Bradley Miller

Same-sex ‘marriage’ ten years on: lessons from Canada

Bradley Miller
By Bradley Miller

November 14, 2012 (thePublicDiscourse) - Would recognizing same-sex relationships as marriages be much of a game-changer? What impact, if any, would it have on the public conception of marriage or the state of a nation’s marriage culture?

There has been no shortage of speculation on these questions. But the limited American experience with same-sex marriage to date gives us few concrete answers. So it makes sense to consider the Canadian experience since the first Canadian court established same-sex marriage a decade ago. There are, of course, important cultural and institutional differences between the US and Canada and, as is the case in any polity, much depends upon the actions of local political and cultural actors. That is to say, it is not necessarily safe to assume that Canadian experiences will be replicated here. But they should be considered; the Canadian experience is the best available evidence of the short-term impact of same-sex marriage in a democratic society very much like America.

Anyone interested in assessing the impact of same-sex marriage on public life should investigate the outcomes in three spheres: first, human rights (including impacts on freedom of speech, parental rights in public education, and the autonomy of religious institutions); second, further developments in what sorts of relationships political society will be willing to recognize as a marriage (e.g., polygamy); and third, the social practice of marriage.

The Impact on Human Rights

The formal effect of the judicial decisions (and subsequent legislation) establishing same-sex civil marriage in Canada was simply that persons of the same-sex could now have the government recognize their relationships as marriages. But the legal and cultural effect was much broader. What transpired was the adoption of a new orthodoxy: that same-sex relationships are, in every way, the equivalent of traditional marriage, and that same-sex marriage must therefore be treated identically to traditional marriage in law and public life.

A corollary is that anyone who rejects the new orthodoxy must be acting on the basis of bigotry and animus toward gays and lesbians. Any statement of disagreement with same-sex civil marriage is thus considered a straightforward manifestation of hatred toward a minority sexual group. Any reasoned explanation (for example, those that were offered in legal arguments that same-sex marriage is incompatible with a conception of marriage that responds to the needs of the children of the marriage for stability, fidelity, and permanence—what is sometimes called the conjugal conception of marriage), is dismissed right away as mere pretext.

When one understands opposition to same-sex marriage as a manifestation of sheer bigotry and hatred, it becomes very hard to tolerate continued dissent. Thus it was in Canada that the terms of participation in public life changed very quickly. Civil marriage commissioners were the first to feel the hard edge of the new orthodoxy; several provinces refused to allow commissioners a right of conscience to refuse to preside over same-sex weddings, and demanded their resignations. At the same time, religious organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus, were fined for refusing to rent their facilities for post-wedding celebrations.

The Right to Freedom of Expression

The new orthodoxy’s impact has not been limited to the relatively small number of persons at risk of being coerced into supporting or celebrating a same-sex marriage. The change has widely affected persons—including clergy—who wish to make public arguments about human sexuality.

Much speech that was permitted before same-sex marriage now carries risks. Many of those who have persisted in voicing their dissent have been subjected to investigations by human rights commissions and (in some cases) proceedings before human rights tribunals. Those who are poor, poorly educated, and without institutional affiliation have been particularly easy targets—anti-discrimination laws are not always applied evenly.  Some have been ordered to pay fines, make apologies, and undertake never to speak publicly on such matters again. Targets have included individuals writing letters to the editors of local newspapers, and ministers of small congregations of Christians. A Catholic bishop faced two complaints—both eventually withdrawn—prompted by comments he made in a pastoral letter about marriage.

Reviewing courts have begun to rein in the commissions and tribunals (particularly since some ill-advised proceedings against Mark Steyn and Maclean’s magazine in 2009), and restore a more capacious view of freedom of speech. And in response to the public outcry following the Steyn/Maclean’s affair, the Parliament of Canada recently revoked the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s statutory jurisdiction to pursue “hate speech.”

But the financial cost of fighting the human rights machine remains enormous—Maclean’s spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, none of which is recoverable from the commissions, tribunals, or complainants. And these cases can take up to a decade to resolve. An ordinary person with few resources who has drawn the attention of a human rights commission has no hope of appealing to the courts for relief; such a person can only accept the admonition of the commission, pay a (comparatively) small fine, and then observe the directive to remain forever silent. As long as these tools remain at the disposal of the commissions—for whom the new orthodoxy gives no theoretical basis to tolerate dissent—to engage in public discussion about same-sex marriage is to court ruin.

