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An Open Letter: Why the Fear of Same-Sex Marriage? - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

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An Open Letter: Why the Fear of Same-Sex Marriage? [Jan. 20th, 2005|10:03 pm]
Young Geoffrey
This week, Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic released an open letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin, on the Federal Government's intention to put same-sex marriage on an equal plane with heterosexual marriage.

I was unable to resist my urge to tilt at windmills.


Dear Cardinal,

I am not a Catholic and never have been, though I was for a time schooled under your church's tutelage, during which time I was imparted with such "facts" as that "Man killed off the dinosaurs".

Nevertheless, since you have seen fit to enter the secular debate on same-sex marriage using your (notably un-elected position as a bully-pulpit), it is my duty as a concerned citizen to use my own, also unelected, position as a blogger to respond to your letter to our Prime Minister.

As I am aware of your position within the hierarchy of your church, it is only fair that you understand mine. I have no position save that as citizen. I do not claim to speak for others. I represent only myself.

I am an atheist, not apostate (despite the aforementioned Roman Catholic schooling - in the benighted days of my youth, a French education meant a Catholic education).

As you have no doubt guessed, I am in favour of equal rights for all citizens. I support the recognition of same-sex marriage as no more and no less legitimate in the eyes of the law as the marriage between a man and a woman. I support the right of homosexual Canadians to live in full legal equality with their heterosexual fellows.

Your letter to the Prime Minister is a masterpiece of apparently thoughtful discourse and I commend you for eschewing such terms as "evil", "gravely immoral" and "depravity" while setting forth your views.

Nevertheless, I cannot help but sense the heart-beat of the Inquisition lurking beneath your liberal-minded rhetoric.

You say that, "So far the debate has been among lawyers. It is time for there to be a debate in Canadian society as a whole. It is time for ordinary Canadians to be given a sufficient opportunity to discuss the issues and to reflect on the deeper implications before a debate occurs in Parliament and a decision is made that could irrevocably change the nature of marriage and the family in Canada."

In my world, Cardinal, the debate - sometimes heated - has been ongoing for nearly 2 years. It has been discussed around my family dinner-table and over drinks with friends; it has been debated on the radio and on television and has taken up many column inches in every newspaper with which I am familiar. To imply that Canadians are only now waking up to the issue is at best rhetorical over-kill.

You say your "purpose in writing this open letter to you is to urge caution in taking this step towards the re-definition of marriage", but your ultimate position - that same-sex marriage is wrong - indeed, that it is worse than wrong and will prove a catastrophe for our society is well-known and is, indeed, both implicit and explicit in your Letter.

You say that "social structures like marriage and the family that lie at the core of our society" and go on to claim those structures are imbued with "wisdom and experience of the ages".

Let us leave aside the fact that the "wisdom and experience of the ages" include such "facts" as that slavery is a given, that women should not have the vote (indeed, that the vote itself is an affront to God!) or that families of many kinds preceded your church itself.

Instead, permit me to question your contention that "social structures like marriage and the family that lie at the core of our society".

If you refer to "social structures" alone, your statement is so vague as to be meaningless. I can think of no "social structure" remotely like the "traditional" family.

If by "the family" you refer to the union of a man and a woman, sanctified by your church, for most of Western history, you refer to an institution that was unavailable to the great mass of the people and that, for the aristocracy, had much more to do with political economy than it did with love.

The foundation of your argument is based on a premise that is at best incomplete; at worst, it is disingenuous.

You go on to claim that allowing same-sex marriage "poses significant social risks", but neglect to say what they are. The closest you come is to say that permitting same-sex marriage will lead to teaching young Canadians that "homosexual activity and heterosexual activity are morally equivalent" but neglect to explain why they are not.

Those who maintain that so-called "victimless crimes" such as (illegal) drug use should remain so-classified can at least point to actual, physical, harm caused by those crimes. Your fear, that "[p]ublic schools will be required to provide sex education in that light" is a circular argument that only panders to the fear at the heart of your Letter.

You ask if it is fair to "put children in the position of having to reconcile the values and beliefs of their parents with a novel state-sponsored understanding of marriage that may not be truly supported by the majority of Canadians?"

