Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Just wondering.........

The same-sex marriage debate rages across the land and, up to this point, I have refrained from entering the fray. That’s not because I don’t have strong views on the issue, because I do, and I will cover them shortly. I haven’t entered the debate, because much of it has been hysterical, and it has seemed difficult to have a rational discussion without being labeled an extremist at one end of the spectrum or the other.

Watching the debate in Parliament has prompted me to throw in my nickel. I’m writing this during the afternoon of February 21st. Most of that debate has been civil and rational, notwithstanding fundamental differences in beliefs. Generally speaking, I have been proud of the conduct of MPs from all parties, and their arguments have been put forth respectfully and sincerely. There have been some flagrant cases of political and intellectual dishonesty, mainly on the parts of the Prime Minister and his deputy, Anne McLellan. Those two people (and several other lesser notables) have done a politically motivated about face from the unequivocal stands they took in Parliament in 1999, when they firmly upheld the traditional definition of marriage. Her latest one-eighty is not the first time that Anne McLellan has attacked the institution of the family with effect, but that is the topic for another blog.

As will surprise no one, my position on the issue is essentially the same as that of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada. As with Mr. Harper, etal, that does not mean that I don’t respect the rights of others to take a different view. What I am tired of is the rush to demonize those who feel as I do, and to declare us to be intolerant, bigoted, homophobic, or any other epithet that those who seem incapable of rational debate can look up in their Funk and Wagnall’s.

I have just listened to Bill Graham, and his speech was eloquent and remained respectful of differences of opinion. That is commendable. I have also just listened to Libby Davies (NDP) who subtly suggested that the only legitimate view of humanity is hers and that only MPs who share her view are worthy of respect. That is regrettable.

I spent a lot of time during the last federal election, every single day, answering the question on where I stood on the issue of same-sex marriage. My position hasn’t changed. I believe that “marriage” is defined as a union between one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others. I was brought up that way, and my parents were brought up that way, and their parents were brought up that way, and their parents were brought up that way, etc., etc., ad infinitum. Ninety-seven percent of Canadians are in relationships that reflect that cultural and religious history. For some it is rooted in religion. For some it is rooted in culture. For me, it is some of both, and that shouldn’t make my ancestors or me demons in anyone’s eyes.

While I support the traditional definition of the word “marriage”, I also support the right of others to disagree. More importantly, I also support the rights and privileges of homosexual couples to join together and celebrate their love, and to share all the non-emotional (e.g. financial) rights and privileges of heterosexual couples. That includes acts and obligations associated with coming together, living together, and breaking apart.

All of the quack about the Charter and the Notwithstanding Clause is frankly getting very tiresome. Either side can line up “experts” to back their case. Justice Minister Cotler has raised an imaginary spectre of a Conservative Government using the Notwithstanding Clause to attack and take away fundamental rights of Canadians. Prime Minister Martin has puffed himself up as the Defender Exemplar of the Charter and Canadians’ rights. This comic opera perpetuates the Liberal practice of fear mongering and lying about their opponents’ policies and intentions.

Same-sex marriage is an issue of policy, overlaid with profoundly held personal beliefs embedded in the hearts and minds of every MP. Libby Davies just called the Conservative Party’s allowing all members a free-vote a cop-out. Since when is practicing real democracy a cop-out? Stephen Harper is the only leader with enough intellectual and political honesty to allow MPs (and, by extension, Canadians) to make a truly democratic choice. Some will be guided by their personal beliefs and some will be guided by their constituents. Voters’ appreciation of either approach will be made clear in the next election. It’s a shame that other leaders lack Stephen Harper’s courage and commitment to democracy.

Andrew Telegdi (Liberal) has just quoted a Baptist Minister from Kansas making horrible comments about gays and lesbians, as if it has something to do with the current debate in Canada. Nothing about the opposition to Bill C-38 has anything to do with promoting hatred against gays and lesbians, and to imply otherwise is ridiculous and contemptible. Mr. Telegdi has now just used a letter from a constituent to label opponents of same-sex marriage as hateful. Good grief! He’s just implied that, if we don’t pass Bill C-38, we might be considered in a class with countries where gays and lesbians are executed for being that way. What a dishonest jackass! I guess I shouldn’t have CPAC on when I’m blogging.

