Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

« NORMAN'S SPECTATOR | Main | Fighting Obesity »

Friday, February 18, 2005

Moving Beyond the Gay “Marriage” Debate

You’ve all been dying to know, I’m sure, what effect the inevitable passage of Bill C-38 will have on the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act (“MPDA”) (which was not, by the way, enacted in response to any specific Maritime families).

Bill C-38 makes the following consequential amendment to the MPDA:

13. Subsection 2(2) of the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act is replaced by the following:

(2) No person shall marry another person if they are related lineally, or as brother or sister or half-brother or half-sister, including by adoption.

The MPDA currently states as follows:

2. (1) Subject to subsection (2), persons related by consanguinity, affinity or adoption are not prohibited from marrying each other by reason only of their relationship.

(2) No person shall marry another person if they are related

(a) lineally by consanguinity or adoption;

(b) as brother and sister by consanguinity, whether by the whole blood or by the half-blood; or

(c) as brother and sister by adoption.

What is the rationale behind the MPDA? If prohibiting certain degrees of consanguinity is purely a question of inbreeding, why did Parliament enact the prohibition against adoptive brothers and sisters marrying in s. 2(1)(c)? Why will the prohibition against adoptive relations marrying remain in place? Have we not discarded such quaint notions of propriety, and of the procreational purposes of marriage? Why should the MPDA even apply to gay people? It’s my understanding that they tend in general not to produce offspring (at least with each other). Doesn’t the MPDA unconstitutionally restrict freedom of association? Is it demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society?

Posted by Alan Rockwell on February 18, 2005 | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Moving Beyond the Gay “Marriage” Debate:


What, then, is the function of marriage in a society? You are rejecting its function as procreative. Why?

There are two biological facts that define our species: (1) procreation is sexual rather than autopoietic and requires two genders; and (2) the offspring of homo sapiens requires a long nuturance and socializing period before attaining its own reproductive and economic capacity (about 12 years). Socialization is required in our species because our knowledge base is learned rather than genetically carried. Additionally, as our knowledge base becomes more complex, the nurturance period becomes much longer.

If human society is a means of satisfying at a minimum, these two biological requirements for continuity of the species - then, how is this best accomplished?

All societies, even those completely unknown to each other, have all come up with a similar 'modus operandus' for this biological requirement: at a minimum, a socially legitimized 'reproductive and enculturation unit' - defined as the family, made up of opposite genders, and serving to both biologically reproduce and socialize the offspring.

What are you suggesting will replace this biological and socialization unit? Is the collective - whether as envisaged in Plato's totalitarian Republic, or the socialist Third Reich or Canada's own Residential Schools for natives - is the collective in a multi-million size population capable of this task? Is the removal of individual participation in this task - the best choice?

And - 'freedom of association' does not, in my understanding, have anything to do with the above 'marriage unit'. Freedom of association - and I may be wrong, refers to alliances that function within a particular conceptual ideology - whether it be the local Cooking for Singles club or a political 'Get Rid of the Liberals group'. Or, freedom to associate with X-jerk and Y-other jerk. Adding the value of 'marriage to that jerk' is a secondary issue.

Posted by: ET | 2005-02-18 7:45:56 AM

Excellent. Pot stirred. Mission accomplished.

Posted by: AR | 2005-02-18 8:06:37 AM

Whooee! Now I already come out an' sed that I don't think there's any harm in boy-boy girl-girl marryin' but this here argeement 'bout marryin' bein' all about makin' babies puts the dick into reedickalus. If makin' babies is the measure o' whether a weddin' oughta be a legal like, then ol' Bonnie Prince Charlie an' Milly Parker BowlinPin oughta be barred from marryin' cause there ain't no way that an ol' gal like Milly's gonna be producin' any fruit from them ol' loins o' hers.

Yores trooly,

Posted by: JimBobby | 2005-02-18 8:15:25 AM

JB -

All those apostrophes are hard on the eyes.

Posted by: AR | 2005-02-18 8:34:02 AM

JimBobby - first, why not stop with the overblown semantic self-image and just stick to the topic - i.e., don't dress up your argument with your Cowboy Costume; it's irrelevant. You may be having fun but it doesn't advance your argument. just state your case in itself - without the background music, mangled verbiage and foot-stomping. Oh- and quit the sneers at her lack of beauty.

As for your example of a marriage with no chance for reproduction, being used to conclude that therefore, marriage as a definition of reproductive and nurturance functions is invalid - that's a completely fallacious argument. It's statistically false to conclude that because a small percentage of cases does not satisfy the full values of a definition, then, the definition itself is false and crumbles. That would be like saying that someone without the capacity for language is not a member of the homo sapiens species, since language IS a characteristic of the species. Statistical accidents do not detract in any measure from a valid definition.

I maintain my case; marriage developed universally to ensure reproduction of the species and socialization of the offspring. Therefore, IF a society rejects marriage as the method of achieving these goals - and these goals must be achieved or the society disappears - then - what should a society develop in place of marriage?

How about answering my question? Without Dressing-Up as a Cowboy.

Posted by: ET | 2005-02-18 8:42:28 AM

Laws like that have been around long before anyone discovered the genetic risks involved. They were put in place to keep wealth from being tied up in a family generation after generation. Hence the prohibition for adoption.

