Marriage should be reinforced, not redefined

In Singapore, a monogamous marriage is defined as "a marriage which is recognised by the law of the place where it is contracted as a voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others during the continuance of the marriage".

The law asks no questions about the sexual orientation of the man or the woman. Hence, the debate over same-sex marriage is not whether gays or lesbians should have equal right to marry ("Don't encourage discrimination in society" by Mr Terence Ho Wai Loong; last Friday).

Instead, at the heart of the issue is the question: What is marriage?

The conjugal view, which is the position in Singapore, recognises marriage as essentially solemnising a comprehensive, exclusive, permanent union based on the sexual complementarity of a man and a woman. It is intrinsically ordered to produce new life, even if it does not always do so.

On the other hand, the revisionist view pushed by same-sex marriage advocates sees marriage as the emotional union of two committed adults.

The revisionist view pushed by same-sex marriage advocates sees marriage as the emotional union of two committed adults.

A 2014 Institute of Policy Studies survey found that a large majority of Singaporeans (73 per cent) did not approve of same-sex marriage ("S'poreans against sex outside marriage: Poll finding"; Jan 29, 2014).

And there are good reasons for this: Biologically, human reproduction requires the sexual complementarity of a man and a woman. Anthropologically, fathers and mothers are different and complementary.

While studies on the differences between same-sex and different-sex parenting suffer from various limitations and are inconclusive ("Research on same-sex parenting inconclusive" by Mr Ng Jingyang; Forum Online, last Friday), existing sociological evidence shows that children fare best when raised by their married biological fathers and mothers.

For example, according to a recent survey of 351 academic studies from 13 different countries, Mexican sociologist Fernando Pliego found that members of traditional families enjoy better physical health, less mental illness, higher incomes and steadier employment. They and their children live in better housing, enjoy more loving and cooperative relationships, and report less physical or sexual violence.

The Government recognises the pre-political institution of marriage not because it is interested in the romantic relationships of adults, but to support the right of every child to be raised by a father and a mother wherever possible.

Marriage protects the needs of children and is a stabilising force in society. It should be strengthened and reinforced, not redefined.

Darius Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2015, with the headline 'Marriage should be reinforced, not redefined'. Print Edition | Subscribe