The headline states (ad copy in italics): "Does Your Member of Parliament Care About:"
- Freedom of Speech: Should it be against the law to publicly express your views on morality? Of course not. We live in a democracy, and freedom of speech is a cornerstone of that democracy. No one should be punished by the state for expressing opinions on an issue. However, freedom of speech is circumscribed by laws and traditions against slander and libel, so lets keep the debate civil and factual. When opponents of gay marriage frame the debate with derogatory insults about homosexuals, as David Warren did recently in the Western Standard (Oct. 23, 2006) saying, among other things, that "the Devil has control of the media, the courts, the bureaucracy and the education system", and "the systematic attack on our common law is part of a larger attack on all norms of public decency", then it’s hard to take the freedom of speech argument seriously. When the "Reverend" Fred Phelps in the US pickets funerals with placards saying "God Hates Fags", the principle of freedom of speech may allow him to do so, but Members of Congress should be free to ignore him.
- Freedom of Religion: Should clergy be protected from being forced to perform same sex marriages? Should marriage commissioners continue to lose their jobs? Should places of worship be protected? As far as clergy and places of worship are concerned, they should absolutely be protected from performing gay marriages if their doctrine forbids it. After all, membership in a church is voluntary, and if one doesn’t agree with the church’s position, one is usually free to leave. However, this right does not extend to civil marriage commissioners: their job is to uphold the law of the land, and if the law says that gays can marry, then that is the end of the discussion. No-one is forced to be a marriage commissioner - if you can’t in good conscience obey the law, then the decent thing is to resign your commission. Unlike membership in a church, citizenship is not voluntary; we cannot pick and choose which laws we will obey and which ones we will not, be it the criminal code or the federal marriage statutes.
- Children’s Rights? Should children lose their rights to a mother and a father? This is a common argument against gay marriage, but to me it is a non sequitur. Let’s face it - gay couples cannot have children on their own, so how does allowing gay couples to marry somehow deprive children of heterosexual parents? This may be an argument against gay couples adopting children, which is a totally separate issue from gay marriage, but gay couples don’t get married to split up existing family units. Furthermore, many gay households already include children (the figure in the US is 27%), usually the biological children of one member of the couple. Should these children be denied the right to live with married parents, even if they are the same sex? While we’re on the subject, the biggest reason for children growing up without a male and female parent is divorce, not gay marriage. Is Dr. McVety advocating changing Canada’s divorce laws as well?
- Teachers' and Parents' Rights? Should teachers be forced by law to teach same-sex relations to children? Should parents lose their authority over sexual curriculum taught to their children? See comment on marriage commissioners, above. If a teacher works in a public school, then he or she is obligated to follow the rules and regulations that govern the school system as determined by the democratically elected authorities who administer it. We cannot choose which laws we will obey and which ones we will not. Teachers who cannot in good conscience follow the law should get out of the profession or find employment in the private system. As far as parents are concerned, if you send your kids to a public school, you shouldn’t expect them to be treated differently from any other student. Again, we cannot pick and choose the laws we want to follow, and like it or not, provincial school curricula are the law of the land. If you cannot accept the moral tone of a public school, then work to change the tone through democratic channels, or send your children to a private school or home-school them. Of course, all parents have the right to instill whatever moral values they want in the privacy of their own homes and churches - it should be possible to teach your children private moral values while still sending them to an "immoral" public school, shouldn’t it?
- The Social Impact of Re-defining Marriage? Should Parliament study the impact of redefining marriage? France did, why not Canada? Well, let’s leave aside the argument that Canada should look to France for guidance on how to run a country. This debate has already happened in Canada, and the legislature has spoken. One can probably argue that the debate was perfunctory in 2005 and there is not yet enough evidence to assess the impact of the change, but the fact is that the law has been re-written and over 10 000 gay Canadians have been legally married since then. The social impact of changing the policy now may be worse - are we suddenly going to tell these couples that the legal partnerships they entered into in good faith are now null and void? If we allow currently married gay couples to stay married but forbid gay marriages in the future, that sets up an intolerable situation where the state gives privileges to some gay citizens but denies them to others. What signal does this send to society at large, that legally binding social contracts can be nullified by an emotional vote in Parliament?
- Serving Constituents? 64% of Canadians want Parliament to review existing legislation, according to a National Post/Institute for Canadian Values/ COMPAS poll. Will MP s vote according to their constituents or special interest? Well, we should always take poll results with a huge grain of salt. The Strategic Council did a poll this week that reported that only 38% of Canadians want the law changed to return marriage to its "traditional" definition. Anyway, we don’t make laws in this country by referendum - we elect Members of Parliament to vote in the legislature on our behalf, and that is a good thing - as English Prime Minister Robert Walpole said in 1738, "Are all desires proper to be gratified? Is an inflamed populace to give laws to the legislature?" Lets face it - one of the purposes of having an elected legislature pass laws rather than holding a referendum every time is to remove emotion and mob rule from the legislative process. This is one of those situations - there are emotional irrational arguments flying around on both sides of the debate, and Parliament should decide the issue in a free vote. MP s must take into account many aspects of the big picture nationally, including but not limited to the wishes of their local constituents, and for better or worse, we should let them make the decision. The proper time to pressure them is during an election - if enough people are unhappy with the direction of Parliament, then MP s get voted out. Dr. McVety and the Canadian Family Action Coalition tried unsuccessfully to target pro-gay-marriage MP s during the last election and failed. Try again next time, but let Parliament do its job now.
It is my wish that the vote in the House tomorrow is truly a free vote, and that a majority of MP s will decide to not re-open the debate on gay marriage. Stephen Harper can say to his "social conservative base" that he kept his campaign promise, and then drop the issue once and for all.