To pretend that the passage of Bill C-38 will not lead to other challenges of accepted cultural and religious practices and freedoms is to ignore the natural tendencies of human nature. Pushing the envelope of libertarianism will always be the cause celebre for those so inclined. I respect and support their right to do that in a free and democratic society. I’m sorry that a great many of them don’t seem to respect the right of others to disagree. The passage or failure of Bill C-38 should not be based on fear of future actions, but to pretend that such actions will not follow its passage is delusional.

The Supreme Court was correct in refusing to answer Question 4 of the government submission that dealt with the constitutionality of the definition of marriage. They refused to participate in the acts of political cowardice that the Government committed in not challenging the lower court decisions, such as the Halperin Case in Ontario. Dithering has again cost us valuable time that could be much better spent on dealing with issues more important to the future of Canada.

Parliament is debating this issue of social policy, and that is where it belongs. Our elected MPs make the laws of the land and we put them there to do that. They should do that in response to the will of their constituents, while ensuring that fundamental rights are not compromised. In my view, same-sex marriage is a matter of policy and not a matter of rights. It would be an excellent demonstration of democracy and the reduction of the democratic deficit if all Members were allowed a free vote. That is, if the Prime Minister really meant what he said about reducing the democratic deficit……….. um, I guess not.

Whatever Parliament decides, so be it. That will be easier to do if the debate remains fair, polite and truthful. Let’s put it behind us, either way, and get on with the more important issues of the economy, security, health care, tax reform, democratic reform, equalization, trade, foreign affairs, etc., etc.

I am in complete support of same-sex unions and all the protection and benefits under the law that any Canadian should be able to expect. I am not in support of same-sex “marriage”. Same-sex couples will always call themselves married, no matter what happens to Bill C-38, and I wouldn’t expect them to do otherwise. As a matter of tolerance and respect, I am curious as to why it should be assumed and expected of the ninety-seven percent towards the three percent. Is it wrong to ask the three percent to show similar respect to the ninety-seven percent? Just wondering..........


Blogger John the Mad said...

I agree with almost all of what you have to say on this matter.

I could even accept parliament's judgement if the vote were truly free. It is not. The Cabinet and the NDP are being whipped by their respective leaders.

The deck is stacked.

7:34 PM  
Blogger The Hack said...

I know it's late to respond, but I've got to quibble with you John.

I don't believe that SSM is a Charter or Human Rights issue, so I support Stephen Harper putting it to a free vote.

However, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Jack Layton firmly believes that it IS such an issue, so he has to whip his caucus. After all, how can he he allow an MP to vote against a human right? As a leader, he must force them to vote in support of the perceived human right.

Which really means that it's the Prime Minister in a bad spot on this issue. If he truly believes his rhetoric of the issue (we all know the answer to that but let's just suppose for awhile), then why is he allowing 20-30 Liberals to vote AGAINST the Charter that he claims is so near and dear to his heart?

It's a great paradox that should be a part of the attack of both Harper and Layton against the PM.

3:31 AM  
Blogger John the Mad said...

"As a leader, he must force them to vote in support of the perceived human right."

I believe that the individual MP has the right to decide that issue for himself. If Jack Layton feels that way, he can vote accordingly, but he shouldn't whip his caucus on a matter of concience.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Sean McCormick said...

The whole gay marriage thing isn't even on my radar. I just had to borrow a large amount of $$$ for my RRSP as my side business did better expected last year.

The nature of Canadian taxes being what they are, practically all of that extra income is eaten up by taxes. I had a choice between owing that money to RevCan (or whatever it's called now) or myself, instead.

I'm not quite sure how I'm going to service the loan (a third job, maybe?), but I'll figure something out. Needless to say, I'm a bit stressed over this.

If the Conservatives want to connect with me, they need to start talking about reducing spending, reducing taxes, reducing waste, etc. That's what I want to hear.

Gay marriage? Don't bother me with it. I have more pressing issues to deal with.

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