Cere on Same-Sex Marriage

In the excellent book edited by Daniel Cere and Douglas Farrow entitled Divorcing Marriage: Unveiling the Dangers in Canada’s New Social Experiment (McGill/Queens, 2004), Canadians are given an opportunity to evaluate the issue of same-sex marriage from an objective and scholarly perspective. Eleven academics come together in this one volume to offer their analysis from their respective areas of specialization.

Of particular interest is the essay written by one of the editors, Daniel Cere, entitled “War of the Ring.” Cere provides a historical survey of recent Canadian politics related to same-sex marriage, going back only a few years to 1999 when the federal parliament reaffirmed the traditional definition of marriage. How far we have come in so short a time! Cere catalogues the main events that took place explaining how Canada has got to where it is today. It has been a frightening ride, especially for one like myself who is horrified by the over-reaching arm of the state and government interventionism. I enjoy my democratic freedom as a Canadian, and to read the events that brought same-sex marriage in Canada to a legal status is nothing short of scary. Canadian rights and opinions have been left in a lurch in favour of the opinions of elitist politicians and judges who act as though they were a law unto themselves. Cere also offers a philosophical analysis of this change in marriage, poking at the presuppositions that lie behind this burning desire to push same-sex legislation through the courts at the cost of Canadian freedom.

Historical Analysis

As noted, the Canadian parliament reaffirmed the traditional definition of marriage in 1999 as between one man and one woman with the final vote of 216 to 55. In 2001 however, the British Columbia Supreme Court was faced with the first same-sex marriage case to be adjudicated on in Canada. They rejected it claiming that a change to the Canadian Constitution was needed before they could rule in the favour of the complainants. Of course, the impetus for change came in 2002 when the Ontario Supreme Court challenged the traditional definition of marriage in Halpern vs. Canada. After Halpern both the Quebec and B.C. Superior Courts followed suit. In the Ontario ruling, although not a specific redefinition of remarriage was offered, the court did rule that the existing definition was discriminatory.

The Halpern ruling “suggested three possible remedies: (a) redefine marriage as a union of two persons, or (b) establish a domestic partnership regime that would offer legal recognition for same-sex couples, or (c) abolish marriage as a category in law and set up some kind of neutral registry system” (Divorcing Marriage, 10).

In a move of Orwellian proportions, Halpern gave the government a two-year period to “consider legislative options” (Ibid). If the government failed to act quickly the courts would implement their change. For those who think that courts aren’t dangerous and don’t run the country, think again.

Responding to the Halpern request, the federal government set up a committee that travelled across Canada interviewing Canadians to find out their views on this issue. This appears to be the democratic thing to do and would have been if the courts had left it alone and let it play its course. The committee started their east to west tour of Canada in January and by June 10, 2003, the Ontario Court of Appeal stepped up and “declared that it would not bother to wait for the government, or for Canadians, to consider new legislative responses” (Ibid). Do we live in a free country where Canadians actually have a say? Or do we live in a court ruled by a totalitarian regime rendering the average citizen no meaning or opinion? When reading of this I realised that my opinion as a Canadian didn’t matter. It was the court’s way or the highway.

By June 12, 2003 the committee touring across Canada was called in and by June 17, 2003 “the federal cabinet announced that it would draft legislation changing the definition of marriage” (DM, 11). What happened to democracy? What happened to listening to the people? As can be seen from this ruling and parliamentary decision, Canada is not truly democratic. Socialism reigns supreme in Canada, and top-down decisions are the norm. The same-sex marriage issue is not the only one where Canadian values really aren’t considered.

Close Relationships

The change from the traditional definition of marriage is based upon the idea promulgated by the socialist elite in government and in the courts (not to mention the state-funded media) that marriage that is only heterosexual is discriminatory. Instead, a definition based upon “close relationships” was offered and accepted. This means that the traditional view with its definition of marriage based upon the ability to procreate and nurture is done away with in favour of a definition based upon “emotional, psychological, or sexual satisfaction” (DM, 12). As Cere defines close, or “pure,” relationships:

Pure relationships, unlike marriages, are the ever-changing product of private negotiation. In so far as marriage itself is drawn into this new culture of intimacy, it is placed on a level playing field with all other ‘long-term’ sexual partnerships. Severed from its historic roots in sex difference, permanence, and children, it becomes nothing other or more than a form of intimacy between consenting adults (Ibid).

As Cere rightly observes, this makes “marriage” malleable, open to change, easy to contract and easy to dissolve.

