Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Welcome to this new portal for French gay news in English

After helping to translate several French texts into English, regarding the debate about mariage pour tous in France, I have put up this blog so I can post translations as I do them.

When I was 15 years old, I was sent for a time to live in Maine, close to the border of Quebec; there I learned French. My fluency comes and goes, but I've kept up with it. Forgive me if some of the translations are a bit wobbly. I'm trying to do this under a time crunch!

For starters I will post here the translation of the first sections of High Rabbi Gilles Bernheim's statement on gay marriage:

Homosexual marriage, homoparenting, and adoption:

(in red Square): What one often forgets to say
By Gilles Bernheim, France’s High Rabbi


A large number of our compatriots see the reinforcement of homosexual marriage as just one more supplementary stage of the democratic struggle against injustice and discrimination, within a continuum of the one that fought racism.
It is ultimately in the name of equality and open-mindedness, of modernity and predominant intellectualism that we are asked to accept this placement of one of the foundations of our society into the status of a cause. Moreover, in the appeals for support, this cause would be acceptable for the majority of our compatriots and its legalization ought not to call, as a result, any debate into order about the measure being considered.
I object that it is of the utmost importance to explicate the true variables tied to sexual difference and to publicly debate it on these bases—beyond the principles such as equality which delight whose who make gigantic slogans out of all this, but of which the call to legalize gay marriage, gay parenting, and adoption by homosexuals does not hold up for long under scrutiny.

In this essay, I seek to decipher the partisan discussion of a Law. I seek to look over their arguments and shed light on the negative effects of the ideas they trumpet.  My objective is to contribute to the rise of a true debate about the public square because the subject deserves better than a trial of good intentions, where the partisans hear the matter out until the vote for the Law, via invalid caricatures, against those who wish to question the plan and their motives.

The caricatures have a hard life and some could wish to do away with the whole array of my sugestions based on the idea that a Rabbi ought not to leave the religious sphere or the Bible banning homosexuality has nothing to do with this, so I would have nothing new to add.
To these 2 objections, I want to answer straight away because I know too well how effective ad hominem attacks are, which allow one to discredit the discussant, and allows one to trim down the analysis of these propositions and therefore to skew the debate.

I speak as a Rabbi, and more particularly as the High Rabbi of France. I am no more than a spokesperson of a group of individuals, but the reference and speaker for French Judaism in its religious dimension.

As with all other Rabbis, I am a reader, a teacher, and a commentator about texts of Jewish wisdom that are imprinted with a long tradition of dialogue, dialectic, and hermeneutics, in other words, a pluralistic tradition. I have always viewed as a responsibility the intellectual engagement with history’s great decision points and especially the decision points of my own country. To that effect, the plan to authorize gay marriage, as well as the plan to realize juridically gay parenting and adoption, worries me. This is why I challenge the posture of a minority of responsible religious people, consisting of placing oneself beyond challenge and of excluding themselves from debate; I am prompted by the possibility of religious marriage being subsumed by civil marriage. Placing oneself beyond challenge is an error when it brings about self-promotion.

My assumption of the right to speak is the expression reflected in the solidarity that ties me to the national community of which I am part. It is also the responsible expression of universal principles that this community has built and defended over the centuries, ideas on which the Republic is founded and without which she would scarcely survive. If someone who is not Jewish wishes to listen to me, he will receive my point of view through the lens of his personal judgment, through his own value system, and through his own religious, agnostic, or atheist identity. He shall be able to, if he wishes, recognize the wisdom in what I say and attribute to them a moral worth.

My view of the world is guided by the Bible and rabbinical commentaries – this will surprise nobody. Concerning the key subjects of sexuality and child-rearing, my vision is founded on the complementarity of man and woman. IN this essay, I referred exclusively to Genesis and have therefore chosen not to mention the injunctions against homosexuality written in Leviticus because I have considered that the matter here is not homosexuality, which is an act, a reality, though as a Rabbi I have some appreciation for this subject; but rather the irreversible risk of a scrambling of genealogies, a confounding of statuses (the child-subject becoming the child as object) and of identities – confusion which is irreconcilable with the whole of society and losing its view of the general interest in order to benefit a tiny minority.