Posted by: nBob | 2005-02-18 9:01:11 AM

This might be a diversion, but I don't think that a law, whether institutional or traditional, against in-family marriage was to prevent in-family retention of wealth.

I think that indigeneous peoples were well aware of genetic problems with inbreeding.

When you had a tribal economy in existence, based for example, around animals or land as capital, then, it would be necessary for the family to retain control of this capital. If you married outside of your family - a requirement in all societies, due to genetics, then, your family would have to be economically compensated for the loss to the family of work and reproductive power. This could be achieved by bride wealth transference, where the loss of a woman's children would be compensated by, let's say, 10 cattle to her clan-family. Or, in another instance, the male might have to work for her family to prevent loss of work-power.

My point is that in non-industrial societies, wealth HAD to be tied up in the family/clan, for this unit was not merely the reproductive but also the major socializing and economic unit.

Posted by: ET | 2005-02-18 9:25:08 AM

Whooee! Ol' nBobby's got the wind in his sails an' he's sayin' sum big words that's got ol' JimBobby a bit confuddled. First off, nBobBoy, I ain't got me any cows an' I ain't rode a horse in quite a spell. I do got me a coupla lezzy gals livin' next door an' if they's t' get hitched that ain't gonna be no skin offa my nose or hurt the happy family that Ma an' I built up fer ourselves.

Ol' nBob don't take a shine t' my way o' writin' an' ol' JimBobby ken take a hint so if you other fellers an' gals'd rather I don't drop by an' comment on yer bigtime Shotgun boog, I'll jest walk away an' mind my own bizness. If anybuddy wants come on over t' ol' JimBobby Sez an chew the fat, I won't be all uppity 'bout yer possterfees or if yer spellin' an' grammar ain't all purtylike.

Yores trooly,

Posted by: JimBobby | 2005-02-18 9:31:47 AM

ET, your reasoning is sound! The canard about childless couples changes nothing in what you've said. The fact that a few people decide not to have children or marry to late in life to have offspring doesn't distract from your core argument. As you pointed out, they're a meaningless statistic when you step back and look at the whole portrait.

For the vast majority of couples who have kids, a word of advice: Don't let 'yer sons grow up to be cowboys.........

They'll end up married to girls who just CAIN'T say "no".

Posted by: J.P. | 2005-02-18 9:57:07 AM

I'm not an expert by any means, but my limited undertsanding of laws against incest and incestuous marriage is that prevention of inbreeding is not their sole or even their primary goal (though it's a terrific side-effect, at the very least). There are powerful social and economic reasons for such laws, to which the distinction between consanguinity and adoption does not apply. http://www.umanitoba.ca/faculties/arts/anthropology/tutor/marriage/incest.html has some information.

Posted by: CSelley | 2005-02-18 10:29:49 AM

Well, in many cases, the social reasons often function to support basic material causality. But you are right about economic reasons for out-of-family marriages. What these external marriages do, above all, is forge bonds, such that Clan A and Clan B do not fight over supplies but work together.

Marriages in non-industrial societies were always economic unions, functioning to establish and maintain economic partnerships and prevent warfare. This system, a society based around kinship alliances, worked very well in no-growth economies. These marriages then established trade alliances, work partnerships etc etc.

In our industrial economies, the function of marriage as an economic network, has disappeared. But, this still doesn't answer the question of marriage as a means of reproduction of the species and the marriage unit as the means of socialization of offspring.

Posted by: ET | 2005-02-18 12:47:33 PM

ET, your point is well taken. But I'm at pains to see what bearing it has on a, let's say, constructed institution of same-sex marriage--if such a thing were to come about. Evolutionary imperatives under-grid the cultural/societal framework of traditional marriage and child nurturance, point duly and obviously conceded.

Are you saying, and this I hope not, that but for the creeping possibility of same-sex marriage, the institution of traditional marriage would be stronger? This is a strong assertion indeed, and I may have just tendentiously attributed it to your argument—apologizes. Though, the argument (against same-sex marriage generally) seems to impute a harm factor to same-sex marriage: since it’s physiologically incongruous, so goes the saying, no sense is made of its social existence. Further, it creates an immediate societal harm that enervates traditional marriage.

I’d simply and flatly say no. The threat, if any, is existential—an authentic Kierkegaardian dread—viz. Christian dread.

Then of course one is dragged into the nature/nurture argument: is homosexuality genetically determined or socially learned? Since I’m of the opinion—grounded on the scientific research that agrees with my opinion (there’re gay dolphins!)—that homosexuality is genetically determined—I see no need for my heterosexual brethren to worry about gay propaganda socializing young boys and girls into licentious homosexuals.

Otherwise, doesn’t that line of reasoning, that homosexuality is socially corrupting a malleable population, throw into disarray traditional marriage: if homosexuals can choose their life style, do heterosexuals also?

What I’m essentially saying is that a very, incredibly, convincingly persuasive case must be made that same-sex marriage is not only anathema to traditional marriage, but fatal to society writ large. That, however, is very unlikely.

