Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
January 23, 2006
Sliding down a slippery slope
It wasn't that long ago that supporters of traditional marriage were ridiculed for claiming that legalization of same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy.
"They're not the same thing," supporters of same-sex marriage might argue. "Same-sex marriage would eliminate discrimination against homosexuals. But polygamy would increase patriarchy and make life harder for women stuck in polygamous marriages."
At least, that is the sort of rejoinder one could expect if the supporters of same-sex marriage actually chose to engage in a rational discussion. More often, the link between same-sex marriage would be met with rolled eyes or hoots of derision. "A slippery slope argument has no value" was the implication. "You cannot maintain that because one occurrence takes place, another bad trend will get started."
Slippery slope arguments are sometimes viewed as logically incorrect reasoning. You cannot argue, it is said, that taking a particular course of action will lead to another. You cannot argue that bad will lead to worse.
Now that the ink is barely dry on the federal government's same-sex marriage legislation, the federal justice department has received a $150,000 study from three law professors recommending that Canada legalize polygamy. A charter challenge to the law banning polygamy might well be successful. Moreover, legislation needs to be changed to protect women and children living in "plural relationships."
What sort of Alice in Wonderland world are we living in? Do these people think all Canadians suffer from short-term memory loss?
Fortunately, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler says the government won't legalize polygamy. The question is should Cotler's comments be taken seriously?
Or, should they be viewed in the same context as Prime Minister Paul Martin's promise to churches that the government would use the notwithstanding clause to protect them in the event of a court ruling that clergy would have to perform same-sex marriages?
Should they be viewed in light of the near-unanimous vote in the House of Commons a few years ago to uphold the traditional definition of marriage?
Listen to the main author of the polygamy report. "In light of the fact that we have a fairly permissive society, why are we singling out (polygamy) for criminalization?" said Martha Bailey.
Listen to the president of the Canadian Society of Muslims. We don't agree with same-sex marriage, said Mumtaz Ali. But now that same-sex marriage is legal, what reason is there for not legalizing polygamy?
What reason indeed? But, of course, this was the exact point made a year ago by opponents of same-sex marriage. Legalize gay marriage and you will open the door to all sorts of aberrations.
When abortion was legalized 35 years ago, it was argued that this little change in the law would only be used to save women's lives and would not lead to whole scale abortion because a committee of doctors would vet every abortion application. Within a couple of years, there were 65,000 abortions a year in Canada.
The "minor" change in law started us rapidly down the slippery slope.
When abortion was legalized, pro-lifers argued that not only would abortion become widespread, but it would lead to legalizing euthanasia too. "An unfair slippery slope argument," responded abortion supporters.
Well, the ride down that slippery slope is now underway too. Justice Minister Cotler wants to see the euthanasia issue "revisited" too.
When in vitro fertilization began in the early 1980s, opponents said it would lead to all sorts of Brave New World fetal and genetic experimentation. Yet, another slippery slope argument that proved true.
As citizens, our task is to halt these rides down the slippery slope before they get started. Once the snowball gets a head of steam, it becomes harder and harder to stop - and extremely difficult to reverse. Protect human values before a rampaging avalanche blows them to smithereens.
- Glen Argan
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