It has been noted that the actions of the court and the Liberal parliament at that time were anti-democratic in that they forced legislation without considering the values of Canadian citizens. But there is another, greater sense in which freedom is being robbed from Canadians, as Cere points out. By changing the definition of marriage to make room for homosexuals, heterosexual marriage by default becomes meaningless. Cere offers a quote by Ladelle McWhorter, a gay and lesbian theorist, who makes some striking statements about the ramifications that same-sex marriage will have on opposite-sex marriage. She says, “our presence will change those institutions…enough to undermine their preferred version of heterosexuality and, in turn, they themselves will not be the same” [McWhorter, Bodies and Pleasures: Foucault and the Politics of Sexual Normalization (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999), 125 cited in DM, 14]. Cere follows this quote with another like it from the Ontario Court of Appeal that argued that the meaning of marriage must meet “the needs, capacities and circumstances of same-sex couples, not…the needs, capacities and circumstances of opposite-sex couples.” It is incredible that for the sake of a minority, who statistically do not get married, an institution is drastically changed and denigrated so that those who do use it are left with practically nothing.

Russia

Another aspect of Cere’s essay that particularly enlightening was the connection that he drew between the redefinition of marriage and Marxism. For a while now I have been involved myself in the study of whether or not Marxism has left the west. It has occurred to me in this essay that Marxism is not gone, though it lies quietly under the surface of Canadian politics.

Cere draws the link between the “close-relationship paradigm” to Karl Marx’s comrade-in-arms, Friederich Engels. Teaming with famed “sexologists” such as Margaret Mead and Aldred Kinsey, the Soviet Marxists brought this paradigm into Russia. The resulting consequences were damaging to Russian society. Cere provides an example in the Soviet feminist Aleksandra Kollantai.

Kollantai was, as Cere says, “an enthusiastic proponent of this vision of marriage” (DM, 16). She advocated that a new marriage culture must be enacted based only upon “mutual love.” Kollantai was the Commissar of Social Welfare in Russia and had the authority to put this new version of watered-down marriage into practice. This was done in the 1920s and by the 1930s the society was in serious trouble. Cere notes that the average Russian family had become destabilized and divorce rates were on the rise. “Temporary cohabitation” was common, birth rates were in decline and children fell through the cracks of broken marriages and often ended up on the streets. By 1936 the Soviets began to reverse their policies on marriage recognising the negative effect it was having on the country. Unfortunately, Canadians don’t learn from history.

Canada

Even before same-sex marriage was on the books in Canada, policies were in place that slowly eroded society on family-lines. With abortion, no-fault divorce and now same-sex marriage, the statistics in Canada are akin to those of Russia in the twenties and thirties. It is even worse in Quebec where a postmodern, pluralistic mindset has gripped the people. The statistics that Cere provides are frightening. For instance, in Canada the marriage rate went from 7.1 in 1987 to 5.1 in 1998. The divorce rate is at 40% and the average age of marrying is 32 for women and 34 for men; it was much younger in the sixties. Cohabitation has “more than doubled” Cere says since 1981 and single-parent families have risen 50% since then. Cere sums up his findings by saying, “Canadians, in other words, are increasingly having difficulty in forming and maintaining families. They are also bringing fewer children into the world” (DM, 18).

In spite of the negative attitude that is directed to those of who advocate retaining the traditional definition of marriage, the majority of Canadians are statistically in favour of the traditional view; 67% in fact. As Cere insightfully observes, Canadian views are not based on prejudice, rather on the recognition that as marriage goes, so goes the country. In fact, most of those in favour of keeping the traditional definition are also in favour of giving benefits to homosexual couples.

Conclusion

There is much more to Cere’s essay that goes beyond the scope of this blogpost. Cere does well both in his evaluation of polygamy and polyamory. He also does well in evaluating the presuppositions that drive the push for same-sex marriage; for more on that you will have to read the rest of his article. He also brings up interesting discussions as to why Svend Robinson had declined to “marry” his partner even after same-sex marriage was made legal, and the statistics that demonstrate that most gay couples do not actually want to get married. Cere does a good job explaining why marriage necessitates commitment, which is something that many homosexuals, who are often promiscuous, do not always want. The point of this evaluation was to demonstrate, based on Cere’s work, that an agenda exists within government that vies for state control over Canadians. The prime example of this wanted to point out is found in the historical example of same-sex marriage. I hope that readers of this blog will pick up Divorcing Marriage and read Cere and the other authors for themselves. It will hopefully prove to be an eye-opener for Canadians and a catalyst for change in this country.

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