Friday, December 08, 2006

SSM Vote Defeated

Well, it's widely-known that the recent (but strange!) vote by Canada's Parliament to decide whether to introduce a bill turning back the clock on Same-Sex "Marriage" (no, I won't stop using the quotes) was defeated, relatively decisively. Reading Andrew Coyne's blog, he comes to the conclusion that the issue was finally decided through the correct procedure and with the 'correct' outcome. According to him, 'the issue is settled'. I've tried leaving comments similar to the following on his blog, in particular, and since they're not getting through, I thought I'd drop them here, on my own blog (what a concept!).

Marriage is a privileged institution because it provides the best environment for the bearing and raising of children, which the State has a definite interest in promoting. Excluding those who cannot, by their choices, participate in the full meaning of an institution cannot be seen as discriminatory.

To get to the question of SSM being covered under the Charter, though - Coyne makes it sound like the Charter is a divine document. If divine, it could use some real input from the religious traditions that gave rise to it. If it's not, then there is no higher source of justice or 'rights' that we can appeal to than the changing relativistic views of our citizens. In either case, the rulings of our black-robed justices don't offer very compelling reasons to bow to their authority.

I find myself quite envious of the referenda our southern neighbours are undergoing for this particular issue.

In considering the politicization of this issue, why is it not seen as crassly political that so many of the Liberal Party voted (and spoke eloquently) a scant 7 years ago - only 5 years before the most recent SSM vote - to overwhelmingly (much moreso than the recent vote) assert that marriage is, and should always be considered to be, as between one man and one woman? The court decisions being handed down at the time were the reason the parliamentary vote was held - they shouldn't be held up as some kind of compelling reason to change their minds. The wording of the 1999 statement made it sound like Parliament would use the NWC if need be. I, for one, am still in shock that that absolutely clear mandate was so quickly changed, without any clear reason to do so. To those who say that the issue is now closed, why was it not considered closed in 1999, when Parliament voted, more strongly than this past week, to reaffirm traditional marriage, precisely in the face of court decisions hostile to its maintenance?

FWIW, I tend to agree with Bishop Henry. We should allow some kind of 'dependent relationship' status that dependent relationships can avail themselves of.


Blogger Saskboy said...

"Marriage is a privileged institution because it provides the best environment for the bearing and raising of children"

Does it? You can live common law with your spouse in Canada, and be effectively married with similar rights in regards to child rearing, can't you?

Saturday, December 16, 2006 8:47:00 p.m.  
Blogger Cyrano said...

The purpose of marriage is contained in the vows made between the spouses at the wedding. In the traditional form, it includes the promise of fidelity, 'til death do us part, as well as an openness to children (I'm Catholic, and the form my wife and I used included the latter promise, which unfortunately has fallen into general disuse). Although many people break these promises, it doesn't negate that the ideal marriage aspires to permanence. Common law is an unfortunate better-than-nothing arrangement whereby the State forces a couple into mutual legal obligations after a period of time, when they themselves haven't made the effort to legalize their relationship. The latter contains no explicit promise of anything beyond the 'now' of the relationship. I consider common law a form of 'relationship enabling' by the State vis a vis two people with no set idea of where their relationship is going. It discourages chosen commitment (and thus marriage) by giving a type of 'medium commitment'. Marriage as a permanent, trusting relationship is the environment that most benefits kids. I teach high school, and can often tell which kids don't come from stable homes - the difference is often evident in numerous ways.

Saturday, December 16, 2006 11:52:00 p.m.  
Blogger Saskboy said...

Do you find then that the majority of kids who have problems, come from common law marriage families, or do you also include kids with single parents?

Sunday, December 17, 2006 5:39:00 p.m.  
Blogger Cyrano said...

My in-class experience would be entirely anecdotal (and certainly I don't check on the home situation of all the kids). My general point is that there are relationships with lower commitment levels, and certainly marriage (as it's been traditionally understood) represents a full commitment while common law represents a (our?) society's efforts to 'force' some type of legal responsibility on couples not interested in pursuing it themselves.

I usually encounter a kid's home situation in the following situations: through my regular contact with parents in my classes (I've begun using e-mail to let parents know general course updates); at parent-teacher interviews; or when a significant issue arises that I, or another adult brings to my attention. In the few situations that come to mind, they all involve either single parents, or parents who've separated/divorced and then sought their own paths, often shuffling child(ren) between them.

