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This blog normally deals solely with American politics, but occasionally international issues arise that are so important they must be addressed here. This coming week, the Canadian government will table legislation to legalize same-sex marriage thorughout the country. Initially thought to be certain to pass, the Conservative party (our Republicans) have joined forces with others (incuding American religious leaders) to oppose it. While the government believes the legislation will pass, the opposition is not going down without a fight. This diary is cross posted on my blog and blogscanada. This diary deals largely with Canadian politics, so some of the terms might be a little foreign, but the ideas are the same.

Parliament returns from their winter vacation this week and the first item on the agenda will be Same Sex Marriage. Initially thought to be a slam dunk, the legislation has become a hot button issue in recent weeks as a coalition of right wing elements have risen to fight for `traditional' marriage. Led by Stephen Harper, these groups argue that legalizing gay marriage would destroy the moral fabric of society, opening the door to higher divorce rates, pornography and even polygamy. The simple fact is that they are ignoring the underlying issues at the heart of the debate and employ a series of arguments with dangerous implications for the future of our nation.

A recent article in the journal Human Genetics identifies three chromosomes which appear to control sexuality in men. Additionally, zoologists have long been aware of homosexual animals. There are even a pair of gay penguins at New York's Central Park Zoo which have been `mates' for more than six years. Opponents of same sex marriage have long argued that homosexuality was a lifestyle you `chose', something which increasingly appears to be untrue. If homosexuality is in fact a genetic mutation, and all indications are that it is, then persecuting gays not only opens a dangerous door for the future, but harkens back to a dark period in the history of humanity. Only in the last century did we truly make progress in ending racism and already conservatives have found a new genetic difference upon which to base their persecution.

The conservative mantra also ignores the most important document in Canada. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms could not be more clear on this issue. Section fifteen clearly states: "Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination". Courts across the country have, in recent years, affirmed that section fifteen guarantees homosexuals are constitutionally guaranteed the right to wed.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper has argued that the notwithstanding clause of the Charter should be used to avoid granting equal rights to homosexuals. Harper has claimed that he is the only `tolerant' Canadian politician on the issue of gay rights. He insists Prime Minister Martin and others are ignoring the beliefs of the public, putting the minority before the majority. Harper sites an internal Conservative poll which shows Canadians are against gay marriage - unfortunately, this poll goes against almost every independent poll ever taken on the issue. This past December, an Environics Research Group poll found that 54% of Canadians were in favour of passing same-sex legislation. What exactly was the methodology of his `internal poll'?

Harper and other right wing leaders have long suggested that the introduction of legalized gay marriage will lead to the destruction of `traditional' families. They insist that changing the definition of marriage will open the door to legalizing all sorts of `immoral' behaviours, polygamy in particular. What the right fails to acknowledge is the fundamental difference between polygamy and gay marriage. One is about granting equal rights to all citizens, the other suggests creating new rights for all. The two are polar opposites, yet the right claims the two are closely linked. Their only reason for doing so is to cloud the fact that their ideology is based on prejudice, discrimination and homophobia.

Conservatives' arguments against gay marriage are based almost entirely on morality. Such individuals are generally very religious, and often site their religious texts as the source of their moral outrage. This raises a simple question: are we a nation based on democracy, reason, law and order or are we a nation of fundamentalist zealots? Canada is supposed to have separation of church and state. In fact, our political leaders frequently speak out against fundamentalist nations, citing their intolerance and abuse of human rights. Do these same rules not apply to us? Is the foundation of our country the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or is it the bible?

The debate on gay marriage is far from over. The Knights of Columbus are in the process of sending out tens thousands of letters, American religious leaders are getting involved, and Stephen Harper is preparing for a valiant last stand in Commons. In these days to come, the opinion of the masses will be of growing import. It is vital for people to remember that the issue here is not what we believe in, but what is legal and what is right for the future. Do we want to have a society based on religion, intolerance and persecution of those who are different, or is our goal an inclusive society based on equality?