Leaving aside the fact that all public education is "state-sponsored" (are you calling for a return to a strictly parochial education system? If so, please say so), the education system is supposed to encourage its students to question received authority - anything less is indoctrination, not education.

You further ask the Prime Minister if has "received assurances from provincial premiers that they are providing legislative protection for the right of religious officials and organizations to decline to celebrate same-sex marriages that are contrary to their faith?"

Cardinal, I know of no one in this country who has proposed denying your church - or any other - the right to be as exclusive in its offering of rites as it chooses to be. The Federal Government's proposed legislation is inclusive, not exclusive: it proposes to acknowledge the marriages performed by some churches as as legitimate as those performed by yours.

Have you forgotten that there is more than 1 church in this country that has been blessing same-sex unions, as marriages, for many years? What about the rights of those churches, and of their adherents?

Finally, you ask the Prime Minister to invoke the notwithstanding clause of our Constitution, in order (you say) to provide the citizens of our country a 5-year period in which to debate the merits of this issue.

On the surface, this appears to be a reasonable request. After all, the prejudice against homosexuality runs deep in the hearts of many Canadians, the idea that society as a whole would sanction their unions as "marriage" even more so. Many people will be upset, offended and horrified.

But I do not believe the psychological discomfort at the actions of other people is sufficient grounds to deny those other people their human rights as guaranteed by Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter was expressly enacted in large part in order to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. (And, it should be noted, even you admit there is no incontrovertible evidence to suggest that those who oppose same-sex marriage constitute a majority of this country's population.)

To deny full citizenship to an individual, or to groups of individuals, one is obliged to show harm, not merely to cower before the possibility that children will be challenged to question the thinking of their parents.

Yours sincerely,


Geoffrey Dow, citizen

[Cross-posted to Canadian and Canadakicksass.]
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: sabotabby
2005-01-21 04:43 am (UTC)
Not to mention that to many Canadians (as was pointed out on CBC the other day), the "traditional" definition of marriage includes polygamy.

Awesome letter, but that's to be expected. ;)
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From: patriarch420
2005-01-21 11:56 am (UTC)
It's a real piss off that your intensely articulate letter will never reach the Cardinal. Moreover, if someone with some political power/the cardinal *did* read it, I'm sure it might sway ...or at least slap some sense into those opposed to same-sex marriages. But I do not believe the psychological discomfort at the actions of other people is sufficient grounds to deny those other people their human rights as guaranteed by Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms you nailed it, baby. And yeah, it will "horrify" a lot of the h-core catholics and what not. But, like you said, that's still not enough to deny someone's rights that are, by law, given in the Charter.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2005-01-22 04:11 pm (UTC)
It's a real piss off that your intensely articulate letter will never reach the Cardinal.

It might; I did email a copy to the archdioceses website. Whether the web-master will forward it is another question.
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[User Picture]From: sooguy
2005-01-21 01:53 pm (UTC)

Like Minds...

I too was incensed by the Cardinal's letter and discussion in the papers and on TV in the past week. I was tempted to write a letter to the editor full of bombastic outrage, but I don't think I could have done it as eleqouently or risen to the challenge as well as you have here.

I would hope that took the time to forward it to the powers-that-be instead of just firing it off into the cyber-ether. I somehow doubt the good Cardinal reads LJ.

Good work.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2005-01-22 04:11 pm (UTC)

Re: Like Minds...

I did, though the only mail-to link I could find on the site sends email to the web-master. I'll let you guys know if I get a response.
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-01-31 05:46 pm (UTC)

Geoff strikes again!

Cardinal, I know of no one in this country who has proposed denying your church - or any other - the right to be as exclusive in its offering of rites as it chooses to be.

Give the government -- or, more likely, the courts -- time. No one is proposing it -- yet.

Is the Church being unduly paranoid? So far, its schools have been told that they cannot prevent a gay student from attending a school-sponsored prom with his boyfriend, although his "lifestyle" is clearly contrary to Church teaching (despite the nonsense on that point in the relevant court decision).