Through the millennia we’ve constructed mechanical implements and artificial prostheses to complement and amplify the traditional and natural abilities that we’ve evolved. In the process, we’ve unwittingly destroyed many things. We’ve, alternatively, created much more. Recognizing that there are social and relational arrangements that exist outside of the institutional purview isn’t against nature. It is nature. Nature is a physical animal that meets social contingency. If same-sex marriage somehow inhibits heterosexual couples from having children, then I’m against it. But if same-sex marriage extends the civil and legal benefits that are afforded to traditional couples, then I’m wholeheartedly in favor. The canard about polygamous marriage isn’t a passionate concern for traditional marriage. It’s called poisoning the well. Let’s not be Aristotelians. Tell me why same-sex marriage hurts traditional marriage?

(Again, civil union, marriage, we quibble with words. Staunch advocates for same-sex marriage are pushing too hard, I believe, for that word; but same-sex marriage opponents are covetously suffocating a dead relic: I mean to say the word marriage.)

Posted by: Ron Mashate | 2005-02-18 1:16:31 PM

Huh? I think you've mistaken me for someone else maybe?

Posted by: nBob | 2005-02-18 1:42:47 PM

Good God. A civil, even academic debate. I was hoping for some inbreeding jokes. Well, at least we have a hillbilly participant.

Posted by: AR | 2005-02-18 1:52:22 PM

Whooee! nBobFeller, yer right as rain. I did make me a big ol' mistake there an' now I see that it was ET that was takin' ol' JimBobby down a notch. I got confuddled an' thought the name at the top o' the comment was who was postin' an not the name underneath. I'm humbly beggin' yer fergiveness fer talkin' all sharp an' pointy at you when it was ET that shoulda been the target o' my invective speechifyin'.

ET, everything I said addressing nBob was meant fer you. I reckon yer a snooty-tooty monarchy social butterfly what's buddy-buddy with ol' General Clarkson an' her snooty bunch Queen lovers an' that's partly why you got all huffy when I sed sumpin' 'bout ol' Prince Charlie an' his mistressgal Parker BowlinPin. The other part is you don't like my way o' writin' but jest remember what Marshall Dillon's boy, Bobby, sed - "The times they are a-changin' " Ol' Bobby Dillon weren't no cowboy an' I ain't neither.

Yores trooly,

Posted by: JimBobby | 2005-02-18 2:50:25 PM


"Then of course one is dragged into the nature/nurture argument: is homosexuality genetically determined or socially learned?"

Tbere is a third option - its called a choice. Obviously, both genetics and socialization may influence how we want to choose, but that doesn't change the fact that we do have choices to make in our lives. Those choices can be based on more than desires. (plus, if being gay is a gene, its amazing that it keeps being passed down.)

"Let’s not be Aristotelians. Tell me why same-sex marriage hurts traditional marriage?"

What's wrong with being Aristotelian?

SSM hurts the purpose of traditional marriage: having a family, raising your own children to be healthy human beings (and good citizens) and so on. That some married couples can't have children does not change this definition. It just means there is something physically wrong with them. Their's is a tragic marriage (at least in this one way) because they can not completely fulfill it.

Consider the human being defined by 2 arms, 2 legs, eyes, etc. That someone might be born without an arm does not make them less human, but we still recognize that they are not what we want human beings to be. There is a problem with them.

In the same way we legistlate marriage with a goal in mind - the raising of families.

By the way, what to SSM advocates think the purpose of marriage is? To show one another you love each other? Well you certainly don't have to be married to do that (and never have.)
Why is nobody able to answer this question?

Posted by: Pat C | 2005-02-18 3:06:10 PM

Plus, any one who has read "1984" is well aware of the problems with the government controlling the definition of words.

Posted by: Pat C | 2005-02-18 3:08:41 PM

"SSM hurts the purpose of traditional marriage: having a family, raising your own children to be healthy human beings (and good citizens) and so on."

But it's clear that marriage, in the form of a certificate from the government, is not a requirement for this purpose. And even if it were, how does SSM "hurt" the purpose? Let me recast that, since there are no disembodied purposes out there, only individual people with goals: How does SSM hinder a heterosexual couple from their goal of having a family and raising healthy children?

Posted by: Mark Wickens | 2005-02-18 5:32:22 PM

Pat C; I'm not certain if that was a shot at sarcasm, if so, keep trying--otherwise, the entirety of your post was nonsense, utterly. At times, your ethereally clothed, meandering editorializing appeared to pass as cogent argument; however, your esoterically sententious code aimed at homosexuals who make the wrong choice kills the integrity of your putative cogence.

Quite simply, your post was confused and confusing. I would no sooner reason with a mad dog.

Posted by: Ron Mashate | 2005-02-18 7:12:26 PM

Mark, you write:

"But it's clear that marriage, in the form of a certificate from the government, is not a requirement for this purpose. And even if it were, how does SSM "hurt" the purpose?"

The government certifies marriage (traditionally speaking) in part because it wants to encourage families and the other things I listed. It wants to emphasize and reinforce the good that marriage does for society. If we allow SSM, the purpose of marriage is undermined. While people obviously still CAN "have a family, raising your own children to be healthy human beings (and good citizens) and so on" they will be less likely to do so.

This is why I asked:

"what do SSM advocates think the purpose of marriage is?"

If this legistlation passes, marriage becomes closer to being a nothingness, no different than a long-term one night stand.

An appropriate analogy might be the removing of speed limits. While people still CAN drive 50 km/h on residential streets, we can safely assume that fewer will. This would probably not be a good thing.