Similar pressure can be—and is—brought to bear on dissenters by professional governing bodies (such as bar associations, teachers’ colleges, and the like) that have statutory power to discipline members for conduct unbecoming of the profession. Expressions of disagreement with the reasonableness of institutionalizing same-sex marriage are understood by these bodies to be acts of illegal discrimination, which are matters for professional censure.

Teachers are particularly at risk for disciplinary action, for even if they only make public statements criticizing same-sex marriage outside the classroom, they are still deemed to create a hostile environment for gay and lesbian students. Other workplaces and voluntary associations have adopted similar policies as a result of their having internalized this new orthodoxy that disagreement with same-sex marriage is illegal discrimination that must not be tolerated.

Parental Rights in Public Education

Institutionalizing same-sex marriage has subtly but pervasively changed parental rights in public education. The debate over how to cast same-sex marriage in the classroom is much like the debate over the place of sex education in schools, and of governmental pretensions to exercise primary authority over children. But sex education has always been a discrete matter, in the sense that by its nature it cannot permeate the entirety of the curriculum. Same-sex marriage is on a different footing.

Since one of the tenets of the new orthodoxy is that same-sex relationships deserve the same respect that we give marriage, its proponents have been remarkably successful in demanding that same-sex marriage be depicted positively in the classroom. Curriculum reforms in jurisdictions such as British Columbia now prevent parents from exercising their long-held veto power over contentious educational practices.

The new curricula are permeated by positive references to same-sex marriage, not just in one discipline but in all. Faced with this strategy of diffusion, the only parental defense is to remove one’s children from the public school system entirely. Courts have been unsympathetic to parental objections: if parents are clinging to outdated bigotries, then children must bear the burden of “cognitive dissonance”—they must absorb conflicting things from home and school while school tries to win out.

The reforms, of course, were not sold to the public as a matter of enforcing the new orthodoxy. Instead, the stated rationale was to prevent bullying; that is, to promote the acceptance of gay and lesbian youth and the children of same-sex households.

It is a laudable goal to encourage acceptance of persons. But whatever can be said for the objective, the means chosen to achieve it is a gross violation of the family. It is nothing less than the deliberate indoctrination of children (over the objections of their parents) into a conception of marriage that is fundamentally hostile to what the parents understand to be in their children’s best interests. It frustrates the ability of parents to lead their children to an understanding of marriage that will be conducive to their flourishing as adults. At a very early age, it teaches children that the underlying rationale of marriage is nothing other than the satisfaction of changeable adult desires for companionship.

Religious Institutions’ Right to Autonomy

At first glance, clergy and houses of worship appeared largely immune from coercion to condone or perform same-sex marriages. Indeed, this was the grand bargain of the same-sex marriage legislation—clergy would retain the right not to perform marriages that would violate their religious beliefs. Houses of worship could not be conscripted against the wishes of religious bodies.

It should have been clear from the outset just how narrow this protection is. It only prevents clergy from being coerced into performing marriage ceremonies. It does not, as we have seen, shield sermons or pastoral letters from the scrutiny of human rights commissions. It leaves congregations vulnerable to legal challenges if they refuse to rent their auxiliary facilities to same-sex couples for their ceremony receptions, or to any other organization that will use the facility to promote a view of sexuality wholly at odds with their own.

Neither does it prevent provincial and municipal governments from withholding benefits to religious congregations because of their marriage doctrine. For example, Bill 13, the same Ontario statute that compels Catholic schools to host “Gay-Straight Alliance” clubs (and to use that particular name), also prohibits public schools from renting their facilities to organizations that will not agree to a code of conduct premised on the new orthodoxy. Given that many small Christian congregations rent school auditoriums to conduct their worship services, it is easy to appreciate their vulnerability.