A century ago, similar arguments were used to justify slavery, segregation and preventing women from voting. Today, we look back at the last supporters of slavery and male dominance with disdain while Abraham Lincoln, Nelly McClung, and Martin Luther King Jr. have become heroes. The battle for the future of our country begins tomorrow. Let's make our children proud.

Originally posted to Gracchi on Sun Jan 30, 2005 at 03:40 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well Done n/t (none)
  •  Explanation of Canadian Politics (4.00)
    The Conservative Party is essentially Republicans North. Their leader is Stephen Harper and they are the leader of the opposition.

    The Liberals are in power (and have been for ages). Paul Martin is the Prime Minister.

    The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is like the Bill of Rights, except that it contains something called the notwithstanding clause. Unique in the world, it essentially allows the government to ignore the Charter if they feel like it. They must acknowledge that such a law is in violation of the Charter and it must be renewed every five years.

    •  More Explanation (none)

      I've done some reading on Canadian politics, and there's something else interesting to note. For a long time in Canada, there's been a movement that says that the country should allow the United States to control its politics and policies, or even become a territory or state of the USA. During the early part of the century, this movement used the Liberal party, but since (at the very least) Mulrooney (the Canadian contemporary to Reagan), they've been using the Conservatives and Reform parties. Thus Harper will do anything to avoid even irritating the White House.

      Also, it's worth noting that while the Charter may be unique, the behavior it defines isn't. The US government (all branches) regularly ignores the Constitution. The PATRIOT act and Sonny Bono Mickey Mouse Protection Act are the most blatant examples, but there have been others.

      Its like the media listened to Weird Al's "Dare to be Stupid" and said "Yes! This is how the world should be!"

      by RHunter on Sun Jan 30, 2005 at 04:03:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good Work (none)
    From another Canadian, I'm glad to see this getting addressed here. It really is bothersome how involved in this the American right is getting. American liberals need to be aware of what is going on as well.
  •  Will American fundies (none)
    really help to persuade Canadians against equal marriage? I would hope most Canadians would be offended by the pressure. You can see the kind of atmosphere caused by Harper's fascist hate. I don't know if that is a right-wing part of Canada or not.

    This is a great diary but I wish you'd touched a bit more on Harper's Karl Rove impersonation. He is running ads in ethnic Liberal communities asking them to oppose equal marriage and oppose the Liberals. Even some members of his party are upset by his ugly ad campaign.

    I read somewhere that they may not even vote on the legislation for months. Is that true?

  •  i'm not really sure why it's important (none)
    to anyone really. marriage, that is. i am a heterosexual in a 20 yr marriage, couple of kids. how my life would be denigrated if it was a civil union instead of a marriage - i know not.
    it is amazing to me that that "little piece of paper" means so very much to my gay brothers & sisters. even more astounding that it somehow threatens the social dinosaurs amongst us. can't we just deal out the civil liberties to the entire citizenry regardless of race, religion or sexual identity? why do we persist in making the "institution of marriage" such a wedge?

    i'm an agnostic, i'd be an atheist if it weren't for mozart

    by rasbobbo on Sun Jan 30, 2005 at 03:53:23 PM PST

    •  It's simple. (none)
      It's two things.

      1.  The concrete legal rights which come with marriage are very significant.

      2.  The principle that says that everyone should be treated equally.

      Civil marriage is a civil union.  So you're question has already been answered.  The only reason that governments have introduced "civil unions" for same-sex couples is that they don't have any respect for treating people equally.  
  •  Might as well ask why segregation upset blacks (none)
    If they want to be married let them. It's an indication that they are 'lesser' if we disallow them to.

    I've been looking into the situation in Canada for a few days now. Hopefully this will pass because there is no residency requirement for marriage there.

  •  Gay marriage... (none)
    I am a bisexual male...

    I know discrimination in many forms, I'm discriminated agaisnt by straight homophobes, and have been called 'faggot' a couple times because I'm not afraid to express affection in public.

