Indonesisan minister says no to same-sex marriage

Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Indonesia's Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali said that the government would not submit to a demand to legalize same-sex marriages in the country.

Suryadharma said that the government would defend the definition of marriage in the 1974 Marriage Law as a union between men and women and denied that the law was discriminatory toward certain groups in society.

"These groups said that the Marriage Law is discriminatory toward them. But [their] freedom should not violate existing norms and regulations," Suryadharma told reporters in Bogor, West Java on Wednesday.

Suryadharma said that in principle same-sex marriages contradicted basic Islamic teachings.

Earlier on Tuesday, Suryadharma said that there had been movement from certain groups to push for the amendment of the Marriage Law to accommodate same-sex marriages.

"These groups considered that the Marriage Law stood in the way of same-sex marriages and this was a violation of basic human rights. This is their idealism," Suryadharma said as quoted by Antara news agency in Bandung, West Java.

He said that these groups should consider existing norms adopted by society before making demands for same-sex marriages.

"One should not act freely based only on human rights norms, while ignoring other norms existing in the country," Suryadharma said on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Indonesian Islamic Propagation Institute (LDII) national meeting in Bogor, West Java.

Suryadharma claimed that he had never met with groups fighting for same-sex marriages, but had relayed the information on the proposal to the community of Muslim clerics so that the latter could be vigilant on the issue.

He said that these groups were emboldened by the success of plaintiffs who filed a judicial review to the Constitutional Court against articles in the 1974 Marriage Law, claiming that those articles were discriminatory toward children born out of wedlock.

The ruling, which took place in late February, stipulated the civil rights of children born out of wedlock should be recognized by their biological fathers.

Conservative groups have denounced the ruling, saying the court condoned adultery. The court has denied this, saying that the ruling should only be interpreted regarding the rights of children born out of wedlock.

Separately, the Indonesian Ulema Council's (MUI) West Java chapter asserted that gay marriage would still be considered a deviant act.

"There is no room for same-sex marriages in Indonesia. It is not only Islam that forbids the act but also all religions," the council's secretary-general Rafani Achyar said on Wednesday.

He said that the MUI's provincial branch had made efforts to prevent gay marriage, and added that the local MUI would also reject any effort to insert provisions that would allow gay marriage in the gender equality bill currently under discussion at the House of Representatives.

"We reject the discussion about gay marriage in the context of the bill. We reject it even if it's only a discourse," he said.

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) made a measured statement concerning the gay marriage issue.

Abdul Munir Mulkhan of Komnas HAM's research and development division said that was the rights of all individuals to express their sexual orientation but that they also had to respect the country's socio-cultural condition.

"Everybody has their own perspectives depending on their needs. Now it all depends on the state to accommodate and protect the rights of its citizens," he told The Jakarta Post.

He said Suryadharma should accommodate aspirations from those who want to legalize same-sex marriage in his capacity as a government official.

"That is the primary function of the state," added Munir.

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