Changes to the Public Conception of Marriage

It has been argued that if same-sex marriage is institutionalized, new marital categories may be accepted, like polygamy. Once one abandons a conjugal conception of marriage, and replaces it with a conception of marriage that has adult companionship as its focus, there is no principled basis for resisting the extension of marriage licenses to polygamist and polyamorist unions.

In other words, if marriage is about satisfying adult desires for companionship, and if the desires of some adults extend to more novel arrangements, how can we deny them? I will not here evaluate this claim, but simply report how this scenario has played out in Canada.

One prominent polygamist community in British Columbia was greatly emboldened by the creation of same-sex marriage, and publicly proclaimed that there was now no principled basis for the state’s continued criminalization of polygamy. Of all the Canadian courts, only a trial court in British Columbia has addressed whether prohibiting polygamy is constitutional, and provided an advisory opinion to the province’s government. The criminal prohibition of polygamy was upheld, but on a narrow basis that defined polygamy as multiple, concurrent civil marriages. The court did not address the phenomenon of multiple common-law marriages. So, thus far, the dominant forms of polygamy and polyamory practiced in Canada have not gained legal status, but neither have they faced practical impediments.

The lesson is this: a society that institutionalizes same-sex marriage needn’t necessarily institutionalize polygamy. But the example from British Columbia suggests that the only way to do so is to ignore principle. The polygamy case’s reasoning gave no convincing explanation why it would be discriminatory not to extend the marriage franchise to gays and lesbians, but not discriminatory to draw the line at polygamists and polyamorists. In fact, the judgment looks like it rests on animus toward polygamists and polyamorists, which is not a stable juridical foundation.

The Impact on the Practice of Marriage

As for the practice of marriage, it is too soon to say much. The 2011 census data establish that, first, marriage is in decline in Canada, as it is in much of the West; second, same-sex marriage is a statistically minor phenomenon; and third, there are very few same-sex couples (married or not) with children in the home.

There are approximately 21,000 married same-sex couples in Canada, out of 6.29 million married couples. Same-sex couples (married and unmarried) constitute 0.8% of all couples in Canada; 9.4% of the 64,575 same-sex couples (including common-law and married) have children in the home, and 80% of these are lesbian couples. By contrast, 47.2% of heterosexual couples have children in the home. Canada stopped tracking divorce after 2008, and has never provided data on same-sex divorce.

What we can gather from these data is that same-sex marriage has not, contrary to arguments that it would, powered a resurgent marriage culture in Canada. Nor are there any census data (one way or the other) for empirical arguments tying the institutionalization of same-sex marriage to marriage stability.

Without empirical data on divorce rates (which are not forthcoming in Canada), we are left with conceptual arguments that must be evaluated on their merits. Here, the Canadian experience cannot provide much information. We are left with the question, does the institutionalization of same-sex marriage rest on a conception of marriage that places a premium on stability, as does the conjugal conception? If it does not, then we can reasonably believe same-sex marriage will speed up cultural acceptance of a conception of marriage—the adult companionate model—that has done much social damage over the past fifty years.

Bradley W. Miller is an associate professor of law at the University of Western Ontario and a Visiting Fellow in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. This article reprinted with permission from thePublicDiscourse.com.


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A Nazi extermination camp. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews
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Imagine the outrage if anti-Semites were crowdsourcing for gas chambers

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By Pete Baklinski
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A Nazi oven where the gassed victims were destroyed by fire. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews
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Empty canisters of the poison used by Nazis to exterminate the prisoners. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews
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Imagine the outrage if the Nazis had used online crowdsourcing to pay for the instruments and equipment used to eradicate Jews, gypsies, the handicapped, and other population groups — labeled “undesirable” — in their large industrialized World War II extermination facilities. 

Imagine if they posted a plea online stating: “We need to raise $85,000 to buy Zyklon B gas, to maintain the gas chambers, and to provide a full range of services to complete the ‘final solution.’”

People would be more than outraged. They would be sickened, disgusted, horrified. Humanitarian organizations would fly into high gear to do everything in their power to stop what everyone would agree was madness. Governments would issue the strongest condemnations.

Civilized persons would agree: No class of persons should ever be targeted for extermination, no matter what the reason. Everyone would tear the euphemistic language of “final solution” to shreds, knowing that it really means the hideous crime of annihilating a class of people through clinical, efficient, and state-approved methods of destruction. 

