(as an aside, I'm an athiest)
My apologies for loading things up here, I've got four links and three quote segements)
Some will certainly have a Canadian politics angles to them.
This first link is probably, as the columnist himself describes "the best summary I have yet read."
Rex Murphy from Saturday's Globe and Mail
The notwithstanding clause was part of the ingenious midwifery of Roy Romanow, Roy McMurtry and Jean Chretien, whose celebrated "kitchen meeting" during the critical talks of November, 1981, is part of the constitutional folklore of this country. It was the compromise that saved the negotiations and, thereby, the Charter itself. There is surely nothing heretical about a compromise linked to any example of Canadian achievement.
We are such an energetically temperate, middle-of-the-road nation that, in fact, some people think compromise is the Canadian achievement. The not with-standing clause is not the antimatter of the Charter that its critics claim; it is, in fact, its guardian and progenitor.
When I read of Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic's argument to the Prime Minister that the notwithstanding clause should be invoked to stay the enactment of same-sex marriages, I recognized his position as being within that circle of moderation and calm that is almost ritualistically held out as a model of the Canadian way After all, an urging to use the not-withstanding clause to allow for a period of study and to gauge the social impact of same sex in the other jurisdictions that have enacted it, is neither radical nor incendiary.
Just as the clause itself is a creature of compromise, the call by the cardinal to exercise it beckons to the same spirit I'm glad Cardinal Ambrozic has intervened in this debate, for I fear same-sex marriage was becoming an issue resolved by means other than debate.
I am not convinced that those who harbour serious questions about the merits of same-sex unions have either been as forthcoming as they might wish with their objections or that till now at least — those objections were receiving serious consideration.
We're in an age when, on social issues, some people feel a constraint, by no means healthy in a democracy, when ranging themselves against what looks to be "advanced" or "progressive" positions. Political correctness is sometimes a subtle censor, and sometimes a cudgel.
The Liberal Party has been a buzz of mixed signals since the same-sex issue arose. The party has sought to isolate itself from whatever political costs are involved by sheltering behind court decisions, or seeking — as in its reference to the Supreme Court — court guidance in advance of legislation.
Both under Mr. Chretien and Paul Martin, the Liberal Party has wanted the gain of being seen as "progressive" on this issue, without bearing the costs that unequivocal, aggressive leadership on the issue would entail. And on the legislation the Liberals propose bringing to Parliament soon, the party is again a mixed basket. Mr. Martin insists that his cabinet support same sex but will allow the back bench to vote its conscience.
Indeed, the only political party that can justly claim to be absolutely unqualified in its position is the NDP. The NDP knows where it stands on same-sex marriage and says so. I'd admire the NDP's clarity even more if it did not impose a party line on the coming vote in the Commons.
Cardinal Ambrozic's statement this week has the great virtue of clarifying the terrain of a real debate. For those who are seriously religious, same-sex marriage carries a profound moral threat. They see what they describe as the "fundamental concept of the family" being threatened and eroded by this new "right."
They regard the move as an "experiment" fraught with profound, and uncharted consequence. Changing the concept of marriage is not routine law-making. It is not the same as instituting a gun registry or refining the byzantine workings of the equalization formula.
Furthermore, religious leaders are, rightly on this one, less than convinced when the government insists that churches will never be ordered by the state to perform same-sex marriages.
The forces of secularism are now every bit as evangelistic as the forces of religion used to be. They are no strangers to zeal. Churches have every reason to feel that today's assurances will be a feeble shield against tomorrow's new thinking.
If same-sex marriage is a fundamental issue, it deserves a full debate. And the voices and interests of those who view the march toward same-sex marriage as carrying deep and negative consequences have every right to a full and honest hearing of their concerns.
Which is, as I read it, the heart of the cardinal’s plea.
Not to allow it would be ~- what shall we call it? — a democratic deficit of the highest order.
An editorial from Wednesday's National Post
National Post said:
And as it prepares to reform the country's marriage laws, the federal government has offered reassurances that the legislation will include provisions explicitly to prevent gay rights activists from forcing traditional clergy to perform ceremonies that violate the core tenets of every major world religion. But precedent in this area does not provide us much comfort: Canadian jurists and bureaucrats often seem all too eager to put other freedoms aside so that they may enshrine the more fashionable cause of gay equality.