Finally, I shall add that my Biblical vision of the world, where justice is a central principle, leads me naturally to condemn and fight against the physical and verbal aggressions directed at homosexual victims, in the same way that I condemn and fight strongly against the acts and ideas that are racist and anti-Semitic.

I must thank T. Collin, JP Winter, M. Gross, B Bourges, and L Roussel for the wealth of their reflections that have enriched this project and give all my gratitude to Joel Amar for his precious help in the accompanunent of essay.

FIRST PART  analysis of the arguments used by the partisans of a Law
--Gay marriage in the name of equality?

What one hears: “Gays are victims of discrimination. They ought to have, as straight people do, the right to marry.”

What one forgets to say sometimes:

The argument of marriage for all who love another does not hold : it is not because people love each other that they have, systematically, the right to marry, whether they be gay or straight. For example, a man cannot marry a woman already married, even if they love one another. Likewise, a woman cannot marry two men, due to the fact that she loves both and both want to be her husband. Moreover, a father cannot marry his daughter if their love is only paternal and filial.

In the name of equality and tolerance, and the fight against discrimination and other notions, one cannot give the right of marriage to all who love each other.

At issue here is not the sincerity of a love. And it is understandable that two people in love want to see their love recognized. All the same, strict rules limit today and will continue tomorrow to limit the authorized and forbidden bonds ofmarriage. In this sense, marriage for all is only a slogan because the authorization of gay marriage would maintain the inequality and discrimination against all who love one other, since some will continue to be forbidden from marrying.

The argument of marriage for all hides the two present visions of marriage.

In the vision of the world, I share with many people, believers and not, marriage is not only about recognizing love. It is the institution that expresses the bond between a man and a woman with the production of later generations. It is the institution of the family, that is to say a unit that creates a filial relation, direct, among its members. Beyond the common life of 2 people, it organizes the life of a Community comprising descendants and ascendants. In this sense, it is a foundational act in the construction and stability both of individuals and society.

In another vision of the world, marriage is judged as an institution outdated and outmoded, as the absurd leftover of a traditional and alienating society. But then again, is it not paradoxical to hear the holders of this vision of the world lift their voices in favor of gay marriage? Why do these who refuse marriage and prefer free unions now march beside militant LGBTs to support them in their fight for gay marriage?

Whether one has this or that vision of the world, one sees quite well what is behind <<marriage for all>>, it is a substitution : an institution juridically, culturally, and symbolically assigned would be replaced by a juridical asexual object, undermining the foundations of individuals and families.

In effect, in the name of equality and the fight against discrimination, would it be necessary to suppress any sexed reference in relations between citizensof the State, to begin with the marriage ceremony and by the family register that is issued in this ceremony?

--Gay marriage in the name of protecting the couple?

What one hears: “Gays find themselves without rights and in great precariousness after a death or separation. Gay marriage allows this to be remedied.”

What one forgets often to say:

Death and separations are moments of pain and suffering. They can also be the origin of very difficult social situations, for example the matter of where one lives. This goes for all couples, whether gay or straight, married or not, civil unions or free unions. When one tackles marriage under the concrete and material scope of a home, the course of one’s life, debts, finances, and heritage – one quicly sees that marriage cannot be reduced to an emotional engagement and to a distant promise of mutual aid. For the promise may be transformed, one day, into a question of justice. I am bound to the protection of a couple, no matter the sex, no matter which sex  left the other after a period of life together.

About the protection of the couple, I want to begin with some evidence. Marriage, like the PACS, is not a generator of rights and obligations if it is not contracted. In other terms, the authorization of gay marriage in France would not bestow, in any way, protection of all couples upon all gay couples. One must still see to it that each of the partners wants to marry! The same evidence is valid for straight couples, many of whom chose to live in free unions.
If straight couples are choising PACS in greater numbers (see the insert in paragraph 1.8), they ought to find an interest in this union, in particular about the economic and juridical parameters that accrue to it a material power (lodging, finances, social protection…) Easily one finds on the Internet tables comparing marriage and PACS on each of these parameters.

