20050629

On the Canadian gay marriage legislation

Far be it from me to unilaterally praise the current federal government's policies (a lot of them are just so much improvisation, and, much as I like many things in the NDP program, I'd rather see that money administered by the provincial government, thanks very much), but I'm rather happy they finally got around to voting for legislation of gay marriages. Even though it's very much an abstract concept as far as it comes to my own life, I think it makes sense, and for once, we can be proud to be at the forefront of social liberalism. We're usually proud to be at the forefront of liberalism in North America... which isn't saying much in general; USians are a bit stodgy when it comes to such things.

But this is not about the law itself. Rather, it's about the people they find in news roundtables such as Le Point to claim that it's a bad thing.

The argument goes something like this: marriage is meant to protect families. In Quebec (and in the rest of Canada as well), we would be in a huge demographic deficit if it weren't for immigration. By trivializing marriage, we are removing special protections to families and making them general. Therefore, we'll worsen the demographic deficit, making our situation worse.

This strikes me as an extremely convoluted argument. Furthermore, I think it's completely bogus.

One of the so-called "key" arguments given against gay marriages is that they can't have children by definition. Well, it's not that clear, nor is having children or not a criteria for marriage, even in ancient times. Consider:

  • Couples where one or both spouses are sterile are allowed to marry last time I checked, even in the Catholic church. Otherwise, you'd have to pass a fertility test before marriage, which I would find somewhat offensive. What business is it for any institution to only allow one to love those they can have children with?
  • Couples where there are no children, for a variety of reasons (some more frivolous than others), are allowed to remain married. Practically, those people cannot have children, although they theoretically could. Shall we force divorce on those people? Keep in mind they may have very unselfish reasons not to have children (say, fear that they won't be able to provide for them, or fear that they wouldn't be good parents--maybe there should attempts to diminish such fears, but I don't think we can condemn people who believe this).
  • Couples sometimes adopt unwanted children of other families. Why not gay couples? I concede that this is a whole 'nother can of worms; there are fears over the lack of a role model of each sex, for instance. However, studies have been made on this, and they have found no significant differences between children raised by gay couples and those raised by heterosexual couples1. From that point of view, gay couples can, theoretically, raise children. The way they'd do it wouldn't help demography much, but it may make the life of those children much more bearable. Instead of being thrown between foster homes, they'd get a stable family, albeit a still unconventional one. But I suppose those against such practices are also against getting the government to intervene when children are mistreated, so there wouldn't be as many adopted children. I guess.
  • Some will say that although it's not allowed to force people to have or renounce children (and the latter is debatable, because it seems acceptable to many), it doesn't mean that we should allow people who can't have children to have them. In that view, fertility assitance should be disallowed as well. This would definitely have a worse impact on demography than any gay marriage; fertility rates are dropping alarmingly on the planet, to the point that fertility assistance may become necessary in many cases.
  • And as for gay couples adopting disallowing childless heterosexual couples from doing same, when we run out of children to adopt, we can deal with that. It doesn't seem to be a problem right now.
  • If someone's gay, you can write them off the demographic curve anyhow; even though they are physically able to reproduce, they will probably choose not to. Why force them to do so as a fa├žade, then? Should we force nuns and priests to renounce their vows for demography's sake? Yeah, yeah, it's not the same. Whatever...
  • In any case, what difference does it make that gays can marry? Who does it hurt, except some sensibilities? Keep in mind that once upon a time, black people sitting in the front of a bus was hurting some sensibilities as well. Also, keep in mind that nor the law nor the Supreme Court mention an obligation for religious marriages to be celebrated. So, if you're a catholic, you can simply dismiss it as a civil marriage, having no value before God, and sleep extremely well at night knowing that all is right with the world. Maybe it's just a folly of our lay society. Just ignore it and let the non-believers live the way they want.

For the record, I'm officially a Catholic. However, I don't agree with the precepts much, knowing that they take such... ah... conservative (*cough*backwards*cough*) stances on abortion, gay rights, and especially contraception. And one better not go to much about how such practices are banned by the Bible, because I'll dig out that passage about Sarah practically throwing a handmaid (little more than a slave, really) in the hands of her husband Abraham because she was sterile (Genesis 16:1-6; also see "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood for an interesting twist with this whole mess). Do you think that's acceptable? Is that different from adultery? Because she was a slave? Is slavery acceptable? And if it was in those times and not anymore, why is it different with contraception?

And don't get me started on Harper's comment that the vote's legitimacy is tainted because Quebec separatist Bloc MPs made the difference. Well, if he's right, I'll consider any vote that passes because of Conservative MPs is null and void because it was done by a bunch of rednecks who are chronically stupid due to spending most of their times looking at their navels and congratulating themselves for being keepers of decency, while their standards on decency are at least 40 years out of date. But he's wrong, so I won't do that. Again for the record, I have no great love for the Bloc, but dammit, they were elected, and whether I agree with them or not, they are legitimate MPs and have the right to vote for a bill. If Conservatives are frustrated that they don't have the balance of power in the minority government because they can't get any votes in Quebec, they have only themselves to blame. I would've voted for Joe Clark at the previous election, but no way I'd vote for Stephen Harper and his gang of merry Alliancists. I feel they'd do as lousy a job representing me and my values as the Bloc would representing the values of a guy from Toronto.

Rant mode off.

OK, short summary: Gay marriage legislation passes. Me happy that I don't live in backwater country like another I won't name. Next step is to legalize marijuana, just to completely piss off our neighbors down south <g>


1 I heard a testimony of a scientist about this at the Quebec National Assembly in 2002. I don't think anyone disputed the claims at the time; the methodology is likely valid. Ironically, when I was looking for information on this, I found this nugget, which mentions that Quebec adopted adoption gay right laws after Alberta. Amusing.

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