Gay marriage legislation announced

06.18.03

The Federal Government has announced legislation to legalize same-sex marriages by redefining the term “marriage”:

The landmark legislation will be drafted within weeks, then sent to the Supreme Court of Canada for fine-tuning and put before the House of Commons in a free vote by MPs months from now. But the prime minister made it clear Ottawa would not impose the new law on religious groups, who can still refuse to perform same-sex weddings. Canada would join Belgium and the Netherlands as the only countries allowing gay and lesbian weddings.

“What we’re doing at this moment might put Canada at the forefront of any solutions that exist,” Chretien said.

I guess I should join other bloggers such as Damian Penny on weighing in with my opinion on the subject, which is that this is one of the best pieces of legislation tabled by the Liberal government since . . . well, in a long time, anyway. And it’s long overdue.

I’ve heard a lot of BS arguments against allowing gay people to marry, usually by thinly-veiled homophobes who spout a lot of claptrap about “definitions” and whatnot. Some argue that it’s a slippery slope to allowing other forms of marriage, such as marriages involving more than one person. Others seem to be perfectly happy to restrict the right to marry to heterosexuals, perhaps afraid that if gays can marry, we’ll no longer be allowed to. I don’t know. I’ve thought long and hard trying to come up with some rational explanation for their objections, and came up with nothing. It’s not as though granting basic rights to someone else means that we have to give up any ourselves.

Especially considering no religious institution will be compelled to marry a same-sex couple, in much the same way that the Catholic Church won’t recognize or remarry divorced people. If you want to follow the tenets of a faith that discriminates, nobody’s stopping you, and there are plenty to choose from. Even Judaism discriminates broadly in who can be married in an Orthodox synagogue. But there are plenty of ministers (and even rabbis) out there who will gladly marry a same-sex couple, or else gay couples can be married in a civil ceremony. So why should the Federal Government be allowed to get in the way?

Marriage is essentially a contract. Sure, a religious marriage is considered holy, and any marriage is an affirmation of love and commitment. But why shouldn’t same-sex couples be allowed to have that love or make that commitment? And why shouldn’t they be granted the same privileges as heterosexual married couples?

I’m reminded of some of the arguments that were put forth before black people had the right to vote in the United States. “Voting is just for whites” or “Why would they even want to vote anyway?” or other ridiculous assertions like that one. Well, here we are again, in a time when we can no longer deny basic rights to 10% of our populations. Let’s end discrimination once and for all.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mike 06.18.03 at 9:14 PM

Very well-put!

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2 David H 06.19.03 at 3:05 AM

Segacs,

Quick question, should polygamy/gyny be allowed? Is it not a similar lifestyle choice? (Well, there are serious cases of coercion in Utah of course, but even normal marriages are often fairly non-voluntary situations and we don’t ban ’em).

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3 segacs 06.19.03 at 5:34 AM

I don’t think it’s at all legitimate to compare polygamy (a “lifestyle choice” as you put it) to homosexuality, a biological preference.

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4 David H 06.19.03 at 11:55 AM

Perhaps one way of looking at this though is that the lifestyle choice here is marriage itself. Homosexuality, as in the relationship, has been legal in Canada for a while now (as it should be). Choosing whether to get married though is a lifestyle choice.. for heterosexual, homosexual and other types of pairings and groupings.

I agree that there is no conceivable reason for gay couples not to be allowed to marry. However, I see no reason not to allow polygamous marriages as well… beyond my own personal bigotry of course.

I guess we need to ask ourselves what exactly marriage represents. Saying that one type of marriage is fine while others are still bad is like extending the vote to the Indians, while still denying the vote to the Chinese.

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5 jaz 06.20.03 at 5:15 AM

How can homosexuality be a biologrical preference? It is only common sense to see that this biological preference would have been bred out of the human race a long time ago.

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6 segacs 06.20.03 at 7:16 PM

Jaz, David, how does it hurt you if gays can get married? Does it infringe on any of your rights? Of course not. So why all the objections?

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7 David H 06.20.03 at 10:41 PM

Segacs,

Did you read what I said? It doesn’t hurt me at all… but neither do polygamous marriages. I just got the impression that you supported one and not the other, and I was interested in how you would resolve the discrepancy. 🙂

And jaz, you can’t simply say that homosexuality is not biological since it would have been bred out. Some genes have incomplete penetrance patterns, and arguments have been made that the presence of a homosexuality “gene” is beneficial to society. Fairly controversial of course, but interesting.

