Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 13, 2005
State taking sides - professor
Let the traditional supporters speak
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
Passage of the federal government's same-sex marriage law would mean the state is "taking sides" in the debate between two competing views of marriage, says a McGill University professor.
Daniel Cere told the special legislative committee studying Bill C-38 that the bill needs to allow people who hold the traditional understanding of marriage to continue to express their views.
Cere said passage of Bill C-38 would mean the "close personal relationship" view of marriage would "win" against the view of marriage as a heterosexual social institution for the procreation and raising of children.
"By dismissing the biological bond of conjugal marriage and making family diversity the fundamental norm that must be promoted, the state sets itself up against the ideal of the intact family.
"What about those many areas of federal jurisdiction that the government could have offered a few tangible safeguards: charitable status, communications, academic freedom, freedom to profess and promote the historic conception of marriage in the public sphere?" he asked. "Not a whisper."
Cere suggested the bill's preamble remove references that suggest the traditional view of marriage is discriminatory, and include an acknowledgement that many Canadians hold a differing view of marriage and that these are "legally valid but competing conceptions."
Include historic clause
"Include a clause recognizing and affirming the vital place and importance of the historic conjugal conception of marriage," he said.
He also suggested the government provide adequate federal funding to assist groups "to fight off inevitable court challenges."
Liberalism used to mean protection for social institutions from encroachment by the state, but the new liberalism is breaking those boundaries, Cere said.
"(According to the new liberalism,) marriage must be blind to sex-difference, procreativity, and the natural bond between parents and children," he said.
"The historic understanding of marriage so fundamental to the classical liberal tradition is denounced as discriminatory and driven from the public square."
On June 2, lawyer David Brown warned the committee that the bill contains no protection for "increasing legal efforts to compel religious groups and others, non religious people, to change their views on marriage."
"One of the trends in the courts these days is to move towards viewing tolerance, not as a matter of an ability to agree to disagree, but really tolerance is where you are mandated to accept what the other side thinks," he said.
Brown is a lawyer who has been involved for more than 20 years in many of the court cases involving constitutional law and religious freedom.
He suggested that the portion of the bill saying no religious official will be forced to perform same-sex marriages - a section that many have argued is outside federal jurisdiction because solemnization is a provincial matter - be replaced with a clause that no person would be deprived of a benefit or subject to any burdens under federal law because of their views on marriage.
A just arrangement
"We aren't going to persuade each other of our different points of view, so the question then is how can we both live together side-by-side holding different views, but with neither side really invoking the power of the state to shut the other side down," he said.
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