A man and woman dressed in wedding attire join a protest against a same-sex marriage bill outside the parliament building in London June 3, 2013. CNS photo/Toby Melville, Reuters) (June 3, 2013

No reason to celebrate as same-sex marriage turns 10

  • July 18, 2015

OTTAWA - On July 20, 2005 same-sex marriage became legal in Canada. Ten years later, Canada has experienced a steady erosion of religious freedom and conscience rights, undergone negative changes in sex education and parental rights, while also seeing a shift in the rights of children, according to several observers.

The Civil Marriage Act was presented as an attempt to balance the rights of those advocating same-sex marriage with those defending traditional marriage, but increasingly the voices of the second group are being marginalized and even silenced, many fear.

Defending traditional marriage is “now quickly becoming hate speech,” said Ray Pennings, the co-founder and executive vice-president of the Christian think tank Cardus. “That’s not factual in terms of law; it’s a myth that’s becoming culturally accepted.”

Pennings said 10 years ago Canada witnessed a genuine debate on marriage, but now the debate has given way to a climate of lawsuits, a loss of religious freedom and, potentially, the loss of tax-exempt status for institutions that fail to pass the new “orthodoxy test for secularism, where anything short of full affirmation of LGBT rights as a public good is seen to disqualify you from full public participation.”

“It’s a pretty worrying time,” agreed constitutional lawyer Iain Benson. “I think quite a bit will turn on whether the gestures towards diversity and respect for difference that were clearly part of the framework of the Civil Marriage Act can survive the relentless onslaught of homogenization.”

A key example for Benson concerns Trinity Western University (TWU), a private Christian school that asks students and faculty to sign a behaviour covenant that includes abstention from sex outside of traditional marriage. TWU intends to launch a law school, but already several law societies have decreed TWU graduates ineligible to practice law in their provinces.

Benson said the TWU case represents a “full scale attack on an institution with private and a public dimension,” a “full scale culture war.”

Catholic Civil Rights League president Phil Horgan also sees TWU as an illustration of what happens when same-sex marriage is imposed on a culture. With the state now intruding on religious education in institutions, will it next intrude on homeschooling?

“These are not modest propositions,” he said. “They go to the notion of the autonomy of the family, and whether there will be room in civil society to maintain such quaint notions as traditional marriage.”

All dissenting viewpoints, whether based on religion or not, are threatened, Benson said.

In the past decade, provincial marriage commissioners have lost their jobs for refusing to officiate at same-sex weddings; a Knights of Columbus chapter was forced to pay a fine after refusing to let its hall be used for a same-sex celebration. Christian Horizons, an Ontario charity that cares for mentally challenged adults, had to drop its morality code after a lesbian employee challenged it.

The redefinition of marriage has created “what amounts to a completely different institution,” said Douglas Farrow, a McGill University professor of Christian Thought. Farrow believes the natural biological family was a natural bulwark to state power, but redefining marriage to any two people, even if same-sex, has the “effect of disenfranchising the natural family unit as a restraint on the state and on the state’s power over the citizen.”

He says the process began more than 10 years ago.

“There is no way on earth we ever get to same-sex marriage without first embracing a contraceptive approach to sex and a serial approach to marriage — the divorce and remarriage culture,” he said.

The rise of transgenderism is another example of a changing society.

“We’re moving away from treating the body as fundamental to the very nature of human being, to something incidental and truly subject to manipulation,” said Farrow.

McGill University ethicist Margaret Somerville said her concern was never with adults and their relationships, but with the rights of children.  There is a need for society to have a basic norm of the family consisting of a mother and father who are the biological parents of the children, and the children grow up in the immediate family structure of mother, father and siblings and their wider family, she said. There will always be exceptions, but “it makes a difference whether exceptions remain exceptions or exceptions become the rule.”

Same-sex marriage asserts there is no difference for a child being raised by his biological mother and father or by two parents of the same sex.

For REAL Women of Canada national vice president Gwen Landolt, the most problematic development in the wake of same-sex marriage is its impact on education and “the teaching of homosexuality in the schools.”

“The Civil Marriage Act was passed on the basis that homosexual relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships,” Landolt said.

“Now they’re teaching that in the schools. It has led to homosexual indoctrination into the school system.”

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