Jakarta – It is hard to believe that in this day and age, the state is opposed to and obstructing any plans by two individuals of different faiths of getting married.
The Constitutional Court's ruling this week, rejecting a petition by an individual from Papua, laid the final nail in the coffin for any hope that the state would allow and facilitate interfaith marriages.
This does not sound like a nation that respects freedom and diversity, both guaranteed by the constitution, the state ideology Pancasila and the state motto "Unity in diversity".
The nine judges in the Constitutional Court unanimously agreed to reject the petition by Ramos Petege who is challenging the 1974 law on marriage for not accommodating the union between people from different faiths. Because of the law, Petege, who is a Roman Catholic from Papua cannot marry the love of his life, who is a Muslim.
The court ruling has quashed his hopes of marrying the girl of his choice through legal means. Given the growing trend of interfaith marriages in an increasingly cosmopolitan Indonesia, it has killed the hopes of many more couples intending to get married legally.
The fact that there was no dissenting opinion among the judges, two gave concurrent opinions, suggests there is something wrong with the court makeup: that they are a bunch of conservatives. Unless this composition is changed, we can expect more conservative-leaning rulings from this court, whose decisions are final and binding, which could endanger the state, Pancasila and unity in diversity as we know it.
The judges agree with the 1974 law that treats marriages solely from the perspective of religion. Since Indonesia is not a theocratic state, marriages can only be sanctioned by a religious institution.
This essentially makes it next to impossible for couples of different faiths to legally get married in Indonesia, unless one of them converts. Unless done voluntarily, this sounds like forcing one's belief upon another, which is a violation of human rights. And no decent religion will ever want to impose or force a person to convert.
Alternatively, as one of the judges stated in a concurring opinion, the couple can marry twice, for example, one time in a mosque and the second in a church, in the case of a Muslim marrying a Christian.
The third alternative, also recognized in the concurring opinion, is for couples to get married abroad, usually in a civil registry. With this foreign license, they can then submit it to the civil registry office in Indonesia. This is a perfectly legal way of skirting the 1974 law. Many couples are already doing this, with Singapore and Australia being the most popular destinations. But this option is available only to those who have the money.
Marriage is certainly a sacred vow and should not be taken lightly, and religious institutions are the best places to perform the rituals. But the state, including the court, should make accommodations for the fact that Indonesia is becoming more cosmopolitan and that mixed marriages, between people of different nationalities and religions, are becoming common.
There are occasions when individuals of different faiths fall in love with one another and want to tie the knot. Marriage before the civil registry would be no less sacred. We find it simply absurd that the civil registry will accept foreign marriage certificates but it is not empowered to perform marriages itself.
Rather than making it difficult, the state should facilitate interfaith marriages, in the spirit of the Constitution, Pancasila and unity and diversity.
The petition before the Constitutional Court would have opened the way for the nation to review the 1974 Marriage Law to accommodate marriage between individuals of different faiths.
Thanks to the conservative-laden court, the nation missed that golden opportunity.