Special Reports / Civil partnerships and democracy

Civil partnerships and democracy

Kultura Liberalna · 19 February 2013

Dear Readers,

A radio broadcast conducted by Alain Finkielkraut, whose programme is usually quite placid , was recently the scene of a heated debate between guests. A Catholic columnist was in vigorous discussion with a leftist sociologist. What about? The “Marriage for All” civil partnership initiative, of course. This new institution, and in particular the right to adopt children and to use in vitro reproduction methods, has raised many questions. Would progressive homosexual couples really want to enter into “bourgeois” marriages? Can we treat invoking the right to have a child as a sign of arrogance and exaggerated individualism? And is the idea of marriage now connected more with parenting than with procreation?

Local discussions on this subject do not always reach this level of reasoning. Although the discussion in the Polish Parliament concerned only civic partnerships, its heated nature was more akin to the debates about homosexual marriage conducted in other countries. What does this tell us? Why do Europeans get so excited about changes in civil law? Are they really that interested in the way other people want to live their lives?

And could it be that the underlying reason for the violent disputes is the belief that sexuality is not a subject to be discussed publicly – much less in the Sejm? That is a thesis advanced today by Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska in an interview conducted by Łukasz Pawłowski. “Conservative circles are basically afraid to talk about sexuality. For some people this subject is so difficult that they do not even want to start any discussion and abruptly bring it to a close”, claims the politician.

Zbigniew Nosowski also comments on the topic of the week, but his opinion is completely different. The chief editor of “Więzi” magazine claims that at its heart, the dispute is not about an aversion to the topic of sexuality per se, but about a profound disagreement between the parties regarding the definition of the common good. The hypothesis explaining the heat of the civil partnership discussion by means of a serious axiological dispute is also supported by Dominika Kozłowska: “For each party of the dispute it is another front in the culture war.” Ireneusz Krzemiński draws our attention to an issue that is sometimes not properly emphasized in ongoing political discussions – the substantial influence of the Catholic Church.

But then again, this issue may be interpreted differently. In the Polish debate we can find echoes of the French dispute about marriage, which was supposed to be connected with the central ideas of liberal democracy. “In the heart of the discussion – as the New York Times editors aptly note – we can find three values of the French revolution – liberty, equality and fraternity. How can we employ these powerful – yet abstract – rights while deliberating over sexuality and parenthood?”

We should not lose sight of the fact that any dispute taking place in the Parliament, even if it concerns a very private domain, is, like a union of two persons, always a part of a wider political game. Paweł Śpewak speaks convincingly about this topic in our interview by Tomasz Sawczuk: “On the one hand, the Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska, PO) was split on the issue, on the other there appeared a movement comprising the Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej, SLD) and the Palikot’s Movement (Ruch Palikota) which questions the traditional way of thinking. Thus the conflict has become not only ideological, but also political.” The political aspect was also emphasized by Ireneusz Krzemiński, who claims that a discussion about civil partnerships has in fact a lot in common with the notion of state sovereignty.

The last text devoted to our topic of the week is one by Dorota Pudzianowska, who analyses whether an act on civil partnerships would really require a change in the constitution. According to her, the question is not as straightforward as it appears.

Soon we will also publish a text by Tomasz Sawczuk regarding the role of shame in the debate over civil partnerships.


Karolina Wigura