Posted by: Pat C | 2005-02-18 7:19:04 PM


Big words but little argument.

Oh. I'm sorry. I was mistaken - you don't even have an argument.

But just keep calling me names - that's always an effective strategy (you must be a Liberal.)

Posted by: Pat C | 2005-02-18 7:24:45 PM

Now there I go calling you names. You sucked me in. Sorry.

Posted by: Pat C | 2005-02-18 7:25:38 PM

"The government certifies marriage (traditionally speaking) in part because it wants to encourage families and the other things I listed."

So the purpose you're concerned about here is not that of any of the actual people getting married, but the purpose of the government. This is where we fundamentally disagree. I don't think the government ought to have any purpose -- in marriage or anything else -- other than protecting individual rights. It certainly shouldn't be "encouraging" whatever it thinks is best for society. Conservatives who take this line should stop to think how they are echoing the nanny-state, government-knows-best attitude they rightly criticize leftists for.

Posted by: Mark Wickens | 2005-02-18 9:21:35 PM

JimBobby, out here in northwest Texas where I live, people really do have cattle, ride horses, own guns, wear boots, and drive pickup trucks. Some of them even talk a little like your foolish characterization.

One of the hallmarks of the people out here who are the real thing is that we are almost unanimously pro-traditional marriage.

Posted by: Greg outside Dallas | 2005-02-18 9:46:51 PM

"what do SSM advocates think the purpose of marriage is?"

The Bible sez it’s a cure for lust -surely homosexuals should not be deprived such medication.

Some authors think it domesticates the couple, forces them to deal with give and take, chores and responsibilities, respect for others, etc and so prepares them to be better citizens- do we not want better gay citizens?

What is common about the institution of marriage across time, and whether arranged or for love, is a peaceful mechanism for the accumulation, use and dissemination of property. It creates an “artificial person” in the same way a Ltd. company or LLP is treated as a single person and adds efficiency to the economy.

Why does an artificial person need a penis and a vagina if its artificial? Why should we deny gays, who, we’re told on average have higher disposable incomes, this mechanism for dealing with their property and wealth?

It creates a solemn legal relationship with the highest of fiduciary duties attached (e.g. parties to other artificial person relationships are compellable witnesses against each other - not so married couples ). It answers a basic need in many people to have a confidant in whom they can place the utmost trust. Something not available in a non-binding common law relationships. Why keep homosexuals from this happiness?

When you say the state needs to encourage marriage as the means to “have a family, raising your own children to be healthy human beings (and good citizens) and so on" you are being offensive to bastards and adopted children by implying they are a burden on society. Every reputable study done shows that there is no real difference between children raised in married homes vs. common law homes ( or for that matter single / duel parent, straight/gay) . The state can not demonstrate a pressing and substantial need to maintain OSM on the grounds it makes for healthier well behaved citizens.

Your fear that people will be less inclined to get married if “the purpose of marriage is undermined” is unfounded. As you note people CAN raise a family without being married today. Couples who bother to take the extra step don’t do it because it will make their kids healthier or well rounded. They do it because they want to be bound by something greater than mere affection or the sharing of offspring. They want to create an entity that is more meaningful than two people living together. That will not change just because homosexuals can also form exclusive solemn artificial persons.

Posted by: nBob | 2005-02-18 11:09:33 PM

NBob said “Every reputable study done shows that there is no real difference between children raised in married homes vs. common law homes”

Check your facts. Every reputable study shows that common law marriages have sky-high divorce rates. Every reputable study also shows that divorce sucks, especially for the kids.

Education matters. Health care matters. Unemployment matters. National debt matters. The environment matters. National security matters. All of it combined is not equal to the damage we will do if we screw up the family. Please don’t be glib. The stakes are very high.

Posted by: Pete E | 2005-02-19 3:05:56 AM

Mark Wickens asks “How does SSM hinder a heterosexual couple from their goal of having a family and raising healthy children?”

In short, changing the definition of marriage by government fiat degrades the dignity of marriage.

Do you scoff at a phrase like “ the dignity of marriage”? The SSM advocates surely don’t. All the legal trappings of marriage are available to gay unions in the Conservative proposals. The only issue left to debate is the dignity and respect associated with the word.

In the last hundred years (and longer), marriage has earned one reputation. Homosexuality has earned another. Homosexuals don’t like their reputation and would like to appropriate a different one. They covet the reputation another group has earned.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. When society started referring to the village idiot as “retarded” and later referring to retarded people as “special”, it never improved their dignity, It did, however, degrade the word "special". People are not so easily fooled. Reputations can not be appropriated.

Returning to Mark, the main effect of SSM is NOT to obstruct the young heterosexual couple that has already set a goal of having a family and raising healthy children.

The main effect is to confuse the reputation of marriage; to fail to communicate how much society depends on healthy families; to fail to teach that traditional families are the most likely way to ensure their happiness. The main effect is that youth will never become heterosexual couples and set the goal of having a family and raising healthy children.

Posted by: Pete E | 2005-02-19 3:09:35 AM

Paul Martin keeps using the phrase “separate, but equal” to criticise opponents. In the context of civil rights, that phrase meant that black kids only have truly equal access to education if they are allowed in the same schools as whites.