But crowdsourcing to pay for the instruments and equipment to exterminate human beings is exactly what one group in New Brunswick is doing.

Reproductive Justice NB has just finished raising more than $100,000 to lease the Morgentaler abortion facility in Fredericton, NB, which is about to close over finances. They’re now asking the public for “support and enthusiasm” to move forward with what they call “phase 2” of their goal.

“For a further $85,000 we can potentially buy all the equipment currently located at the clinic; equipment that is required to provide a full range of reproductive health services,” the group states on its Facebook page.

But what are the instruments and equipment used in a surgical abortion to destroy the pre-born child? It depends how old the child is. 

A Manual Vacuum Aspiration abortion uses a syringe-like instrument that creates suction to break apart and suck the baby up. It’s used to abort a child from 6 weeks to 12 weeks of age. Abortionist Martin Haskell has said the baby’s heart is often still beating as it’s sucked down the tube into the collection jar.

For older babies up to 16 weeks there is the Dilation and Curettage (D&C) abortion method. A Uterine Currette has one sharp side for cutting the pre-born child into pieces. The other side is used to scrape the uterus to remove the placenta. The baby’s remains are often removed by a vacuum.

For babies past 16 weeks there is the Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) abortion method, which uses forceps to crush, grasp, and pull the baby’s body apart before extraction. If the baby’s head is too large, it must be crushed before it can be removed.

For babies past 20 weeks, there is the Dilation and Extraction (D&X) abortion method. Guided by ultrasound, the abortionist uses forceps to partially deliver the baby until his or her head becomes visible. With the head often too big to pass through the cervix, the abortionist punctures the skull, sucks out the brains to collapse the skull, and delivers the dead baby.

Other equipment employed to kill the pre-born would include chemicals such as Methotrexate, Misoprostol, and saline injections. Standard office equipment would include such items as a gynecologist chair, oxygen equipment, and a heart monitor.

“It’s a bargain we don’t want to miss but we need your help,” writes the abortion group.

People should be absolutely outraged that a group is raising funds to purchase the instruments of death used to destroy a class of people called the pre-born. Citizens and human rights activists should be demanding the organizers be brought to justice. Politicians should be issuing condemnations with the most hard-hitting language.

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Everyone should be tearing to shreds the euphemistic language of “reproductive health services,” knowing that it in part stands for the hideous crime of annihilating a class of people through clinical, efficient, and state-approved methods of destruction that include dismemberment, decapitation, and disembowelment.

There’s a saying about people not being able to perceive the error of their day. This was generally true of many in Hitler’s Germany who uncritically subscribed to his eugenics-driven ideology in which certain people were viewed as sub-human. And it’s generally true of many in Canada today who uncritically subscribe to the ideology of ‘choice’ in which the pre-born are viewed as sub-human.

It’s time for all of us to wake-up and see the youngest members of the human family are being brutally exterminated by abortion. They need our help. We must stand up for them and end this injustice.

Let us arise!


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Paul Wilson

The antidote to coercive population control

Paul Wilson
By Paul Wilson

The primary tenet of population control is simple: using contraception and abortifacients, families can “control” when their reproductive systems work and when they don’t – hence the endless cries that women “should have control over their own bodies” in the name of reproductive health.

However, in much of the world, the glittering rhetoric of fertility control gives way to the reality of control of the poorest citizens by their governments or large corporations. Governments and foreign aid organizations routinely foist contraception on women in developing countries. In many cases, any pretense of consent is steamrolled – men and women are forcibly sterilized by governments seeking to thin their citizens’ numbers.  (And this “helping women achieve their ‘ideal family size’” only goes one way – there is no government support for families that actually want more children.)

In countries where medical conditions are subpar and standards of care and oversight are low, the contraceptive chemicals population control proponents push have a plethora of nasty side effects – including permanent sterilization. So much for control over fertility; more accurately, the goal appears to be the elimination of fertility altogether.

There is a method for regulating fertility that doesn’t involve chemicals, cannot be co-opted or manipulated, and requires the mutual consent of the partners in order to work effectively. This method is Natural Family Planning (NFP).