    Conversely, I'm discriminated against by some gay people because apparrently I'm just 'denying' my homesexuality to myself and that I'm just afraid to 'be myself'.  

    I hope that Canada is a beacon to the United States when it comes to social issues and that the direction we take towards them will be towards a freer society.

    And now to my rant.

    I'm quite assurably angry at the republicans for being bold-face liars, and its time to call them on their bluff.  The president has said he supports civil unions, many republicans use the I don't support gay marriage but support civil unions.  Many 'moderates' try to get away with this.   So let's call them on their bluff, let's push an amendment that allows gays to have civil unions and equal benefits.  I'm sick of the let's not debate the issue, because it might upset people bullcrap that some people on the right and more surprisingly the left want to push, because they are afraid we might rock the vote.  Look...democrat's supported women's rights.  If you remember President Wilson a democrat pushed Woman's suffrage.  If you look a little further down the road, FDR added unions, the poor, and those on social security to our side.  After him Kennedy and Johnson added minorities and the young to our side.  Clinton added the secularists to our side, unintentionally by fighting the moralists of the republican party over monica-gate.
    We need to keep the glbt community as a strong supporter of Democratic policies, because I think there are a lot of gay DINOs who are conservative, but support the democrats because the republicans are so gay-bashing.  If we win this fight we will have another soild small bloc of voters, that while not huge electorally, could always help swing elections.  Gay people (and myself) feel a tad scared of the right-wing's power right now, because we don't feel like democrats want to fight for us right now, they prefer to keep us a non-issue.  But if we keep defending ourselves from the right, instead of putting THEM on the defensive, we are losing.  I want the party to fight, to not abandon the issue.  I know a lot of people out there support this.  But I wish they could voice there support for it...is there anybody out there that knows of a 'I support civil unions website'???

    •  I Understand This Argument (none)
      and would be FAIRLY ok with this compromise. (Though my LACK of a suitably marriable partner makes it somewhat of a moot point for now - SIGH). HOWEVER, I have also always believed that in this type of Tug-o-War, whichever side begins to yield first is the one to loose FAR more territory than intended.

      I think we need to let the Repubs twist in the wind until THEY are the ones to offer this type of compromise. If Dems bring this to the floor, it will show a retreat from current demands and will embolden the Repubs to hold out for FURTHER concessions. A Democratic effort to pass Civil Unions will NOT pass due to sponsorship, and may end up with Repubs more tightly united against ANY level of legalization. Anyway, in the end, I feel like we need to stick by our guns - we're right on this one and we CAN outwait them, thus ultimately gaining momentum for ourselves for a change.

  •  long story short (none)

    The anti side in the U.S. gay marriage game is certainly motivated by homophobia.  But more salient, from looking at the anti literature extensively, is that the emotional core is all about frustration at the increasingly obvious and deep failure of hetero/patriarchal "family values".  Gay marriage is the messenger of the Modern world that must be shot because the message tells of their failure, and is unbearable for that reason.

    I like to think Canada will deal more fairly with this; in large parts of the U.S.- the Red States more so than the Blue- government and society are so dysfunctionally run (in favor of the wealthy and profiteers, of course) that family, and to a degree the churches, are all the simpler people feel they can rely on.  Canada has the kind and degree of social safety nets and the Northern basic tolerance and grudging generosity that societies in tundra climes can't do without, as a sheer matter of survival.  In the U.S. Deep South particularly the game is very different- tens of millions of people there are defined by the fact of having not enough stuff to be worth stealing from, are so worn down by their situation as to be reflexively resistant to change, slow to learn and hope new things, and dealt with as hopeless to lift from poverty.  Parts of Canada are horrifyingly poor, too, but the sensibility is not as narrow.  I hope things go well.  We'll take care of Texas if you'll take care of Alberta :-)

    Renewal, not mere Reform.

    by killjoy on Sun Jan 30, 2005 at 05:10:20 PM PST

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