What does this mean in the context of SSM? How, exactly, is a gay union going to be anything but separate? …are we talking government mandated foursomes? … does he just mean that gay couples should be allowed to live in the same neighborhood as straights? …or is Martin just mouthing meaningless demagogic phrases?

Posted by: Pete E | 2005-02-19 3:12:48 AM

The Globe ran a front page story to the effect that a self-appointed human rights group disapproves of Harper invoking the memory of Liberals turning away Jewish refugees. I wonder how the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would feel about Paul Martin invoking the phrase “separate, but equal”?

(OK, I'm done now :-)

Posted by: Pete E | 2005-02-19 3:14:56 AM

I am amused at the heavy breathing on changing the definition of marriage.

Realistically, the definition of marriage has been evolving (as the SCC noted) for hundreds if not thousands of years.

I have not the slightest idea when the State, as opposed to the parrish, got into the marriage registration game; but it was certainly not more than a couple of hundred years ago.

And, of course, the state has been intimately involved in the redefinition of the end of marriage through ongoing revisions to the Divorce Act. There was a time when legally ending a marriage was a complicated, expensive and remarkably fictitious enterprise. Indeed, in England, there was a time in living memory, when divorce required an Act of Parliament for certain couples.

If the end is, to a a degree, determined by the state, why not the beginning. And, for those of you with religious objections, I note that Churches remain entitled to refuse to marry the divorced. Indeed there are some which will refuse any of the sacrements to divorced persons.

this is not an argument about tradition; it is an argument about equality before the law. And an argument which the CPC has managed to get on exactly the wrong side of.

Posted by: Jay Currie | 2005-02-19 3:58:00 AM

Jay you always take the route of equality before the law even though its been countered on here numerous times. So how about you telling us how keeping marriage between opposite sexes, treats homosexuals as unequal under the law. If civil unions give them the exact same "rights" as married couples where is the inequality??

Posted by: MikeP | 2005-02-19 6:47:06 AM

In reply to Ron - first- what's wrong with being Aristotelian? I'm a great fan, and I mean that, of Aristotle. But - I'm NOT a fan of Plato, an ancient totalitarian, whose arguments and theories remind me of our Liberal gov't hypocrisy.

At any rate, I'm not against same-sex marriage. I'm instead, questioning the nature of our changing society and asking - does it realize what it is doing?

I liked Stephen Harper's arguments about acknowledging that marriage, as a union of heterosexuals, is an ancient and universal tradition, and as such, is not arbitrary chance but refers to a fundamental process of our species. I am positing that this universality of this mode of marriage had two functions: the continuance of the species and the socialization of the species.

Now - we might say that continuation of the species no longer requires heterosexuality (in vitro fertilization)- but- this is a marginal rather than then general variable - so- we still have to deal with the biological reality of our species. How should we continue the species - within a marriage or...? If we don't require marriage to continue the species..i.e., if it is socially acceptable to be pregnant and have a child outside of the institution of marriage - then...what's the problem?

Second, we are left with the function of socialization of the young. Should it be the State or the Family? And, if the family- then what is the nature of this family?

I am, myself, very much opposed to the increasing intervention of the State into the Family. This is because the State functions as an ideological bureaucracy, decontextualized, and elevated without justification. The State always self-defines its actions as true, and as such, is dangerously unaccountable. I'm quite concerned about the State raising the next generation. I think it should remain the family.

This then raises the question - what is the definition of a family? In some societies, it's the whole elder generation; i.e., not a biological but a generational and social unit. This is really only possibe in a small group. In others, it's the extended biological family. In others, it's either the mother's or father's biological family. In modern industrial societies, it was reduced to the nuclear biological family (mother, father). Now- what are we moving into?

We seem to be moving away from the biological nuclear unit as 'family' and into a socially defined unit...but...with tremendous state intervention.

I'm concerned about this dissipation of the small family unit. Whether it is a biological or social unit - I'm not concerned about that. As long as it IS a family unit, which means contextualized knowledge, emotional bonding betweem members, an acknowledgement of responsibility for nurturance and support. That's what matters. Our species is an emotional species and I don't think that we can raise a generation within institutional methods - which rejects context, emotional bonds, and individual responsibility.

It's those values that I think are important. They are important because I think our species REQUIRES them. For a better analysis than mine, see Aristotle's rejection of Plato's view of the 'best society'. Plato was promoting an institutionalized raising of the next generation; Aristotle reacted in horror - and rejected it, focusing on the need for emotional bonds and context.

So- whether that nurturance unit is hetero or homo-sexual - I'm really not interested. My concern is - who is raising the next generation; the family or the state.

Posted by: ET | 2005-02-19 6:54:01 AM

Whooee! I see we got us a real live cowboy spoutin' off in the person o' this here Greg the Texan. Well GregFeller, I tell you what, here in Canadee we don't take kindly t' Texas cowboys ridin' their ponies inta town an' tellin' us how we oughta be livin' our little ol' Canajun lives so why don't you hop on that there white stallion o' yers an' hightail it back t' Texas. Canajuns is all capable o' makin' up our own minds without you an' ol' SpongeBob Dobson puttin' in yer two Yankee copper penniesworth.

Yores trooly,

Posted by: JimBobby | 2005-02-19 7:47:27 AM

A lot of SSM supporters seem perplexed by this question:

"How does SSM hinder a heterosexual couple from their goal of having a family and raising healthy children?"