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8 segacs 06.21.03 at 12:11 AM

Genetics aside, Jaz, assuming you’re male (if you’re not I’m sorry) then think to the time when you first started noticing girls. Did you wake up one morning and make a conscious lifestyle choice to be heterosexual? Or did you just start having daydreams about the girl in math class? I suspect it was the latter. To me, that suggests that sexual orientation is something natural.

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9 Jim 06.21.03 at 6:46 PM

I think the comment about “bred out of existence” represents a common misperception about ‘evolutionary’ genetics. Its important to remember that the biological imperitive to reproduce is one of reproducing one’s genes. The imperitive is not the person’s (or the organism’s) but an imperitive of the genes’. While this is most easily accomplished by the person’s reproduction in a child, it is also accomplished by the reproduction of the very same genes comprising one’s relatives. Even out to several degrees of relationship, one shares virtually all the same genes. Thus, the reproduction of one’s siblings, cousins, even one’s community (in the historical “in-bred” sense of rural, low-mobility populations) is another successful variation of successive reproduction. One need not be a “breeder” to aid and assist in the success of creation of new life and sustaining it into (reproducing) adulthood. Traits are “bred out” of a population only to the extent they limit a species from reproduction, relative to other trait variations.
The result: the unique nature of homosexuality minority — its continual insertion into every family. Quite literally, every family has past & present gay family – and more importanly, future gay family, and there’s no way to stop that reality.

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10 Dr_Funk 06.22.03 at 4:40 PM

The basic issue here is that the Superior Court of Ontario, and BC too, I think, has knocked down the provisions in the law that prevented same-sex marriages. So Parliament has to fill the gap, and the only thing that they can do that will pass the courts is to make same sex marriages legal and legitimate. Which doesn’t pose problems for me personally. After all, society, for the most part, accepts same sex relationships pretty much as it does heterosexual relationships. The issue of marriage is primarily about giving same sex couples the same legal benefits and protections that heterosexual couples get..even the ones who are married common-law. Seems only fair…gay folk pay the same taxes and so forth that everyone else do….

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11 Cait Crusko 06.22.03 at 8:06 PM

Segacs,

Do you think that Israel should learn something from Canada and allow opposite-sex Jews and non-Jews to marry?

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12 Nanook 06.22.03 at 9:28 PM

Do you think that Israel should learn something from Canada and allow opposite-sex Jews and non-Jews to marry?

Homosexual marriage, on one hand, and heterosexual marriage between people of different religions, on the other, are issues so different from one another that you have to really wonder about this kind of analogy. It’s your standard kind of Euro-liberal, post-traditional-society-speak.

The taboos surrounding marriage across religions are many. Working them out needs to happen. But that can only ever take place in a framework of respect for the cultural context in which those taboos came to be — whether among Druze and Maronite in Lebanon, Jew and Muslim in Israel, or what have you. The kind of Eurocentric, aren’t-you-backwards brand of so-called “criticism” is one which by its nature disrespects those it seeks to reform.

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13 Cait Crusko 06.23.03 at 1:33 AM

I’m not making an analogy I’m asking a question. But “Nanook” simply issues insults. I’ll ignore him and restate my question.

If Segacs thinks that it’s OK for gays to marry, fine.

She’s a very strong supporter of Israel and I respect that. But Israel is supposedly a democracy, and people of different religions can’t even get married to one another.

Is that right?

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14 Cait Crusko 06.23.03 at 1:34 AM

PS I am not speaking of taboos, I am speaking of law. By law in Israel people of different religions cannot marry.

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15 Nanook 06.23.03 at 3:22 AM

I’m not making an analogy I’m asking a question.

Well, the latter is correct. The former isn’t, though; you’re making a very specific analogy. That is, in response to the news item that, in Canada, the Federal Government has announced legislation to legalize same-sex marriages, you ask whether Israel should learn something from Canada and allow opposite-sex Jews and non-Jews to marry? The analogy is between same-sex marriages (in Canada) and heterosexual marriage across religions (in Israel).

You have added an element, though: Israel is supposedly a democracy, and people of different religions can’t even get married to one another. That is to say, you imply that to criticize Israel’s marriage policy is also to criticize Israel’s status as a democracy.

(In case there was confusion: no; the two have nothing to do with one another. One can disagree quite cheerfully with Israeli marriage laws, and at the same time acknowledge quite openly that the law, the disagreement with the law, and the calls to change the law are all in the context of a democracy — as is indeed the case.)

