"Bad bees. Get away from my sugar. Ow. OW. Oh, they're defending themselves somehow."
-- Homer Simpson

Divergent journeys, but we will meet again in Hell

Since Bill C-38 was passed last year, anti-gay marriage groups have continued to lobby for its repeal, despite that fact that the bill merely confirms the interpretation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms made by the Superior Courts of eight provinces, in order to provide uniform application of the law across the country.

With the Conservatives in power and planning to honour their promise to hold a vote on revisiting the same-sex marriage debate, a coalition of 43 religious leaders has issued a Declaration on Marriage, calling for the restoration of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. I’ll ignore for the time being that three of the signatories represent religions that currently allow for polygamy.

According to the declaration, “changing the definition of marriage involves a repudiation of millennia of history and experience.” Is it really a repudiation? I believe we’re actually learning from millenia of history and experience, and are now choosing to end millenia of discrimination and persecution.

The declaration also places a great deal of emphasis on the impact of Bill C-38 on the children (a certain Simpsons character springs to mind). Apparently, the primary purpose of marriage is to procreate, in which case there should be special protections for marriage in our laws. I guess married couples who don’t have children shouldn’t be allowed the right of marriage, nor should we tolerate single people who choose to raise a child on their own.

The conclusion of the declaration brings home the real point of this argument: somehow, these religious leaders believe that if same-sex couples are allowed to marry, their respective belief systems are somehow challenged. According to them, “the freedom of conscience of marriage officials and service providers is already being violated”, although no evidence of this controversial (and, to my knowledge, false) statement is provided. Apparently, religious freedom trumps individual freedom (even when the individuals are holding a pair).

Sigh…can’t we all just get along? :-)

5 Responses to “Divergent journeys, but we will meet again in Hell”

  1. Wish I could find the name of the ethicist who wrote in the Ottawa Citizen (and Macleans too, I think) about this issue from the children’s perspective. She argued that there was now evidence that children conceived using donated sperm felt lost not knowing thier biological dad, and as a result she really believed that a child had a right to know both their biological parents. Since in a same-sex marriage only one parent could be a biological parent, same-sex marriage violated the rights of the child.

    The argument drove me nuts. If that’s true, then so does every adoption. So does every single parent family. Where do you draw the line? Are we going to force hetero couples who don’t get along to stick together for the sake of their children? I know people who were relieved when their parents’ divorce was final because that meant that the fighting finally stopped; which is the bigger crime? Do we force young girls who aren’t ready for motherhood to keep their child, despite the fact that a loving financially stable couple (or even self-sufficient singleton) would love to raise the kid? I haven’t heard anyone suggest this lately. Clearly there is a homophobic bias that permiates all this.

    Besides, when you account for the fact that in 1 out of 10 cases, it turns out that the Daddy is actually not who people think the Daddy is! It may be a child’s right to know it’s biological parents, but for all practical purposes heterosexuals have been violating this right for a very long time. Funny how no one is targetting them.

  2. Kaveman, I totally agree. Most of the arguments are ridiculous.

    Homewrecker, the ethicist is Margaret Somerville:


    I actually was thinking of the exact same article. But I think her article was targetting not gay marriage in particular, but anyone using new reproductive technologies, period. (It’s just that the gay marriage parts get all the press). All of this IS going to have an impact on children. I know people who never knew one of their parents (single-parent family) and it is a HUGE issue in their life. As it is for people who are adoped, test tube babies etc. It’s not necessarily that their situation is BAD, it’s just there. I absolutely think that being raised in a loving, supportive same-sex (adoptive, etc) household is far better than being raised in an abusive disfuntional hetero/traditionally married one, and that same sex marriage should be preserved. But, there are going to be issues, just as there are in any family, with advantages and disadvantages. I think we need to be aware of the issues, and plan for them. It shouldn’t stop us from evolving as a society, but maybe to do it in a thoughtful and aware way. I’m sure there are ways to deal with these issues, but we have to at least admit the issues are there.

  3. I recently spoke with the head of a major national “traditional marriage” think tank–albeit on other subjects, and this got me thinking. (And he was a really nice guy, not the evil traditionalist bible preacher stereotype at all.)