Let me answer: If marriage is reduced to just a partnership between any 2 people, heterosexual people will become a lot less attached to it. As a result they will be more likely to settle into other, less stable, types of relationships, such as common-law, and seeing as those are less stable than real marriages, more children will be raised in single parent households.

Posted by: Chuck from NS | 2005-02-19 8:32:08 AM

Pete E is right that there are a lot of SSM advocates who talk about the dignity and respect associated with the institution of marriage. I think they're as wrong as the SSM opponents who talk about it -- at least in the context of the _political_ debate. People looking to have their choices in life validated by government edict have a problem the government can't help them with. A psychologist, a philosopher, or a priest might be a better place to look for help with that issue.

And on the other side, people who are looking to further their view that "traditional families are the most likely way to ensure their happiness" through legislation are misguided. It's intellectuals and religious leaders, not the government, that shape society's views of the family (and everything else). Government follows the intellectual climate, it does not lead it. SSM opponents' efforts would therefore be far more effectively spent on getting the government out of education than on trying to impose their moral evaluations by legislative fiat.

So, if all we're arguing about is the word "marriage" (and while I think a purely political case can be made that the word should not be withheld) then we, as a country, haved spent far too much time on the debate already. There are more important political issues to worry about, like lowering taxes and reducing the government's involvement in medicine, education, and the media.

Posted by: Mark Wickens | 2005-02-19 9:17:56 AM

ET, I think your concerns about the dissolution of family are directed exclusively and unreasonably at the State. I'm sure you're familiar with the first and second industrial revolutions, the move away from pre-capitalist agrarian markets to proto-capitalist industrial markets and mercantilist policy.

Understand that mercantilism contemporaneously finds its logic in the birth of the nation-state, pre and post Westphalia. The economic and social organization of expertise is a rationalization of the division in labor and, as a consequence, an affirmation of the ascendancy of nascent capital markets—viz. Capitalism.

If anything can be blamed for the reformation of familial and societal relationships, it’s the invisible hand. Industrial economics demanded concentrated metropolises of available and, quite naturally, cheap labour. The move from the periphery and the hinterlands into labor flushed cities fragmented what, at the time, was a traditional understanding of familial obligations.

It was commerce, the division of labor, and emerging markets that, working in concert with geo-political realties and ideological shifts like the English and Scottish enlightenment, re-contextualized our standard conception of family. (This isn’t even to speak of the extension of franchise, the rise of representational democracy, and the French and American revolutions)

The dilemma, then, is whether bureaucratic fait harms familial obligations, and if so, are the countervailing tensions between bureaucracy and market resolvable?

The dilemma is a false one.

The easy way round is to reason that bureaucracies exist because markets exist, and visa versa.

Complicated systems evolve incredible universes of expertise that self-propagate their operating logic. Bureaucracies and markets operate in such a way, in that they are technocratic. Every so often we are given the privilege of wresting, from the unfeeling hands of technocracy, the levers of democracy

Understanding the family as a static unit is illogical—illogical in the sense that such an analysis makes unintelligible the family’s integration into disparate and shifting social, political, and economic contexts.

Posted by: Ron Mashate | 2005-02-19 10:26:21 AM

It looks like a touched on a bit of a nerve. Sorry I wasn't up at 3:00 am to react to your misrepresentations of what I said.

One person who didn't misrepresent me was Mark. He wrote:

"This is where we fundamentally disagree. I don't think the government ought to have any purpose -- in marriage or anything else -- other than protecting individual rights. It certainly shouldn't be "encouraging" whatever it thinks is best for society."

I actually mostly agree Mark (I'd be happy to get the government out of the marriage business.) But clearly you don't really thing that the government "shouldn't encourage whatever it thinks is best" - you just think that what is best is protecting individual rights. But why protect these rights? Isn't it because it provides us with a good (a good decided on by government)? And if one of these "rights" ends up being a bad things for society, doesn't this defeat the purpose? Is the only job of politicians to refine the Charter?

As for nBob's comment that:

Your fear that people will be less inclined to get married if “the purpose of marriage is undermined” is unfounded" and "They want to create an entity that is more meaningful than two people living together."

I didn't say they would be more likely to be married, I said they would be less likely to do those good things I mentioned (having children, raising good citizens) in that marriage.

And why is it more meaningful? (I believe Pete addressed most of your other points well.)

Again, Mark's position presents the only serious challenge to the reasonablness of defending the traditional definition of marriage. As I wrote, I think it leads to dangerous places (see my speed limit analogy, for an example.)

Posted by: Pat C | 2005-02-19 10:36:23 AM

"more" after nBob quote should read "more or less"


Posted by: Pat C | 2005-02-19 10:38:32 AM

JimBobby, I'm trying to point out that you have adopted the wrong voice to criticize traditional marriage. The people you are caricaturing are proponents of traditional marriage.

For the sake of credibility, you need to be trying to sound like the Kennedys. Just trying to help you out, as it's obvious you don't know dip about real cowboys.

Posted by: Greg outside Dallas | 2005-02-19 10:39:13 AM

Ron - I'm not sure that I understand your points.

I'm aware of western/European increased population levels, leading to the necessity for a technological mov't to industrialism and a concomitant sociopolitical re-organization from a peasant-based rural agriculture to a nation-state factory-based market economy.