In Israel, and unlike in Canada, marriage is considered a religious ceremony, and so one would have to find a religious authority who is willing to marry people of two different religions. That’s the problem: the Jewish, Muslim (and Druze), and Christian clergies don’t allow this, and so interfaith marriage can’t be accomplished inside the country. This is a problem, and it would be good to have a civil ceremony option. In the meantime, people have to get married abroad, especially in Cyprus. You can learn more about it here: .

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16 Nanook 06.23.03 at 3:23 AM
17 David H 06.23.03 at 8:05 AM

If people of different religions cannot get married in Israel, that is not a good thing and should be changed.

As pointed out though, the existence of suboptimal laws does not in itself take away from the success of Israel as a democracy.

Canada was still a fantastic democracy a month ago, when we still had silly laws about gay marriage. My general view is… whatever form of coupling/mating/family-making you find most acceptable, go ahead! If you think the best marriage is a group of 5 people, who am I to stop you?

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18 Diana 06.23.03 at 4:59 PM

Nanook and David H, you are both overrreacting to a simple question.

In Israel, and unlike in Canada, marriage is considered a religious ceremony

Yes, I know, obviously.

I’m asking whether Segacs, the author of this weblog, who supports equal marriage rights in Canada for gays (I agree, by the way), also supports equal marriage rights in Canada. For straights and gays. Who may or may not want to get married across religious lines.

After a lot of hot air, nanook finally says:

This is a problem, and it would be good to have a civil ceremony option

thanks for finally dealing with the issue, nanook. Now I wish that Segacs would answer.

BTW I am the product of an intermarriage, so-called.

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19 segacs 06.24.03 at 4:00 AM

Well since you asked . . .

Yes, I think Israel ought to revamp its legal marriage system to allow for civil, nonreligious marriages. This would allow for inter-faith marriages, as well as solve a lot of other problems.

I never said Israel doesn’t have problems, and IMHO the tight control of the ultra-Orthodox parties on certain aspects of government and Israeli life is a big one. A lot of people agree with me. A lot of Israelis agree with me – why else would Tommy Lapid’s Shinui party have won so many votes in the last election?

But what I object to most of all is how some people see it fit to bring Israel into every single debate or topic ever discussed. We’re talking about the legalization of gay marriage in Canada, not about religious marriages in Israel. If you want to discuss that, I’d be happy to. But do me a favour and stick to the topic at hand, ok?

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20 Diana 06.24.03 at 3:42 PM

Segacs,

To clear up confusion, I put my friend Cait up to asking this question, and then I chimed in. So the “I” is both of us.

The reason we discussed this is because we don’t think that this is solely an issue of gay marriage, but of equal marriage rights. And if people are going to demand that the US follow Canada because of this decision (and it certainly will have an effect) then why *not* bring Israel into the discussion?

It’s your blog, but the comments are open, and the issue is certainly relevant.

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21 Nanook 06.24.03 at 11:04 PM

Nanook and David H, you are both overrreacting to a simple question.

Here you’re making a choice, I think — to insult those who criticise your ideas, rather than to deal with the criticism. As in, After a lot of hot air, nanook finally says

I think my point was pretty clear. You claim homosexual marriage (in Canada) to be an identical issue to heterosexual marriage across religions (in Israel). This conflates very different sets of cultural issues. To poke fun at, or seek to delegitimise, the importance of these cultural issues — as you seem to want to by referring to them as hot air, or as irrelevant, and so forth — is exactly the kind of ethnocentrism that so frequently poisons discussion. Again, without respect for cultural context, it is very difficult to conduct open and honest discussion.

I think that Segacs captures this nicely in her comment: We’re talking about the legalization of gay marriage in Canada, not about religious marriages in Israel. If you want to discuss that, I’d be happy to. Indeed. Why, for example, aren’t interfaith marriages allowed in Syrian-occupied Lebanon? Why are they illegal in Saudi Arabia? And why does the civil marriage ceremony in the Arab Republic of Egypt forbid the union of qafir (non-Muslim) men with Muslim women?

All interesting questions, and we’re not about to debate them here. The point is that each is linked to a series of important cultural and historic issues which require understanding if to be overcome. Cait Crusko Diana is obviously free to be mightily interested in the matter of intermarriage in Israel, one on which I agree with here, and for that matter isn’t particularly controversial among the secular. The more interesting issue, for me, is the suggestion that it’s somehow the same issue as gay marriage in Canada; that, I believe, represents a serious misunderstanding.

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