Paul Tuns

Why defend the traditional definition of marriage?

It is the foundational institution of society and civilization. Marriage is a public good created by God and sanctioned by church and state. As Maggie Gallagher, an American author and expert on marriage, says, “What every human society calls marriage shares certain basic, recognizable features, including most especially the privileges accorded to the reproductive couple in order to protect both the interests of children and the interests of society.” The union of one man and one woman is given sanction in order to give it special protection, rights and responsibilities to each other and those in the couple’s care. As Gallagher says, “Successful societies support and prefer marriage not only because children need mothers and fathers, but also because societies need babies … Only societies that reproduce survive.” Marriage channels the erotic energy of the man and woman to a productive and useful personal and public good.

What marriage is not

Marriage is not merely a private contract between two people who love each other. That is a selfish view of marriage that degrades it into a relationship of a purely private, individual nature pursued for personal reasons for one’s own well-being, usually defined as one’s own happiness. But that is not what marriage is. If it were, what compelling reason would there be for the state (or the church, for that matter) to officially recognize and sanction the relationship. It would be, in the derogatory diminishment of marriage popular in the 1960s, “a license to have sex.”

What about couples that cannot have children?

Opposite-sex couples past the age of fecundity, or who otherwise cannot have children, are not akin to same-sex couples. It is impossible that the sexual relationship of homosexuals be able to produce children. Therefore, such unions mock the ideal of marriage in the first place. As Christianity Today noted in an article entitled, “13 Bad Arguments for Same-Sex Marriage,” “In all cultures, even if some couples are childless, marriage is an institution principally concerned with children, and therefore society’s future.” In fact, most married couples, the article notes, “either have had, or will have, children.”

Hasn’t homosexuality been tolerated in other societies?

The key word here is “tolerated,” never promoted, except in unusual circumstances. Even in Sparta, where homosexual activity was encouraged within the military, soldiers were expected to marry a woman and raise a family after leaving military duty. No society has given official sanction to homosexual relationships, until recent years in the Netherlands, Belgium, several Scandinavian countries and certain jurisdictions in Canada and the United States. Historically incidence of homosexual activity was a “tolerated vice,” usually in settings in which there were exclusively men in close proximity to each other over long periods of time; for example, among sailors on ships or in the military.

The myth that SSM does not affect you

It is often claimed by supporters of same-sex marriage, and those indifferent on the issue, that SSM does not affect the lives of married heterosexuals, but that is not true. If SSM becomes law, then homosexual activity would be officially approved and that would practically invite schools to teach the equal value of heterosexual and homosexual activity, regardless of what the parents of students might think. Furthermore, because law affects the culture, mass entertainment and other aspects, society will begin to treat homosexual behaviour as normative. There will then be tremendous pressure on churches and individuals to accept homosexual behaviour. Our families will be bombarded by messages that contradict our moral beliefs, straining familial relationships and causing confusion among our children. Furthermore, as the Hoover Institute’s Stanley Kurtz has noted, countries that legally recognize same-sex relationships witness further deteroriation of traditional marriage. The rest of society, as taxpayers and citizens, will have to compensate for an increasingly dysfunctional society riddled with more crime, illiteracy, illegitimacy, and anti-social behaviour.

SSM is bad for kids

Children require both male and female nurturing when growing up. Children, especially boys, need both male and female influences. Boys learn how to be men from their fathers and how to interact with women from their mothers. Homosexual couples cannot provide this. Furthermore, numerous studies demonstrate the beneficial affects of having two parents and that children who do not come from intact families are at greater risk of serious personal and social problems including illiteracy, criminality, drug and alcohol abuse, broken relationships and social maladjustment. Also, as the contributors to Different Mothers: Sons and Daughters of Lesbians Talk About Their Lives demonstrate, the “emotional and public lives” of children of homosexual parents are indelibly marked by the experience of their particular upbringing. The daughters of lesbians distrusted men and both sons and daughters resented being denied a father. Many of the contributors reported partaking in sexually deviant or unhealthy lifestyles themselves and blamed the lack of proper modeling for their regretable sexual choices.

Can’t the state just get out of the ‘marriage business’?

No. Marriage is recognized and sanctioned by the state because it has recognized the unique and historical role of the two-parent family as the ideal way to bring children into this world and raise them. That is, the continuation of the nation is contingent on healthy families, an issue on which the state cannot be indifferent on.