In general, my opposition to SSM comes more as an extension of my opposition to common law relationships themselves. I think they've diluted the understanding people have of commitment, and also they've refocussed marriage from a family and child-focussed experience to a 'me and you' relationship. Society's interest in marriage has always been about the children. Things that stabilize this experience have good reason to be socially promoted, while those that re-invent the relationship in non-socially-beneficial ways have no place in social encouragements.

Sunday, December 17, 2006 6:14:00 p.m.  
Blogger Saskboy said...

But how many of those single parents are single as a result of divorce, instead of starting off commonlaw? If they started married, what difference does it make in the end if they end up separated or divorced? I'm not so sure that people are any less likely to separate if they are married to begin with.

Sunday, December 17, 2006 9:06:00 p.m.  
Blogger Cyrano said...

I'm not disagreeing that marriage is a mess (not that it's always been that way, although - nor is it universally true). I would argue that much of what has contributed to the mess that marriage in general has become are things like the changes to divorce law several decades ago that weakened society's efforts to keep marriages together (even when things are difficult and require more work). The changes to common law relationships occurred in tandem with the weakening of marriage. I see them as two sides of the same problem. A lot of the problems today are misunderstandings of what marriage should be. Unfortunately, it's not a mistake that people feel, themselves, in isolation - it's a problem that is more likely to perpetuate itself - especially when society is sending mixed messages about what marriage's ideal should be. Unfortunately, we're well on our way down a path where the self-fulfillment of two grown adults has supplanted the legitimate needs of their offspring. When we as society can't recognize how damaging this will be to the next generation (and then the next, even moreso), we set up our children to pay the price for our mistakes, instead of teaching them how to take responsibility and make things work, despite the difficulties.

I suspect that marriage, though weakened as it is, still gives some protection against separation. Because common law doesn't require the same level of commitment to begin with (how many people just 'happen' into it?), it seems very likely that there would be an even higher rate of separation - it just wouldn't be considered divorce when it fails. I'd be open to any data regarding this, if you have access to any.

Sunday, December 17, 2006 11:14:00 p.m.  
Blogger Saskboy said...

Like you I only have my personal experience. Coming from rural Canada, I saw rather few divorces, and those that happened and I knew about, tended to be only couples with adult offspring.

"like the changes to divorce law several decades ago that weakened society's efforts to keep marriages together (even when things are difficult and require more work)."

I'd say the law changes were good, because it allowed more women (and the few men) to escape abusive spouses without always losing their property of which they had as much of a right to own. I think the decline of marriage as you see it ideally is tied to more human rights being granted to women. Now that they can own property and in theory participate equally in western society, there's not as much need for them to be financially and legally subservient to a spouse.

"Unfortunately, we're well on our way down a path where the self-fulfillment of two grown adults has supplanted the legitimate needs of their offspring. When we as society can't recognize how damaging this will be to the next generation (and then the next, even moreso), we set up our children to pay the price for our mistakes, instead of teaching them how to take responsibility and make things work, despite the difficulties."

That is a problem, but I don't see how stopping homosexuals from marrying is going to do a darn thing to improve the situation? If we want to address the problem of children living directionless lives, put them back into the home instead of into daycares and schools for more hours of the day, and shift the workforce into spending more time in the home too. We're not in the middle of a war we need to win by ramping up production, why are we all working 8 hour days, which causes conflict when it comes to us raising children?

China's going to outpace our economic growth no matter how hard we work, so why are we running faster on the rat race, instead of shifting our priorities to something that actually matters more than money?

Monday, December 18, 2006 7:50:00 a.m.  
Blogger Cyrano said...

There have been several divorces (and some relationship difficulties in others) in our extended family. In each cases, the wife left the husband - so, from our anecdotal experience, your point about women feeling more free to leave the relationship is certainly true. However, I have trouble believing that spousal abuse was an issue in any of these cases. I think (without knowing all the details - I've never asked them) that each of them was influenced by the sexual revolution and carried that thinking into their dating and (eventually failing) marriages. I think the philosophy of the sexual revolution certainly blends better with the concept of easy divorce, or even with never formally marrying in the first place (common law).