If certain dispositions are not automatic in the case of PACS, they are as minimal as possible. I take for example the case of succession. A civil union pair may inherit with the same scope and limits as one sees in the case of a married couple, but one partner must be have drawn up a will and must have designated the beneficiary. In the case of PACS and marriage, inheritance received by the couple is exempted from the rights of succession (???)

An analysis, line by line, of the comparative tables shows that the gap between the two formulas is limited. Scarely posed is the question of the compensatory loans in the case of separation causing a significant level of loss of life (quality) for one of the mates, even if the latter can, in the case of PACS, retain the judge for familial affairs to impose patrimonial consequences and reparation of damages (??)

My intention is not to proceed to an analysis line by line of the comparative tables.

It is wishful to think that technical solutions are found to place at the same level the protection of a married couple and that of a PACS couple in the case of death or separation. As well, one must highlight that in regard to what exists already in France with civil unions (PACS), the protection of the couple is not enough to replace the institution of marriage in a way as radical as legalizing gay marriage would do.

--Gay parenting in the name of love?

What one hears: “The most important thing is love. A gay couple can give lots of love to a kid, sometimes even more than a straight couple.”

What one often forgets to say:

Love is not enough, even if the capacity of the gays to love is obviously not in dispute. Loving a child is one thing, loving a child with a structured love is another altogether. It is not in doubt that gay people have the same capacities to love a child and show it love as straight people do, but the role of parent is not only that of bearing love upon children. Going over the emotional facets of love in the parental and educational bond remainds me that the bond of childrearing is a psychic one and that it is the foundation for the child’s feeling of identity.

All the affection in the world is not enough to produce the psychic structures and base that respond to the need of the child to know where it came from. For the child is built upon differentiating, what one supposes at the beginning that he knows he will resemble. The child needs to know it came from the proudct of love and union between a man-father and a woman-mother, thanks to the sexual difference of the parents. Adopted childred, as well, know that they are made from the love and desire of their parents, though these latter cases are not their biological progenitors.

Mother and father demonstrate to a child its genealogy. The child needs a clear genealogy, a coherent one, in order to position itself as an individual. What makes a child from today on and for always is a (word/notion) in a sexed body and in a genealogy.

Naming the ancestry is not only indicating by whom the child will be reared, with whom it will have emotional relations, who will be its adult <<cue>>, it is also and above all allowing the child to place itself within a chain of generations.

For millennia, the system on which our society is founded has been a genealogy and a double line, that of the father and that of the mother. The ancientness of this system guarantees to each individual that he can find his place in the world in which he lives, because he knows from where he came. An extant practice, from the preparatory course, is moreover to ask the child to reconstitute its genealogical tree because, thanks to that practice, the child is situated by its relation to its father and its mother and also by connection to society.

Today, the risk of shaking up the generational chains is huge and irreversible. Even as one cannot destroy a house without it falling down, one cannot renounce the founations of our society without placing her in danger.
Gay parenting is not parenting. The term was invented to obscure the impossibility for gays to be parents. This new word, created to begin the concept of a gay parental unit and promote the juridical possibility for <<2 parents>> of the same sex to have a child, reveals the fiction. In effect, it is not the sexuality of the individuals that has ever girded parents or marriage, but rather sex, that is the anthropological distinction of men and women.

Hence, in weakening the distinction of man and woman and foregrounding the gay-straight distinction, gays lay claim not to parenthood (paternity or maternity) which implies the biological link uniting the conceived child to two progenitors, but rather, they claim to “parenting,” which reduces the role of the parent to the practice of nominally educational functions. Even in the case of adopted children, it is not only a question of education, but also of reconstructing the ancestry.

On must therefore reiterate powerfully here, that being a mother or father is not only an emotional reference or a social or cultural one. The term “parent” is not neuter; it is sexed. Accepting the term “gay parenting” means stripping the word “parent” if its corporeal, biological, carnal meaning which is intrinsic to it.

The Association of Gay & Lesbian Parents and Future Parents propose also several substitutes for the word “parent” regarding the roles and statuses that can be fulfilled: “parent-in-law,” “coparent,” “homoparent,” “mother for the others,” “biological parent,” “legal parent,” “social parent,” “second parent.” It is scarcely likely that a child should come naturally and in a structured way to relate to all these terms..