviously the dogma of the churches. They will never change their point of view and, up to a point, that is not even very interesting.
We live in a free society where citizens are free to choose the lifestyle they want. They may become Catholics, Presbyterians, or Seventh Day Adventists. They are free to spend all day in church if they want to, the same way they are free not to believe in God, never go to church, marry seven times or leave marriage forever to others – and so on.
Freedom of religion guarantees those who feel like it, to practice their religion. Nobody is entitled to infringe on that freedom. If this is so, then why do church leaders feel they have to rave and rant against same sex marriage? That ought to be part of the debate that – according to Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams – we should be having in the near future.
We support that approach: a debate that involves all citizens. A debate also that respects the opinion of others and that starts with the premise that freedom stops where in intrudes upon the freedom of others.