WEDNESDAY, 06 AUGUST, 2003
That gay old summer - THE COMMENTARY
By Joseph Planta
VANCOUVER – Surely someone will come along and call the summer of '03, 'a gay old summer', what with the debate that's been going on over same-sex marriage. It started with the Ontario Court of Appeal upholding a lower court's ruling that same-sex marriage was permissible. Following the lead in Canada's largest province, the federal government has decided that this fall, they will introduce legislation that will recognise same-sex unions within federal jurisdiction. This has opened up a larger debate, touching off reaction from the United States and the Vatican. In the United States, Americans, depending on their political persuasion, either regard Canadians as regressive on moral values, or progressive in social policy. President Bush has said he believes that the definition of marriage should be limited to that between a man and woman. He has said he will support his party's move in the Congress to codify that definition within law, doing the opposite of what's going on here. In the Vatican, the Pope's officials have issued a condemnation of same-sex marriage, yet again, and have implored (some will say threaten) Catholic politicians to not further the acceptance of same-sex unions, and to revert from a further path of condoning such unions within the purview of the law.
Bishops within the Roman Catholic faith in this country, have damned Prime Minister Chrétien's soul, saying the after life will not be a pretty one for him. (How could it get any worse now, what with Paul Martin nipping at his heels?) Now they've turned their gaze on Paul Martin, the heir apparent, who is a Roman Catholic as well, demanding that he fess up forthwith on his position on this ever dominating political issue. The opposition parties too, are calling for clarification from this government, considering that the sponsoring minister, justice minister Martin Cauchon, has said he himself would fight an election on this issue.
Canadian Alliance leader and Leader of the Official Opposition Stephen Harper has said he will let his caucus vote on this issue, free of the party whip, as it is a matter of conscience. He has though, admitted he is against the notion of same-sex marriage and has vowed to fight the proposal. He would be in good company too, considering the Liberal government in 1999, voted against a proposal that would have recognised same-sex partners as equal to those of heterosexual partners, with regards to receiving pension benefits and the sort. Now, the Alliance will be reviewing that vote come this fall, reminding the Liberals, namely the Prime Minister, minister Cauchon and Paul Martin, of their previous vote. It's farting against the wind frankly, but Harper and the Alliance deserve credit for their tenacity. The leader of the New Democratic Party Jack Layton has said his party is in favour of same-sex unions, as is Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe. Peter MacKay, the Conservative Party leader has said he himself is against the enshrining of same-sex unions equal to that of heterosexual ones.
Though I am a Catholic, at face value, I have no objection to the recognition of same-sex marriage. However, I am not in support of the methods to which the government is approaching this policy. First, this is yet another example of the federal government's growing abdication in the law-making process. This is how the system is supposed to work: Parliament, the people we elect, make the laws, and it is up to our courts to uphold those laws. However, and this is a growing trend under this prime minister, the courts have become far too activist and have ended up making laws in this country, laws that they would have to uphold themselves, and laws that our parliaments should be making in the first place. It's a very dangerous trend, as we have no real access to our courts. We cannot remove a judge appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. They are appointed at the behest of the Governor General, at the direction of the Prime Minister. Were we to have an ideal system, our members of parliament would draw up the laws and we would have to exercise our insurance policy at election time, to remove or sustain such MPs. But of course, we do not have that kind of system. Prime ministers of Canada will continue, as they have done for decades, to appoint judges to the Supreme Court without the consent of the public, thereby continuing the practice of emasculating our elected officials and removing democracy, yet again, from us, the citizen.
Same-sex marriage is another evolution of society. Whether it is justifiable or moral is not for me to judge. As a person, the conduct of my fellow persons is left to their own judgement and conscience. Therefore, though I may have personal objection to the idea of same-sex marriage, I see no reason why society as a whole should be opposed to this notion. I firmly believe, we as human beings are not judged by our fellow human beings, but by God. So, if one were to engage in the act of homosexuality, then that's their business. Those individuals would do so cognisant of the consequences, if any, in their faith.
As far as my church is concerned, I suppose the Roman Catholic church should, pardon the pun, butt out. Sure they should make contributions to the debate, as to whether they support or disagree with such changes. However, their opposition has become a loud rabble that is mired in hypocrisy and not in recognition of the own cleaning that needs to be done within their own house. Roman Catholics have every right to believe that homosexuality is wrong, but when they denigrate individuals for not sharing their beliefs, then that is sincerely wrong. There has been, for ages, a separation between the church and state, and it's a little disappointing that the Roman Catholic faith, cannot come to that realisation, as late as it may be. Recent scandals within the Roman Catholic religion have not strengthened the current flavour of debate coming from the organised church. For years, the Roman Catholic church has sheltered paedophiles and has not addressed the concerns of many (both within and without the church) as to whether their opposition to homosexuality has contributed to this rampant pattern of abuse and criminal behaviour. Clearly, the Roman Catholic church, a powerful and potent voice in the fore of political debate, cannot with pristine and unimpeachable morality, cast aspersions on those that oppose their point of view, as they continue to fail to address their own lack of understanding and their inaction throughout history.
However in this debate in this country today, as a Canadian, I am at this point, in opposition to Prime Minister Chrétien's proposal to codify same-sex marriage, and to give it recognition within Canadian law. The means to which, the Prime Minister will achieve such ends, is wrong. The sentiment is fine, yet the idea that the bill must pass a sort of means test at the Supreme Court, before reaching Parliament for ratification, is absurd. It is a growing abdication of Parliament's purpose, and clear indication of the lack of political will on the part of the government. Canadians -- irrespective of religious or political stripe -- cannot let that stand.
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