Polygamy ruling revisited: Judge takes swipe at ‘alarmist’ views of gay ‘marriage’ opponents
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, November 29, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – While true marriage advocates are celebrating a recent decision upholding Canada’s 121-year-old ban on polygamy, they are less thrilled by the fact that in his decision the judge in the case took a swipe at what he called the “alarmist view” that the legalization of homosexual ‘marriage’ would lead to the legitimization of polygamy.
True-marriage advocates have long maintained that Canada’s 2005 redefinition of marriage to include homosexual couples would pave the way for any kind of sexual union to be legally called marriage, including polygamy.
But Chief Justice Robert Bauman criticized this view for “miss[ing] the whole point.” “Committed same-sex relationships celebrate all of the values we seek to preserve and advance in monogamous marriage,” he said, adding that the “doctrinal underpinnings of monogamous same-sex marriage are indistinguishable from those of heterosexual marriage.”
But Dave Quist, Executive Director of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, told LifeSiteNews that he disagrees with the judge’s logic, saying that he is not “familiar with any social science research” that would back up the assertion that gay “marriage” and true marriage are essentially the same.
“To say that they are the same or to say that there are no difference between them is not looking at all the research,” he said, pointing out that procreation is a major difference that lies at the heart of the distinction between the two. “The best outcomes [for society, and for the children] are clearly from heterosexual monogamous relationships.”
Quist argued that the ‘slippery slope’ that led to the case challenging Canada’s laws against polygamy can be traced as far back to the country’s changing of the divorce laws in 1968, which “opened the door” for changing how people view marriage.
Since then, he said, divorce has increased, common law marriage has been accepted as the same as marriage under the law for taxation purposes, same-sex “marriage” has been legalized, and finally, Ontario courts have ruled that a child may have more than two legal parents.
But despite his disagreements with the judge, Quist called last Wednesday’s ruling “obviously positive,” adding that the judge “did say good things about marriage and the need to keep it monogamous.”
Justice Bauman had argued that there is “considerable evidence” that polygamy causes a “range of harms” to all those involved and that it harms society. According to Bauman the case is “essentially about harm,” since the individual’s rights do not trump the right of the state to criminalize a “harmful practice.”
Among the many harms cited by Bauman in his decision was that in polygamous relationships women face “higher rates of domestic violence and abuse, including sexual abuse,” and are more likely to die in childbirth and live shorter lives than their monogamous counterparts. Children in polygamous families also face higher infant mortality, and “suffer more emotional, behavioural and physical problems, as well as lower educational achievement than children in monogamous families.”
Evidence presented to the court also showed that polygamy creates a “sex ratio imbalance” where “young men are forced out of polygamous communities to sustain the ability of senior men to accumulate more wives.” Such young men, called the “lost boys,” were generally found to be poor, uneducated, and statistically predisposed to “violence and other anti-social behaviour.”
The judge said that the solution to these, and other harms, was for the law to “advance the institution of monogamous marriage” which it sees as a “fundamental value in Western society.”
Bauman argued that the rights to privacy and family life, to freedom of religion, and to enjoy one’s culture do not “limit the state’s ability to criminalize polygamy.” On the contrary, the state has “targeted polygamy because of the physical, psychological and social harms perceived to be associated with the practice.”
Quist pointed out, however, that the judge’s verdict is not necessarily the final decision.
Brian Samuels, an attorney representing Stop Polygamy in Canada, a group who participated in the BC proceedings as “interested persons,” told his clients in an open letter that it would be a “likely event” for the case to be appealed.
Samuels mentioned, however, that the “findings of fact” contained in the judge’s ruling would not be appealable. “These findings include substantial evidence of the harms caused by polygamy, as well as the finding that there was no religious motivation to the enactment of the criminal code provision that makes polygamy illegal.”
There are two possible ways to make an appeal, through the B.C. court of appeal or the Supreme Court of Canada. The time limit for appealing the judge’s ruling upholding the ban against polygamy is 30 days, or by December 23.