In this regard, a case before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal may prove to be the thin edge of the wedge. Deborah Chymyshyn and Tracey Smith are not trying to force an unwilling religious official to marry them. But the lesbian couple is trying to force a religious organization to provide its space for their marriage ceremony. Alleging that their booking of a Knights of Columbus hall in Port Coquitlam was cancelled in 2003 after the men's group found out that it was for their wedding reception, the women are now hoping that the tribunal will find they were the victims of discrimination.
The couple's lawyer has said that the women did not realize it was a Catholic hall when they booked it, which would suggest they were not initially aiming to score political points. But regardless of their original intentions, their case before the tribunal takes the unmistakable position that religious groups must be forced to facilitate gay weddings.
That result would, in and of itself, violate the religious freedoms contained in Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which Ottawa has explicitly committed to protecting. Worse, it would set the province -- and indeed, the entire country -- down a very dangerous path.
For now, the thinking among gay and lesbian activists is likely that even an overtly liberal outfit such as the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal would not go so far as to force churches to actually perform gay marriage ceremonies. A religious hall that is frequently rented out for secular purposes, the facility here at issue, makes for a much easier target. But once it has been determined that religious organizations have no choice but to offer up their physical amenities in the furtherance of gay marriage, it may only be a matter of time before the same standard is applied to their religious approbation.
We would like to think that it will never get to that point. But past cases suggest that gay rights are now taken to trump every other freedom. It was less than five years ago, recall, that the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled that printer Scott Brockie had violated the provincial human rights code by refusing on religious grounds to make stationary and letterheads for the Toronto Lesbian and Gay Archives. Mr. Brockie's appeal to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice failed; he was ordered to pay $5,000 in damages to the archives' former president and forbidden to refuse to print similar materials in the future.
The same gay-rights-trump-all approach was taken in 2002, when a Saskatchewan court upheld a human rights ruling that equated the Bible with hate literature. The case emerged when an evangelical Christian placed an ad in a Saskatoon newspaper that cited four scriptural passages denouncing gay and lesbian sex, accompanied by the image of two stick men holding hands with a line running through them.
Those who seek to humble traditional religion in this country in the name of radical identity politics know just what they are doing. Just as the Lesbian and Gay Archives could have chosen almost any other print shop in Toronto, Ms. Chymyshyn and Ms. Smith have their pick of almost any facility in the Greater Vancouver Area. Regardless of how the ruling comes down, in other words, they have plenty of choices; what they are asking is that religious organizations have none.
The right to discriminate is not always a popular freedom to argue for. But it is an absolutely essential one to churches -- which, by their nature, must be able to pick and choose between what they believe to be moral and what they believe to be immoral. For that right to begin to be taken away even before gay marriage has been enshrined in federal law would be an immensely dark omen.
© National Post 2005
This last one was a contribution to a "Daily Digest" I receive. I will caution that it is not a first-person report.
Joe, what follows is an e-mail from my Brother-in-law that I think your readers may find interesting.
Thanks for providing this forum for intelligent debate - something that is sorely lacking in mainstream media!
Mississauga - Brampton South
Heard a great call-in program on CBC on Monday. The topic was - will "same-sex' marriage lead to multi-spousal marriages. A very irate woman called in and said that the idea was stupid and absurd that it was time we accepted gay marriage in our enlightened society. She went on to say that the idea that this would lead to multiple spousal marriages was alarmist and short sighted.
The very next caller was a gay rights activist and one of the people who had been fighting for 10 years to allow gay marriages. He frankly announced that the next levels of marriage that they are going to fight to legalize are multi-spousal marriages and other exceptions. He listed:
- two (or more) women and one man
- two (or more) men and one woman
- two (or more) women and two (or more) men
- two women who are not lesbians, but live together.
He was not kidding, he was very serious and sober. He mentioned neither animals nor inanimate objects but that is the general direction that this will probably go next.
(A question:did anyone hear the CBC talk show to corroborate Kevin's Brother-in-law's report to him?)