By Chris Blatch
What are the arguments for gay marriage? 1) That it is an arrangement between consenting adults; 2) It is an issue that is private, as it does not harm anyone else in society (the old Trudeau defense); and 3) What place is it for the government to stand between two people who love each other and want to reinforce their love and fidelity with religious and legal vows?
Gay marriage has quickly become a political issue with these main tenants, along with the rights granted in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as its main arguments. However, what happens when bisexuals ask why they aren’t allowed to marry a man and a woman, as they have the ability to love both? From there, why can’t polygamists demand that they be secured the right to marry whoever and as many as they wish?
Now don’t get me wrong, this is not an argument for polygamy, or against gay marriage. In fact, I’m not against gay marriage, and although I don’t overtly advocate it, it doesn’t bother me. Although the media is painting the issue as very black and white, the religious right versus the homosexual activist community, the fact is that most people don’t really care, it’s more of an issue of being comfortable with it or not. Most people across Canada, either for or against, are merely sitting in this gray area, and won’t be too concerned whichever way the gay marriage debate goes. As someone who’s fine with it I haven’t been able to understand those who just don’t feel comfortable with it… until now.
The Conservatives have brought up the issue of polygamy, and of course it’s not necessarily the same issue, but it does highlight a good point. All the arguments that have been used on behalf of gay marriage could be applied to polygamy (and to heterosexual marriage for that matter). So why don’t we also allow polygamy? Because most Canadians just don’t feel comfortable with the idea of polygamy, myself included. That’s not to say that most Canadians would never tolerate it.
Research says Canadians are pretty much split down the middle regarding their feelings of gay marriage, with the older generation against and the younger generations for. Similar research was done in 2003 by sociologist Reg Bibby with the Vanier Institute. He found that one in five said they would accept polygamy, but only four per cent said that they actually approve of it. That is the real problem–acceptance. Canadians have been conditioned to tolerate, it’s what the “cultural mosaic” is all about. However, Canadians, as a whole, must feel comfortable with societal changes. Without comfort, society becomes fragile and divided. We can not depend on laws and parliament to dictate what we as a society should accept. It is up to Parliament to tailor itself to the greater society and only pass laws which reflect and benefit society (it is important to note that any law passed that divided the nation, no matter how benevolent and right, could still be detrimental to society). Instead of activists on both sides of the debate fighting it out in parliament and court rooms, they should be trying to sway society as a whole, and not just voting populations. Before gay marriage can be an accepted legal reality, it must first be an issue that all Canadians feel comfortable with.
Our government could have taken the easy route and stayed out of the definition of marriage, and changed the wording to “legal union” among gays and straights, and left the definition of marriage up to individual churches. But of course that would have been too easy.