Friday, December 10, 2004
POLITICS AS USUAL: SAME-SEX, DIFFERENT DEBATE
Firstly, I should state that, frankly, I'm not sure how I feel about same-sex marriage in general. On the one hand, I have always been a "live and let live" kind of person, especially when it comes to people's personal lives. People are free to make choices they want--that's what a democracy is all about. Secondly, SSM isn't exactly high on my radar screen. It falls somewhere in between refurbishing the Parliament buildings and ensuring our trade relations with Scandanavia are as beneficial to Canada as possible. Once we get our taxes, military spending, reputation on the global stage, economy, government waste, infrastructure investment, environmental concerns and democratic institutions all worked out, maybe then we should turn our attentions to gays marrying each other. But that's just me.
On the other hand, I recognize that there are others out there on both sides of the issue who feel this is of fundamental subject--either as a human rights issue or the protection of a religious institution. As a married fellow myself, I obviously take marriage very seriously. My bigger concern was not with a civic document stating that a couple is married as defined by the law, but rather how this law would affect religious institutions. Observers are right--this case is about rights; but not just those of same sex couples. Its also about the rights of religious institutions not being forced to do something counter to their own, deeply-held beliefs.
Which brings me to the Court's decision. One thing I really don't like is "judge-made law", where an unelected, appointed group of 9 has a more profound effect on Canadians than the democratically elected legislative body does. To me, activist judges almost spit in the face of Parliament and its supposed supremacy for making decisions in this country. In many ways, its anti-democratic.
Which is why I love this ruling.
It puts the decision right back in hands of Parliament (and especially PM Martin)--where it belongs. By refusing to answer the question of whether it is "constitutionally acceptable" not to impose same sex marriage, it doesn't give Martin the opportunity to weasel out of taking a stand one way or the other and living with the consequences. Good on the Court. They effectively said "Yes, you can do this. If you want". That's what, in my view, the Supreme Court is for. To interpret, not to decide. Now Martin must must discuss the issue on merit, not complain that he was "forced" to do it, which I'm sure would have been his preference.
I also really like this ruling because the Court said it was NOT okay to impose this law on religious institutions, which I am fundamentally opposed to. Just because, as a non-religious fellow, don't really see SSM as a big no-no from a moral point of view, doesn't mean that other, more religious people, churches and institutions don't. And that's legitimate. Who am I to challenge what is the "word of God" in another person's eyes? That is the core of religious freedom. And it is sacrosanct. In fact, the law should be strengthened to ensure SSM will NEVER be imposed on those whose religions forbid it. If you're a gay couple and you want to get married and your particular religion is against SSM, that's too bad. Book the chamber at City Hall.
The third issue I'd like to address is when this issue comes to the House. I vehemently believe it should be a free vote. If the PM wants this thing, he needs to work for it. No reprisals. No undue pressure. If an MP represents a riding that is largely against SSM, he/she should vote accordingly. And that MP should not then lose their Committee seat or whatever scraps they've been given. That's democracy. And because this is a fundamental issue for many Canandians, no Parliamentarian should hide from the issue either. No "I can't make the vote" or "I was pressured by my Party". Make a decision. Vote on it. Live with it. That's what you're there to do.
I won't stand here and tell you what to think about SSM. That's up to you. What I will say is that regardless of your position on the issue, at least Canadians, through their Parliamentary representatives, will have a say on this decision. And it will not be crammed down the throats of those who do not beleive it is right.
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