I don't know what you mean by 'the invisible hand' as causal of the reformation of familial and societal relationships.

I also haven't defined the familial unit as static but expressely wrote how it has been different in different socioeconomies.

You seem to be positing a linear relationship; namely 'industrial economics demanded concentrated metropolis of..labour...and..these fragmented ..traditional familial .." You posit an agential set of 'commerce, division of labour, and emerging markets' as causal to family change.

I disagree with this linearity. These changes are networked; they are parallel; you cannot set up a scenario that IF commerce had not developed (and the other causes) THEN, the family would not have changed.

Commerce, division of labour, cities etc developed because the old economy of peasant agriculture could no longer support an increasing population in western Europe. The old rural, village based economy was isolate, reasonably self supporting - and - about the 9th and 10th centuries - had reached its threshold population carrying capacity. Famines, diseases etc...were all resultant attempts over several centuries to reduce the population but were unsuccessful. Eventually, the technology HAD to change...and this required a concomitant change in ideology and social organization.

Ideologically, the change had to promote individual questioning, thought and exploration (cf. Abelard's 'dubitando); socially, it had to promote mass production of foods and goods/services and the market rather than direct barter method. This led to a change in family structure, where the socioeconomic unit changed from the extended peasant family...and became located in the nuclear family. This nuclear family was mobile unlike the peasant extended family who stayed on the same manor for generations. Mobility of thought and person was vital to develop an economy capable of supporting this increased and increasing population.

So- the dev't of the nuclear family was NOT a result of the 'rise of commerce'. All these variables function together and were necessary to develop a socioeconomic system capable of supporting that increased population.

I don't see your point that "bureaucracies exist because markets exist and vice versa". Are you saying that IF there are no markets, understood as systems and processes of exchange, then, there would be no bureaucracies? What do you mean by a bureaucracy? What tensions between bureaucracies and markets? What do you mean by 'technocratic'?

I think we are working within different analytic frames!

Posted by: ET | 2005-02-19 10:56:05 AM

nBob wrote:

Chuck from NS - Marriage creates a bundle of legal rights, duties and obligations. Which one(s) are “reduced” for heterosexuals by extending them to homosexuals? How are they watered down so as to make marriage “just a partnership between two people”? Give me an example of one couple that has called off a wedding or become less attached to the idea of marriage when gays were allowed to get hitched.

Well I have an answer/example :

JimBobby’ s sister and I were thinking of taking our relationship to a higher level. I liked the idea of forming such an intimate relationship with her that even the law would recognize our communications as privileged. When I found out that gays could get married and have the same right I decided I’d “settle” for a common-law relationship because suddenly it seemed that privilege offered through marriage wasn’t really worth renting a tux for.

When I told JimBobby’s sister I only wanted to move in together and live common-law she said, and I quote, “ what in tarnation ? suppose’n you keel over without a will or go a try’n to bequeath your interest in our home out from a under me ? No siree Bob - why I’d just be noth’n better than another party with a competing claim on your estate” When I told her that gays can get married and have dower rights she became significantly less “attached” to the idea of marriage and the protection it gave to her property rights.

Long story short- as Chuck predicted - we had a boy then I split and she raised him as a single parent. I knew it would be tough for the lad so I named him Sue, but that’s another song altogether.

Posted by: nBob | 2005-02-19 11:28:25 AM

Whooee! nBob, Sissy's been lookin' all over fer you on accounta yer a might behind in the child support an' she don't make enuff at the massage parlour fer her tuition t' University of Trawna. I'd watch out fer young Sue on accounta he's growin' fast an' gettin' sorta mean with all the teasin' he takes. You might get lucky, though. He could get over his meanness, mebbe, an' choose hisself a gay lifestyle.

GregFeller, thankee kindly fer tryin' t' set me straight. Lord thunderin' Jeezuz boy, if you'd o' read what I sed previous, you'd know I ain't no cowboy an' never sed that I was. Yer mentionin' the Kennedy boys shows that you don't know a lick about Canadee, neither. Round these parts, when you wanta call someone a commie-lovin' liberal, you work the name Troodough inta the conversation.

One big thing you might not know, Tex, is that real Canajun cowboys an' cattle ranchers is havin' one helluva tuff go an' it's all on accounta yer YankeeDoodle cattle ranchers' lobby an' their protectionist anti-Canadee ban on our fine Alberta beef. Yer shoot, shovel an' shut-up mad-cow ranchfellers from south o' the border has jest about wiped out every good cattleman in this here home an' native land. An' jest so's you know, when we say "south o' the border" around here we ain't talkin' about Mexico we're talkin' about the fellers that wants t' buy up Canadee lock, stock an' barrel. That'd be the Merkins, TexBoy.

Yores trooly,

Posted by: JimBobby | 2005-02-19 11:58:46 AM

"clearly you don't really think that the government 'shouldn't encourage whatever it thinks is best' - you just think that what is best is protecting individual rights."

No. It's not the government's job to "enourage" individual rights, either. It's its job to protect them, with force, if necessary.

"And if one of these 'rights' ends up being a bad things for society, doesn't this defeat the purpose?"