How will ‘expanding’ the definition of marriage change the institution?

The truth is, we don’t know. But numerous “mainstream” advocates of SSM laud the fact that homosexuals will bring a new understanding of what marriage is. Michael Signorile said in his 1997 book Life Outside (the closet – get it?) that once homosexuals have successfully convinced society to redefine mariage to sanction their relationships, then, “once granted, redefine the institution of marriage completely … (to) radically alter an archaic institution.” He suggested that heterosexuals may benefit from an understanding of marriage that unleashes it from its historic connotation with monogamy. Paula Ettelbrick, legal director at the Lambda Legal Defence and Education Fund, said that, “Being queer means pushing the parameters of sex, sexuality and family.” It is clear that, by some of the leading advocates of SSM, merely changing who is eligible to marry is not the end game when it comes to altering the institution of marriage.

The Supreme Court decision provides cover for politicians

Many politicians will erroneously claim that the Supreme Court of Canada has either directed Parliament to pass legislation that redefines marriage or that denying homosexual couples the right to marry is a violation of their Charter rights. There will be MPs who will claim that they have no choice but to support the assault on marriage. However, the Dec. 9 Supreme Court ruling was on a government reference case. The ruling permits Parliament to act, but does not direct or require it. Furthermore, the Supreme Court explicitly did not address the reference question of whether not extending marriage rights to homosexual couples violates their Charter rights. That is, the Supreme Court has not declared a Charter right for homosexual couples to marry.

Are churches really protected?

Probably not. Legal experts have explained that it will probably take several test cases to determine whose rights are paramount when conflicts arise: churches that want to defend their historical moral teachings or homosexual couples seeking to get married in churches. Despite Justice Minister Irwin Cotler’s repeated declarations that the conscience rights of clergy, rabbis and imams will be protected, many religious organizations are worried that even if the legislation provides such protection, activist courts will set it aside.

Are same-sex civil unions an appropriate compromise?

No. Same-sex civil unions are akin to common-law relationships from a sociological and practical level, and marriage (without the word) from a legal perspective. Permitting unions as a compromise makes the SSM fight a debate over a word, rather than a fight to defend the most basic and vital institution in society. Furthermore, it is unimaginable that the courts would permit same-sex civil unions to stand constitutional muster; courts would rightly view granting marriage rights to heterosexuals, but merely unions to homosexuals, as akin to separate drinking fountains for blacks and whites. According to the Hoover Institute’s Stanley Kurtz, several Scandinavian countries have union-like registered partnerships that had numerous restrictions (no adoption or artificial insemination rights, no registered partnership ceremonies in state-sanctioned churches, etc.) that are slowly being repealed. That is, there is evidence that whatever walls will be erected to differentiate SSM and civil unions will be impossible to maintain.

Why care? Heterosexual couples have already damaged and debased marriage

It is true that divorce rates are too high, that there are adulterous heterosexuals and dysfunctional marriages. But you shouldn’t permit further damage to the institution of marriage simply because of the damage heterosexuals have done to it by failing to live up to the ideal. The fact is, though, few people enter marriage expecting to be adulterous or for the relationship to end in divorce. That the state of marriage is less than perfect in modern society is no reason to further attack it. What marriage needs is not redefinition or “expanding,” but support. That the federal government is considering a universal daycare scheme at precisely the same time it is attempting to redefine marriage is to add insult to injury and shows a contempt for family as it advocates policies that create incentives for both parents to enter the workforce.

Marriage is about children

Cardinal Ambrozic of Toronto said in an open letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin on Jan. 19 that it is dangerous to proceed with SSM because we do not know what the ramifications will be on marriage and society. But there is evidence about what those ramifications could be. As Stanley Kurtz noted in The Weekly Standard, the incidence of out-of-wedlock births continue to increase and the incidence of marriage continues to decline. Kurtz concluded that the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish experiences demonstrate same-sex marriage has locked in and reinforced an existing Scandinavian trend toward the separation of marriage and parenthood. SSM further damages marriage and hurts children by inherently denying them both a mother and a father.

What about single and divorced parents?