    I suspect that there is research that supports all of the claims that the children of same-sex couples have a harder time of life. (Yeah, I know: there’s some research to support everything!) My interest isn’t so much in what existing research tells us about how things have been, as it is around how these situations could be changed. My hypothesis is that with greater societal acceptance of homosexual people, research could start to show that the problems start to diminish. One aspect might be around how much of the problems that children of same-sex couples face result from societal intolerance of the differences that result from their different upbringing, rather than that result from the upbringing itself?

    That is, what I would like to believe that the problems associated with same sex relationships or marriages aren’t inherent to those relationships, but result from years of intolerance and prosecution, which could be reversed (over time!) through deliberate choices to accord equal rights to all people.

    p.s. (advocating devilishly) Can anyone come up with a type of person or behaviour that they’re intolerant about, but which they can imagine might become tolerated/sanctioned (very much to your dismay) by your children/grandchildren? (Smokers? Drug dealers? Terrorists? Corporatists? War mongers? Civil servants? Quebec nationalists? Rapists? People who forget to turn off their cell phones in the movie theatre?)

  4. p.s. I have a lot of respect for Margaret Sommerville as an ethicist, even if I disagree with some of her conclusions, and even some of her theoretical approaches. (I have her “The Ethical Canary” if anyone wants to borrow it. Its a few years old now, and I don’t think it touches on gay marriage directly, but does include a chapter on issues around new reproductive technologies and parenting approaches.)

    I also heard a good line on Quirks and Quarks last Saturday. It was in a piece on Francis Crick (of Watson and Crick fame; the co-discoverer, of the structure of DNA). In later life he tried his hand in a variety of things–some successful, some less so–including ethics, and he was later quoted as recognizing that Ethics of this sort isn’t something that you should dabble in (as he had done), that you have to be prepared to go deep into it before you should make pronouncements, on the public stage at least.

    My sense is that Margaret Sommerville goes to those depths, and does so well, but I don’t imagine for an instant that she actually has any monopoly on the truth, merely more time spent looking at different angles than most of us have put in.

  5. BirdLady, Bogman, I agree with you both.

    BirdLady, thanks for finding the Sommerville piece. Sommerville does say that this is her position on Same sex marriage, though. Although I recognise that she is very well recognised in her field, and that this field does not westle with straightforward questions, I now remember what my major beef was with her argument. She writes: “Marriage is a compound right: the right to marry and to found a family.” I disagree, I don’t see how right to found a family is in any way contingent upon being married. “Giving same-sex couples the right to found a family unlinks parenthood from biology.” Parenthood is already unlinked from biology in many socially accepted ways – adoption and step-parents/children. This supposed radical change from “natual parent” to “legal parent” just doesn’t seem that radical to me – in fact, I wonder where Sommerville has been living all this time if she thinks that this is a huge deal. People have been coming up with creative families for at least thirty years now; divorces and remarriages, open adoptions, sperm donations from a friend instead of an anonymous donor. It seems that she has not paid attention to what is actually going on in the world, it’s a viewpoint that strikes me as archaic.

    Sommerville also writes: “‘Donor-conceived adults’ describe powerful feelings of loss of identity through not knowing one or both biological parents and their wider biological families, and describe themselves as “genetic orphans.” They believe society was complicit in a serious wrong done to them in the way they were conceived and ask, ‘How could anyone think they had the right to do this to me?’” Well, the obvious answer to that one is “would you rather never have been born?”… But some adopted kids feel the same way. And you know what? Some don’t. My Dad’s adoption is probably something I dwell on more than he does (largely because my brother has a physical resemblance to a whole host of Mum’s realtives, while I, who only looks like Dad, occasionally wonder what it would be like to meet his biological relatives on the streeet one day). It’s not that big a deal for me, though, and it doesn’t bother dear old Dad one bit. He doesn’t care who his biological parents are, and has never cared to seek them out. I presume it is because he has always known that he was adopted. There was no big surprise at the age of 14, he just always knew. What Sommerville does not address is whether or not the way a family chooses to deal with these issues has any bearing on how much “loss” the child may or may not feel, while I suspect it is key. And I agree with Bogman, I think society’s opinion has a huge influence there too.

    Anyway… to answer your question, Bogman, the thing that I could never tolerate in my children or grandchildren would be a return to racism and intolerance, and a casual attitude toward rape & violence.

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