Politicians, press ignore real issues

Analysis by Paul Tuns
The Interim

For the past few years, the issue of same-sex “marriage” has been in front of the courts, where lawyers for governments, activists and intervenors have argued about the so-called right of homosexual couples to get married in front of other lawyers – judges. Now, it’s time for the public’s input, with a minimum of discussion among our elected representatives.

At least ostensibly, that’s the case. Prime Minister Paul Martin and Justice Minister Irwin Cotler have pushed the issue of gay “marriage” (henceforth: homogamy) with reckless abandon, treating the passing of Bill C-38, the legislation that would enshrine homogamy, as a done deal. They both have couched the debate in terms of human or Charter rights, a tactic designed to end debate, not further it. Who, after all, can be against human rights? Whenever any objection to redefining marriage is raised, Cotler has been out, waving the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, saying that there is no choice. However, the issue is not human rights, but marriage, and whether or not it makes any sense to extend the institution to homosexual couples. Unfortunately, any attempt to explore the issue substantively is mocked by the media as some sort of medieval view and is yelled down by homogamy proponents as bigoted. Take, for example, Jason Kenney’s attempt to insert fact into the discussion. The Calgary MP said that homosexuals have the right to marry, as long as they marry a member of the opposite sex. NDP MP Libby Davies, a lesbian, called Kenney’s comments insensitve and said they have no place in public discourse. She accused Kenney of being a source of “division.” But, it was not the defenders of marriage that introduced the conflict. It was gay activists and their allies in government, who are seeking to uproot a millenia-old understanding of this foundational institution of society. Kenney’s position, and that of more than 110 MPs, churches and numerous grassroots organizations, has been the norm (or at least the ideal) for nearly every human society in history. Following Kenney’s comments, Davies and several members of the government reiterated their call for a “civil debate.” That is another tactic of homogamy proponents: calling for a civil debate. According to the Globe and Mail, Davies “called Mr. Kenney’s notions idiotic and absurd.” Well, that’s not very civil.

My experience of watching the political left leads to one conclusion: the call for a civil debate always follows after its opponents make a point that cannot easily be refuted. Davies could not counter Kenney’s assertion that the law does not discriminate against homosexuals, because homosexuals can, and have, married – to a member of the opposite sex. Kenney demolished Cotler, Martin and Davies’ argument that denying homogamy to gays is discriminatory, and exposed it as a fraud. Davies expressed outrage at Kenney’s comments, but never attempted to engage them.

The political left is not interested in any debate, let alone a civil one. Libby Davies, and those who seek to redefine marriage, do not want to engage the likes of Jason Kenney. They seek to silence them.

This was demonstrated in late January, when Conservative leader Stephen Harper suggested that redefining marriage to include gay couples could eventually lead to polygamy. He was accused of being bigoted and of raising a straw man. It was found to be beyond the pale by the political-journalistic complex and Cotler made a plea for a civil debate.

Just one day after Cotler talked about the need for civility, his cabinet colleague, Pierre Pettigrew, told churches opposing homogamy to butt out. Suggesting that Canada had a separation of church and state, he said churches had no place in the public square. Few people would find telling one’s critics to shut up to be civilized, but what is one to do when one has an agenda to implement?

It did not help that Harper just threw the issue out there (one adds, only after the federal government’s own Women’s Secretariat made a call for papers exploring the impact of polygamy on women and children, citing the possibility of it becoming a reality if homogamy is eventually permitted). It would have been helpful if Harper explained why, specifically, once the gender of participants has been decided to be irrelevant, it is quite possible that courts in the near future will decide the number of participants is irrelevant. Absent such an explanation, however, his words seem inflammatory and his political opponents paint him and the pro-marriage side with the brush of intolerance. Harper is nothing if not extremely sensitive to not appearing insensitive.

His reaction to the media’s own subtle ways of casting aspersions on defenders of marriage – the National Post ran a story headlined, “City Tories oppose Harper stand” – was to demand his MPs submit their speeches on the issue for his office’s okay. With Conservative strategists eager to win more seats in traditionally more liberal Quebec, Toronto and Vancouver, the message to his caucus was clear: shut up about gay “marriage” or we’ll lose the next election. Harper seemed quite obliging of his urban critics, at the expense of his own caucus. As this news broke, papers and politicians once again were talking about the politics of the issue rather than the issue itself.

Harper spokesman Geoff Norquay said that all caucus members will have an opportunity to make speeches in Parliament on homogamy. But, he added, “We simply want to ensure that the arguments we make are clearly focused on the real issue – the definition of marriage, as opposed to the spurious arguments being advanced by the Liberals.” What ideas are likely to be considered impolitic? Precisely the issues that need to be raised to shed light on the homogamy debate: that homosexuality is immoral; that it is inherently unhealthy; that it will fundamentally change the way we think about marriage and, perhaps, eventually procreation. But none of this is coming out in all the political speeches and pronouncements, newspaper reports and commentary.

For all the talk about letting gays marry, very little is actually being said.