"Bad things for society" is pretty vague, but the short answer is that unless those bad things involve the violation of others' rights, then the government should remain powereless to do anything about it. If they do involve rights violations, then there's a conflict between two things we're calling rights. In any specific example of this kind of situation, I'm confident that one of those things is not a legitimate right.

On the current topic, I don't think I've heard anyone on the anti-SSM side claim that their rights would be violated by the legal recognition of same-sex unions, whether called "marriage" or not.

Posted by: Mark Wickens | 2005-02-19 1:22:22 PM


Like I said, your view of the role of government is the only consistent response I've heard in favor of SSM.

Obviously we disagree here, and on the chance that I'm mistaken in my vastly different position from yours, can you answer a couple of questions? You, write:

"It's not the government's job to "enourage" individual rights, either. It's its job to protect them, with force, if necessary."

But why protect them? But which rights and on what basis do we decide what they are? Where do they come from? Don't most of the rights we speak of come from government? Aren't they therefore telling us what is good? In other words, what makes a right a right? Doesn't it rest on the government, and doesn't this get back to my argument that the government's role is to do what's best for society and threfore lead to my conclusion that rights should be subject to prudence?

Posted by: Pat C | 2005-02-19 2:01:55 PM

I have to say, Jim Bobby has said it well.

What a bunch of phony arguments being put forward to keep gays and lesbians from getting married.

There are only two reasons for being against gays and lesbians marrying. The first is a deeply held religious belief.

The second is bigotry.

Going back to the first one, those beliefs should have no influence over the secular laws of the land. Many evangelical groups believe a woman should submit to her husband, that it is okay to "beat" your kids and government programs supporting the poor are wrong. Yet we as a society do not subscribe to those views in law or in kind generally.



Posted by: Rick Barnes | 2005-02-19 3:18:58 PM

Why Mark are you suggesting that the majority have no rights?? Marriage was designed for a man to marry a woman and the majority of Canadians still believe that to be true. So How can you say that I dont have a right, as part of that majority, to keep marriage as it is?? Why should your right override mine??

Posted by: MikeP | 2005-02-19 4:05:19 PM

Mark, I keep responding to you. I hope you’ll take it as a compliment.

At 9:17 you wrote: “people who are looking to further their view that "traditional families are the most likely way to ensure their happiness" through legislation are misguided.”

This is a consistent view but I don’t think you appreciate how radical it is. The fact is that we DO live in a world where government is involved in marriage, as well as universal education, care for the poor, promotion of culture (through CBC, CRTC, etc.), and even coercive re-education of non-criminal social failures (through children’s services).

To take government out of only one of these social issues (the one where it has the longest history and the most justified involvement) is flamboyantly inconsistent. To get government out of all of them is a pipe dream.

(BTW, If you want to start pursuing the pipe dream, I’m on your side, as long as you have your priorities in the right ballpark. Ending the monopoly on Education, as you suggested, sounds like a smart starting point.)

At 1:22, you wrote: “I don't think I've heard anyone on the anti-SSM side claim that their rights would be violated. “

You are right. None on this thread have addressed the issue. Harper did a fine job.

At 9:17 you wrote: “…we, as a country, haved spent far too much time on the debate already.”

Excellent notion! You think the issue is not important. I think it is. Concede and let’s move on.

Posted by: Pete E | 2005-02-19 5:55:25 PM

Mom A has a child. Mom B marries Mom A. Mom B adopts child of Mom A. Is the child prohibited fom marrying himself? Discuss earnestly.

Posted by: Occam's Carbuncle | 2005-02-19 9:07:40 PM

Occam’s Carbuncle , when I read your post this joke popped into my head suddenly. It’s not on topic at all but it’s said to be one of Marshall McLuhan’s faves - stop me if you know it:

When Mr. Dithers was first elected PM he was at a loss on how to pick his cabinet so he calls up da boss and asks how he did it.

Well, sez J.C., I call dem in and ask dem dis skill testing question. I say to Sheila- I know dis guy ‘ooos my mother’s son but dis guy is not my brother. ‘ooo ‘s dis guy? Sheila, she say, “why it’s you Mr. Cretien” so I make er deputy PM. I say to Rock -I know dis guy ‘ooos my mother’s son but dis guy is not my brother. ‘ooo ‘s dis guy? Alan, ‘e say, “why it’s you Mr. Cretien” so I make em Health Minister.

Next day Martin calls in Reg Alcock. He sez to Reg - I know a guy who’s my mother’s son but this guy is not my brother, who’s the guy? Reg sez -Why it’s you Paul. NO NO you idiot, responds Martin, it’s not me it’s Jean Cretien!

We return you now to your regularly scheduled debating.....

Posted by: nBob | 2005-02-19 10:11:35 PM

MikeP, You asked, "So how about you telling us how keeping marriage between opposite sexes, treats homosexuals as unequal under the law. If civil unions give them the exact same "rights" as married couples where is the inequality??"

The right which is being denied in this instance is the right to have the government register the marriage as it would do for hetrosexuals.

Now, frankly, I think the government should not register marriages per se at all. In which case we would have a version of the French model where "civil union" is registered for a couple (not currently including homosexual couples) and they can make whatever religious arrangements they choose.

I would be a lot happier with the CPC position if it argued for removing government altogether from the marriage biz and left the question of the registration of civil unions up to the various provinces.

Posted by: Jay Currie | 2005-02-20 1:06:05 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.