Homosexual couples, unlike a single or divorced parent, simply cannot impart male and female virtues. As The Interim wrote in 2003, homosexual parents are a form of dual single parenthood, providing two fathers or two mothers, neither of whom are adequate replacements for a mother and a father. Furthermore, considering the necessarily complimentary nature of opposite-sex parents in providing male and female care (for the sexes do provide different kinds of care), growing up in a dual-father or dual-mother household could be psychologically and emotionally damaging to children. And while single and divorced parents do not always provide both male and female care and models of behaviour, they are not inherently closed to providing both models in the way that homosexual parents are.

SSM could open the door to other legally sanctioned relationships

Those in favour of redefinition dismiss the notion that SSM will lead to legal recognition of other relationships, including polygamous and incestuous ones. Indeed, the National Post featured a front-page story on Jan. 20 that reported the federal government is studying the impact of polygamous relationships on women and children to prepare for anticipated challenges to laws that prevent individuals from having multiple spouses. While some suggest it is ludicrous to raise concerns about legal sanction for polygamous and incestuous relationships, according to American liberal journalist Michael Kingsley, the very idea of SSM was on the fringe just 15 years ago. Will polygamy and incest be beyond the pale in another decade – or less.

Aren’t opponents of SSM bigots?

No. The real issue is not preventing same-sex “marriage,” but retaining the unique and special status of marriage in society. This issue has been demogogued by those seeking to malign the pro-marriage side. For example, while the 11 American states that passed constitutional amendments last November were said to be “banning gay marriage,” in fact, they were affirming what marriage is; namely, “the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.” To defend the opposite-sex definition of marriage is not to be anti-gay, but to be pro-marriage. Furthermore, those who wish to conserve the traditional definition of marriage are showing compassion toward homosexuals by preventing legal sanction for a lifestyle that is inherently physically, emotionally and spiritually dangerous, if not outright destructive. Homosexuals suffer from higher rates of early death, sexually transmitted diseases, broken relationships, domestic violence and psychological disorders than heterosexuals. Allowing same-sex “marriage” would signal support for the homosexual lifestyle, which would inevitably lead to an increased incidence of homosexual activity. It is not in society’s or the individual’s interest to partake in such activity; therefore, defending marriage is an act of compassion to those tempted by homosexual inclinations.

The current definition of marriage is discriminatory

No it isn’t. No one is denying homosexuals their right to marry. Homosexuals have the same right to marry as heterosexuals – both can marry a member of the opposite sex. But even if it was discriminatory, the law does discriminate; for example, on the basis of number, age or familial relations.

The courts got us into this mess

Yes and no. While eight provincial and territorial courts have misinterpreted a right of homosexuals to marry in our Constitution, it has not been just the courts who have brought Canada to this crisis point. Former prime minister Jean Chretien and current Prime Minister Paul Martin campaigned for SSM. Chretien’s justice department did not vigorously defend the law in either the courts of law or the court of public opinion when homosexual activists litigated to change the definition of marriage, including failing to note precedents that supported the traditional definition of marriage. Martin campaigned last year on the issue of extending marriage to homosexual couples and appointed two jurists to the Supreme Court who were well known to support SSM. Neither Chretien nor Martin did anything to defend marriage while it was under attack in the courts.

The polls show Canadians support SSM

Despite attempts by the media, homosexual activists and the government to paint a picture in which there is consensus on the issue, Canadians are evenly divided on SSM, according to numerous polls. Some activists and media point to a 2004 Environics poll that purported to show strong support for SSM, but which actually coupled support for SSM and same-sex civil unions when the question explicitly separated the two policy options.

The issue should be settled by a referendum

Put aside the issue that there is no law that easily allows for a binding referendum in Canada. Contrary to public opinion, that moral issues should be decided by a vote of the people, it is precisely moral issues that must stand outside the purview of a popular vote. Indeed, for Christians, neither the voting public, their representatives or the courts have the power to tinker with morality.

SSM is not a done deal

This is a form of political escapism that allows citizens who could not be bothered to act to justify their inaction. But MPs in both the Liberal and Conservative MPs tell The Interim that the odds of the redefinition legislation passing is 50-50. As the issue is debated, information is distributed and more Canadians become involved, many MPs realize that they could be defeated in the next election if they support SSM. It is far from certain that Parliament will pass the proposed legislation.