Natural Family Planning is a method in which a woman tracks her natural indicators (such as her period, her temperature, cervical mucus, etc.) to identify when she is fertile. Having identified fertile days, couples can then choose whether or not to have sex during those days--abstaining if they wish to postpone pregnancy, or engaging in sex if pregnancy is desired.

Of course, the population control crowd, fixated on forcing the West’s vision of limitless bacchanalia through protective rubber and magical chemicals upon the rest of the world, loathes NFP. They deliberately confuse NFP with the older “rhythm method,” and cite statistics from the media’s favorite “research institute” (the Guttmacher Institute, named for a former director of Planned Parenthood) claiming that NFP has a 25% failure rate with “typical use.” Even the World Health Organization, in their several hundred page publication, “Family Planning: A Global Handbook for Providers,” admits that the basal body temperature method (a natural method) has a less than 1% failure rate—a success rate much higher than male condoms, female condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps or spermicides.

Ironically, the methods which they ignore – natural methods – grant true control over one’s fertility – helping couples both to avoid pregnancy or (horror of horrors!) to have children, with no government intervention required and no choices infringed upon.

The legitimacy of natural methods blows the cover on population controllers’ pretext to help women. Instead, it reveals their push for contraceptives and sterilizations for what they are—an attempt to control the fertility of others. 

Reprinted with permission from the Population Research Institute.


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Rebecca Oas, Ph.D.

New development goals shut out abortion rights

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By Rebecca Oas Ph.D.

Co-authored by Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

A two week marathon negotiation over the world’s development priorities through 2030 ended at U.N. headquarters on Saturday with abortion rights shut out once again.

When the co-chairs’ gavel finally fell Saturday afternoon to signal the adoption of a new set of development goals, delegates broke out in applause. The applause was more a sigh of relief that a final round of negotiations lasting twenty-eight hours had come to its end than a sign of approval for the new goals.

Last-minute changes and blanket assurances ushered the way for the chairman to present his version of the document delivered with an implicit “take it or leave it.”

Aside from familiar divisions between poor and wealthy countries, the proposed development agenda that delegates have mulled over for nearly two years remains unwieldy and unmarketable, with 17 goals and 169 targets on everything from ending poverty and hunger, to universal health coverage, economic development, and climate change.

Once again hotly contested social issues were responsible for keeping delegates up all night. The outcome was a compromise.

Abortion advocates were perhaps the most frustrated. They engaged in a multi-year lobbying campaign for new terminology to advance abortion rights, with little to show for their efforts. The new term “sexual and reproductive health and rights,” which has been associated with abortion on demand, as well as special new rights for individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual (LGBT), did not get traction, even with 58 countries expressing support.

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Despite this notable omission, countries with laws protecting unborn children were disappointed at the continued use of the term “reproductive rights,” which is not in the Rio+20 agreement from 2012 that called for the new goals. The term is seen as inappropriate in an agenda about outcomes and results rather than normative changes on sensitive subjects.

Even so, “reproductive rights” is tempered by a reference to the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, which recognizes that abortion is a matter to be dealt with in national legislation. It generally casts abortion in a bad light and does not recognize it as a right. The new terminology that failed was an attempt to leave the 1994 agreement behind in order to reframe abortion as a human rights issue.

Sexual and reproductive health was one of a handful of subjects that held up agreement in the final hours of negotiations. The failure to get the new terminology in the goals prompted the United States and European countries to insist on having a second target about sexual and reproductive health. They also failed to include “comprehensive sexuality education” in the goals because of concerns over sex education programs that emphasize risk reduction rather than risk avoidance.

The same countries failed to delete the only reference to “the family” in the whole document. Unable to insert any direct reference to LGBT rights at the United Nations, they are concentrating their efforts on diluting or eliminating the longstanding U.N. definition of the family. They argue “the family” is a “monolithic” term that excludes other households. Delegates from Mexico, Colombia and Peru, supporters of LGBT rights, asked that the only reference to the family be “suppressed.”

The proposed goals are not the final word on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They will be submitted to the General Assembly, whose task is to elaborate a post-2015 development agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals next year.

Reprinted with permission from C-FAM.org.


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