I'd like to see SSM stopped because it prevents the slide downward from going further. It is essential to me that we rediscover that marriage is fundamentally about having and raising kids in the best possible environment. I suspect we will have to turn back the clock on how easy divorce has become to better achieve this (I think it would help if it was tougher to get married in the first place). As a Catholic, I think one thing my church could do would be to insist more strongly that people getting married in the church take their faith and its teachings seriously before they're allowed to marry. Unfortunately too many priests have been influenced by the thinking of the sexual revolution, and aren't willing to challenge young couples on things like living together before marriage. Although the marriage stats in general aren't great for society, for those who follow their faith (including teachings on sexual morality), there is a minute marriage failure rate (I believe less than 3%). So there are things that groups in society can be doing to promote successful marriages, if we only have the will to do so.

One last note - I'm taking this from Andrew Sullivan, I believe (a noted gay and Catholic blogger/not sure what else he does); he commented awhile back that if marriage today meant what it did in the past, monogamy and lifelong, then there would be zero interest in it in the gay community. That, I think, is one fundamental difference between hetero and homosexual relationships. In the hetero world, we at least aspire to this ideal - I'm not sure that the gay community does in the same way.

Monday, December 18, 2006 8:23:00 p.m.  
Blogger Saskboy said...

"if marriage today meant what it did in the past, monogamy and lifelong,... In the hetero world, we at least aspire to this ideal".

Is it better to aspire to what does not come to pass, or be realistic. Conservatives when it comes to the environment dare say we shouldn't dream about lofty goals like reducing pollution this decade, yet they expect people to stay married forever?

Marriage used to be about spousal ownership, you know. The modern "love" version most people recognize is a recent invention, it doesn't go back 2000 or even 1000 years. I had to correct even my Conservative MP on that fact when he was talking about Christian marriage going back to the time of Jesus.

Thursday, December 21, 2006 8:01:00 a.m.  
Blogger Cyrano said...

The fact is that not long ago, most (hetero) marriages lasted. It's debateable to what extent things like spousal abuse occurred in these situations. I expect it was more common that some couples found it difficult to get along, but would choose to do so, understanding this to be better for their children. This social obligation, to a large measure, is missing in many marriages today. That omission, coupled with a decreased sense of commitment (brought about directly by our easy divorce and common law marriages), contributes to fewer lasting marriages. Having said that, it's still generally understood that when (hetero) married couples are unfaithful, and/or divorce, that that is a failure of the relationship. In the gay world, it's not unusual to hook up with others, even under a strange understanding of 'faithfulness' (particularly gay males, as I understand it). That monogamy is characteristic of hetero committed relationships (and that this environment leads to the begetting and the best way of raising of children), fundamentally differentiates these from gay relationships.

I suspect you're painting an oversimplified picture of spousal ownership (and I'd be interested to read your source). In my marriage, I think it's safe to say that my wife and I both 'own' each other. The Christian understanding of things is that we belong to each other, even in the sense of our bodies ('no longer two, but now one flesh'). In the Catholic Church, the primacy of faithfulness and bearing children has always been present - you're right that the 'love' aspect is more focussed on now (unfortunately, to the exclusion of the other two aspects). One of the consequences is that when peoples' feelings change, they take that as a sign that they've fallen out of love, and often enough renege on their wedding promises.

Despite greater divorce rates today, most marriages do last 'til death do us part', so it's not at all unrealistic to imagine a society where marriages are generally successful. Again, looking at my own extended family, I can imagine the kind of thinking that lead to the divorces - at the same time, it's very evident to me what kinds of things lead to successful, lasting marriages. Some kind of preparation (perhaps through the churches) could perhaps help young couples better prepare themselves. Encouraging these couples to think of themselves only seems to me to be one of the direct results of SSM.

Thanks for the conversation. We're leaving for awhile, starting tomorrow - not sure if I'll be blogging during that time. Merry Christmas, if I don't talk to you in the interim.

Thursday, December 21, 2006 4:18:00 p.m.  
Blogger Cicero In Pants said...

My rude rant about gay marriage is here. With apologies.

If it makes you feel any better, I think the Carleton decision you write about is truly deplorable. I also think pro-lifers stand on much firmer ground than gay marriage opponents.

Thursday, January 25, 2007 1:35:00 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arguing like this is moot. Homosexuals need to understand that they can not breed nor should they be allowed to adopt. The complexities of the human mind does not make one immune from the consequences of nature. Accepting yourself as a homosexual also means accepting the fact you can not carry offspring. I have never encountered a "gay" or "straight" person, capable of matching with thier minds the natural nuturing process evolution has given us.
Stop arguing with Darwin. A species that can not breed will simply die out.

Friday, January 26, 2007 2:03:00 a.m.  

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