Iain Benson’s proposal to recognize gay unions is
seductive, but wrong

Should Parliament refuse to recognize marriage entirely? Would such a change bring social peace in the debate over the homosexual agenda? Many observers of the Centre for Cultural Renewal were left scratching their heads in July after an opinion piece written by the centre’s senior fellow, Iain Benson, was published in the National Post, suggesting just such a move.

First, Benson wrote in favour of civil unions, saying that “government should have some role in enforcing the utilitarian aspects of unions. To the extent unions create rights and duties, the powers of the state must be brought to bear to define and enforce them.”

He then went on to suggest that marriage also serves a symbolic function. He said, “It stands for a union of love between two people that is ratified by their community.” And, as such, he continued, “it is here that the state has no useful role whatsoever.”

He concluded that, “This is not a recipe for the death of marriage. It is a plan to put it in the hands of people whose moral imprimatur matters to those involved. A couple that seeks to be wed … should apply to their church, synagogue, mosque.”

His thesis is attractive in that it attempts to meet the demands of all groups without offending any. And, it somehow sounds so very reasonable. Essentially, you marry at your church, I’ll marry at mine and if any of us encounter trouble, we’ll run to the courts to sort out our civil union responsibilities for us. It’s the kind of moral equivalency that defines modern Canada.

Yet, I have to say that his proposal is unreasonable and that I am actually offended by it. And, I sense that this proposal has more to do with trying to be accommodating in a so-called “pluralistic” society than it does with actually renewing our culture.

Of course, Benson makes some important points. Government does have a role to play in ensuring that the rights of the disadvantaged – including those disadvantaged by the breakdown of a marriage – are upheld. Marriage also serves an important symbolic function. And, the moral imprimatur bestowed by a spiritual leader and church still matters to the vast majority of those married today, even if they are not regular attendees at services themselves.

These are not insignificant points, but they are not the whole story, either. Let’s consider them in order.

First, what difference would it make to you or me if our government recognized that marriages were instead deemed “civil unions?” From a legal perspective none. It’s really just a name change. Marriage is simply a legal civil union with a special title.

Yet, the reason for renaming marriage given by Benson is ultimately to grant an equivalency to homosexual couples. The implication is, of course, that homosexual relationships are no different. But, they most certainly are.

The most important difference from the state’s point of view is the ability of the large majority of married couples to produce and raise the next generation. This is an attribute that is, by definition, non-existent in homosexual settings.

The state has an interest in marriage because it is the key to sustaining our society.

Now, to be sure, the sham weddings between activists, “legal” though they may be at the moment in a few provinces, haven’t affected me and my family personally with anything more than a growing sense of the ridiculous. But there is another group that needs the protections that marriage offers, and they are seemingly absent from Benson’s proposition: children. While he correctly notes the important symbolism of marriage to couples, he misses the important symbolism marriage has for children.

Elevating homosexual relations to the status of marriage, even a re-named marriage such as “civil union,” will affect the next and subsequent generations severely. No teacher will legally be able to differentiate between these relationships, once equivalency has been written into the law. The message that “‘life partners’ can be guys, girls, or whatever, it really doesn’t matter,” will be written on the hearts of many kids. I am reminded that the law itself is a moral teacher.

Other children will be much more deeply affected, as they are adopted or fostered into homosexual households without any choice in the matter themselves. Because, if homosexuality is morally equivalent, what judge, adoption agency or children’s aid society (including Christian organizations) will be able to legally deny granting adoption or fostering rights to homosexuals?

According to all the best social science research, and just plain common sense, children do best when they have both an opposite-sex and same-sex parent as role models. The centre’s proposal, taken to its logical conclusion, would deny some children a mother and a father. That offends me deeply.

Finally, Benson correctly notes the importance to couples and their circle of friends and family of the moral imprimatur their church offers their wedding. He forgets, however, that nations such as Canada were founded and subsist, according to Trudeau’s Charter, on principles that recognize the supremacy of God.

Ultimately, this battle over marriage is about more than who should be allowed into the club. It is fundamentally about the type of culture and society we have. Are we a pro-creative society founded on Judeo-Christian principles? Or are we merely a humanistic society based on the pleasure principle alone? The centre is openly suggesting the state should remove its moral imprimatur from the first.

I doubt the centre’s proposal is the way to renew the culture. Do we renew the culture by bulldozing any public recognition of our most fundamental social institution? Do we promote a culture of life by granting the legal and moral equivalency of marriage to a class of relationships that, by definition, rejects procreation and the continuance of the human race? Which culture exactly is the centre attempting to renew? Peter Stock, former national affairs director of the Canadian Family Action Coalition and staff writer for The Report, is a frequent contributor to The Interim.