Let's look at the matter this way. The advocates of the change to the definition of marriage have said again and again that this is a civil rights question, no different from the questions asked and answered by the civil rights movement in the United States in the 50s and 60s. Accepting that the analogy is apposite, ask yourself how long would we tolerate a church that refused to baptize black babies? How long would we permit it to continue to enjoy tax-exempt status?
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-02-02 10:40 pm (UTC)

Geoff strikes again! Again!

But I do not believe the psychological discomfort at the actions of other people is sufficient grounds to deny those other people their human rights as guaranteed by Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Interestingly, the real ground for changing the definition of marriage appears to be that _not_ to do so would impose psychological discomfort.

Why not simply change the law to recognize "civil unions", a separate but equal legal category? By "separate but equal" I do not mean "separate but not really equal", which was the subterfuge to which Jim Crow resorted. I mean _really_ equal, in terms of the conferral of rights and responsibilities under our law (as exists now under our Income Tax Act). Why isn't that good enough? Because (some) gays and lesbians want the pyschological comfort that comes with the marriage label. It is about _recognition_, which is to say it is about providing pyschological benefits to a certain class of people who have been discriminated against historically.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2005-02-04 01:21 am (UTC)

Re: Geoff strikes again! Again!

I really don't much like you anonymous commentators; so I am going to treat these last remarks as coming from the same person.

"Cardinal, I know of no one in this country who has proposed denying your church - or any other - the right to be as exclusive in its offering of rites as it chooses to be."

Give the government -- or, more likely, the courts -- time. No one is proposing it -- yet.


As I think I said before, when that day comes, you'll find me lined up with you.

Is the Church being unduly paranoid? So far, its schools have been told that they cannot prevent a gay student from attending a school-sponsored prom with his boyfriend, although his "lifestyle" is clearly contrary to Church teaching (despite the nonsense on that point in the relevant court decision).

I don't know what "nonsense" you're talking about.

I do know that the parochial school system in Ontario and some other provinces is an unfortunate legacy of the 1867 constitution.

As soon as the Catholic church stops taking public money to run their school system, I will join it in its objection to having to live by this country's secular rules.

Let's look at the matter this way. The advocates of the change to the definition of marriage have said again and again that this is a civil rights question, no different from the questions asked and answered by the civil rights movement in the United States in the 50s and 60s. Accepting that the analogy is apposite, ask yourself how long would we tolerate a church that refused to baptize black babies? How long would we permit it to continue to enjoy tax-exempt status?

That's an interesting question, and possibly relevant.

Why should any church receive government/public funding? Leaving aside constitutional legacy, why should Wiccans, or Catholics, or Muslims, or the Church of Bob, be subsidized by a public who does not believe in their creeds?

For what it's worth, I don't think that racist churches should be so subsidized. Nor do a I think churches that discriminate against gays should be so subsidized.

Interestingly, the real ground for changing the definition of marriage appears to be that _not_ to do so would impose psychological discomfort.

That's simply not true.

The "real grounds for changing the definition of marriage" comes from the (entirely healthy) desire of gays to be treated (by the state) as full and equal citizens.

Being told that one's relationships are of a different (and lesser) order is to be told that one is of a different and lesser order. Symbols do matter. If you really mean that a "civil union" is the same as "marriage", then the state has to acknowledge that they are the same. To do otherwise is to establish a 2-class system, wherein gays are of a lesser order than straights.

Why not simply change the law to recognize "civil unions", a separate but equal legal category?

This is a reasonable option, though I suspect that politically, it is a non-starter.

What you (whoever the fuck you are) are proposing is that the state would not acknowledge "marriage" at all. That the state would acknowledge "civil unions" - gay, straight, whatever - but that marriage itself, would have no legal meaning.

Personally, I have no problem with that. The Roman Catholic Church could bless (legally meaningless) straight marriages and other churches could bless (just as legally meaningless) same-sex marriages.

Since I don't belong to any church, and don't want to, this works for me. How that would play out in international law, I'm not so sure.

So long as we, as a society, think the state has any business at all defining "marriage", the state has to treat all religions the same.
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