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KERALA, India (ChurchMilitant.com) - The ancient Syro-Malabar Church is opposing the Supreme Court of India's attempt to legalize same-sex "marriage," stating that it is "a denial of human nature constituted as male and female and an injustice to the family system and society."
On Thursday, the Eastern Rite Catholic Church issued a statement warning that "legalizing same-sex marriage could lead to calls for the legalization of sexual perversions such as attraction to children, attraction to animals and attraction between blood relatives."
The church's Public Affairs Commission, which released the statement, argued that "same-sex marriage violates the right of children to be born and raised within a marriage" and that it "unequivocally declares the position that marriage is a relationship between a woman and a man."
"The Church, which adheres to Scripture, tradition and Church teachings, opposes efforts to legalize same-sex marriage," the statement maintained. "Same-sex marriage is a negation of the natural order of relationships between a man and a woman."
The Syro-Malabar Church's statement is in response to India's federal government, which has called for public responses to a petition in the Supreme Court seeking legal validation of "same-sex marriage."
While India's Hindu nationalist government is opposed to legalizing homosexual "marriage," two petitions filed by homosexual couples are campaigning for legal recognition of same-sex marriage under the Special Marriage Act.
Lawyers for the petitioners are arguing that marriage is a union of two people and not just a man and woman.
While the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, which constitutes India's majority Latin Rite Church leadership, has not issued any official statement supporting the government, individual bishops have reiterated the Catholic Church's position on marriage.
"It is indeed a commendable job by the Indian government," Bp. Peter Paul Saldanha of Mangalore said. The Church does not accept "that which is unnatural because we follow what God has taught us where a family dwells as father, mother and children."
"We are happy that the government has sensed the mood of the people and taken an unequivocal stand on the demand for legalizing same-sex marriage. This endorses the Church stand," Abp. Felix Machado of Vasai told Catholic media.
"The demand for same-sex marriage is an imported issue in this country. The demand was unheard here 15 years ago," Machado, who is secretary general to the Indian Bishops' Conference, remarked.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has asked the government to respond to the question of how same-sex couples can be granted social benefits without legal recognition of their marital status. The court noted, "You may or may not call it marriage, but some label is necessary."
Responding earlier to the government's lawyers' arguments against same-sex marriage, Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said that Indian culture before the advent of British rule was "extraordinarily inclusive, very broad."
"You go to our finest temples and if you look at the architect, you will never say it is lewd. It shows the depth of our culture," Chandrachud noted.
"What happened really was from 1857, and thereafter we got the Indian Penal Code. We imposed it as if it were a code of British Victorian morality on a completely different culture," the judge insisted.
But in a 46-page affidavit, the government argues that "any change in human relationship should come from the legislature, not the court," especially since "the institution of marriage has a sanctity attached to it and in major parts of the country, it is regarded as a sacrament, a holy union and a sanskar (culture)."
"In our country, despite statutory recognition of the relationship of marriage between a biological man and a biological woman, marriage necessarily depends upon age-old customs, rituals, practices, cultural ethos and societal values," the affidavit explained.
Leaders from different religions, including Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Jain, have all separately written to India's Supreme Court echoing the government's stance and voicing vigorous opposition to homosexual marriage.
The grand mufti of India, Sheikh Abubakr Ahmad, said that any form of marital relationship that is not between man and woman "is against natural law and impermissible."
The Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind, a Muslim organization, calls same-sex marriage an attack on family values because it's based on an "atheistic worldview."
According to a Pew survey, acceptance of homosexuality in India increased by 22%, rising to an overall acceptance of 37% between 2013 and 2019.
In April, the Bar Council of India (BCI) passed a resolution claiming that "more than 99.9% of people in the country are opposed to the idea of same-sex marriage" and that "it would be catastrophic to overhaul something as fundamental as the conception of marriage."
LGBT activists and over 600 law students slammed the BCI by saying that the figure was factually incorrect and the resolution was "ignorant, harmful and antithetical."
Earlier, 21 retired high court judges wrote an open letter that stated that allowing same-sex marriage would have a "devastating impact on children, family and society."
In India, marriage is governed by a set of laws differently tailored to suit the religious doctrines of the country's different religious groups. Interfaith couples are required to marry under the Special Marriage Act. All the laws currently confine marriage to between men and women.
The government has argued that tweaking the Special Marriage Act would also lead to changes to dozens of personal religious laws, especially if two same-sex individuals from a particular religion decide to get "married."
The Supreme Court hearings will resume on May 9.
The Conference of Catholic Bishops of India's media apostolate coordinator, Fr. Cyril Victor Joseph, told Church Militant that the bioethics forum was preparing a response to the debate.
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