Divorcing Marriage: Unveiling the Dangers in Canada’s New Social Experiment by Daniel Cere and Douglas Farrow, editors. Foreword by Maggie Gallagher (McGill-Queen’s University Press, $17.47, paperback, 193 pages) Review by
Rev. Royal Hamel
The Interim

In the midst of much confusion and lack of basic information, Daniel Cere and Douglas Farrow have done a great service by providing a trenchant analysis of Canadian courts’ dubious leap forward in seeking to implement a new social policy on marriage. With contributions from a wide cross-section of essayists (Cere, Farrow, John McKay, Katherine K. Young, Paul Nathanson, Margaret Somerville, Darrel Reid, Janet Epp Buckingham, F. C. DeCoste, and F.L. (Ted) Morton) the book gives thorough and profound analyses of various aspects of the ongoing debate on marriage.

In its various essays, the book proves itself to be not for the intellectually faint of heart. For some of the reasoning, while valuable for the debate, is not necessarily easy to follow. But the serious reader will come away much better prepared to confront the arguments for and against redefining marriage in Canada.

In my view, the two most significant essays in the book are Daniel Cere’s “War of the Ring” and Douglas Farrow’s “Rightsd and Recognitions.” These essays alone are worth the price of the book. Special mention must also be made, however, of Ted Morton’s essay on the “notwithstanding clause” in Section 33 of the Charter of Rights. Morton makes a powerful case for its legitimacy as an appropriate tool for Parliament to use against unwarranted judicial activism.

Throughout the course of the book, a number of arguments against gay “marriage” are put forward. It may well serve a useful purpose to look at a number of these arguments.

Gay “marriage,” first of all, is not about equal rights. Farrow notes that contra the fatuous reasoning of the courts, there is no discrimination involved. How can there be discrimination involved in a formal legal sense, when every homosexually inclined person, as every heterosexual person, has the same right to marry whom they choose so long as that person be of the opposite sex? Discrimination is only possible when one accepts a priori the new definition of marriage that the courts have imposed; i.e., “Marriage shall be the union of two persons …” Further, on the matter of equality, but on a different line of reasoning, the judges have illegitimately posited that gay relationships are essentially the same as heterosexual marriage. Were that the case, Cere says, to treat them differently would indeed be discriminatory. But, in point of fact, if they are not the same, if indeed apples are being compared to oranges, then there can be no basis to conclude that equality rights are being violated. The fundamental characteristics of traditional marriage are permanence, procreativity and child-centeredness. Gay “marriage,” either in principle or practice, does not share any one of these three characteristics.

Gay “marriage” confuses and reduces one aspect of traditional marriage to the whole of marriage. Sexual, emotional and psychological intimacy between adults, while important, is not by any means the whole of what constitutes marriage.

Gay “marriage” discriminates against children. Children have a basic right to know their biological parents and to be brought up by them. (Somerville, p. 63). But if homosexual “marriage” becomes normative in Canada, a system will be in place that systematically denies every child in a homosexual home either a mom or a dad. Tragically, many single-parent homes have a similar problem. But this has always been regarded as a departure from the ideal, whereas accepted homosexual “marriage” will institutionalize this discrimination as being part of the new ideal arrangement of what constitutes a good home. Homosexual “marriage,” as argued by many gays, focuses almost entirely on the so-called rights of adults to have their love relationships recognized by the wider society. Correspondingly, then, gay “marriage” makes children’s rights secondary to the rights of adults. But children, being the most vulnerable, should have their rights protected first.

Gay “marriage” changes marriage for everyone. Some have tried to maintain that it won’t affect heterosexual marriage. But, of course, it will, for it is a sea change for all of society. If it were possible, for instance, for a judge to proclaim that from now on, triangles will have five points, in the ordinary parlance and intercourse of society, five-pointed triangles will be the norm for everybody. Such marriage may not today affect the marriages of heterosexual persons, but over the course of time, in a generation or two, marriage will be viewed as quite a different thing. A theorist for the homosexual community points out, “If same-sex couples get legally ‘married,’ the institution of marriage will change, and since marriage is one of the institutions that support heterosexuality and heterosexual identities, heterosexuality and heterosexuals will change as well.”

Gay “marriage” is a vast threat to freedom of religion in Canada. John McKay believes that attacks will come by same-sex couples asking to use facilities of churches and upon being refused, will sue on the basis of discrimination. He also wonders how long church leaders will be protected by law from performing same-sex ceremonies, even if in the beginning they are “saved” by some kind of exception clause. Buckingham and Reid point out that millions of Canadians have been told by court decisions that “their view on marriage is contrary to the Charter and by extension, un-Canadian.” The sheltered tax status of churches and tax exemptions will clearly be put at risk, because religious leaders will be judged by the state to be bigots and oppressors.

Not everyone will find everything in this book to be agreeable. At least one of the authors argues for civil unions and maintains that if one has moral convictions against the practice of homosexuality, that one has no right to argue the case for marriage in the public square. I must confess that I find Somerville’s logic on these points most unconvincing. To fight for marriage on the pragmatic basis that it is the best system for children is surely not wrong, but it seems a folly to me and totally unwarranted to fight an essentially moral battle by abandoning theology and absolutes.

Divorcing Marriage is good as an overview of the many issues involved in the marriage debate. However, it also serves well in providing in-depth analysis. If you can only get one book on marriage, I highly recommend this one, which so effectively covers both the forest and the trees of this vital subject.

Rev. Royal Hamel, a columnist with The Interim, is a representative of Campaign Life Coalition Southwest Ontario and executive director of the Traditional Marriage “Yes” Campaign.