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SAME-SEX MARRIAGE (SSM) IN CANADA

EFFECTS OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
ON CANADIAN CULTURE

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Beliefs among religious and social liberals:

Liberals generally favor same-sex marriage (SSM). This is usually based on their belief that marriage is a fundamental human right. They feel that maintaining second-class citizenship for same-sex couples is profoundly immoral. Most feel that granting marriage rights to those same-sex couples who want to marry would strengthen the institution of marriage.

Among many religious and social liberals, giving same-sex couples the same marriage rights (and rites) as opposite-sex couples has already had one positive effect on marriage in Canada: It has brought many same-sex couples who are enthusiastic supporters of marriage into the institution. Marriage in North America has been suffering lately, as increasing numbers of couples decide to simply live together rather than marry. Also, large numbers of married couples are separating and/or divorcing.

Liberals stress that the legalization of SSM across Canada on 2005-JUL-20 did not have a significant effect on existing and future marriages of opposite-sex couples. No existing or future couple, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, lost any of their marriage rights. The rights of opposite-sex couples to apply for a marriage license; to be married in a civil or religious ceremony; to obtain a pension, income tax, other financial rights; to be granted hospital visitation privileges; to be able to make medical decisions for their incapacitated spouse; etc. are not changed. These same rights are merely extended to same-sex couples.

Liberals often cite studies which have proved that married spouses are happier, have better mental health, have better physical health, and live longer than singles. They assume that these findings will apply to same-sex married couples as well.

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Beliefs among religious and social conservatives:

bulletFear of persecution: Religious institutions are already protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms from anti-bigotry and anti-discrimination lawsuits if they refuse to marry otherwise qualified same-sex couples. In the past, churches have regularly refused to marry couples on the basis of the their religion, membership in a denomination, race, age, disability status, degree of consanguinity, lack of maturity, etc. To our knowledge, no member of the clergy has ever been  sued for discrimination after refusing to marry a couple. But many conservative religious leaders are apprehensive that they may be sued in the future by same-sex couples. They are protected from charges under Canada's hate propaganda act if they express hatred against homosexuals because of their religious beliefs. Still, their fear of prosecution under hate propaganda laws and human rights legislation persists.

The fears of religious conservatives are certainly legitimate with regards to some peripheral items such as:

bulletThe refusal of religious groups to make their halls available for same-sex marriage receptions.
bulletThe refusal of religious groups to allow same-sex couples to attend marriage preparation courses.
bulletThe refusal of some marriage commissioners to marry same-sex couples because of the commissioners' religious beliefs.

According to debates in Canada's senate in late 2005-JUL, approximately thirty marriage commissioners -- at least 10 in Newfoundland, 12 in Manitoba and at least eight in Saskatchewan -- had already been fired because they had refused to marry same-sex couples. 1 In other provinces, accommodations have apparently been successful, as another commissioner has stepped in to replace one who decided to discriminate against couples on the basis of their sex.

bulletGeneral acceptance of homosexuality: When the courts and/or governments grant licenses to same-sex couples and register their marriages, they are implying that same-sex behavior by a loving, committed couple is as moral as it is for similar opposite-sex couples. As both the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada have stated, this will cause problems in the public schools. Most public schools will teach that homosexuality, bisexuality and heterosexuality are three normal and natural sexual orientations, and that all loving, committed couples can marry, whether same-sex or opposite-sex. But some of their parents will teach these children and youths that same-sex behavior is profoundly immoral, no matter what the marital status of the same-sex couple, or the nature of their relationship. According to these parents, only opposite-sex marriage is "true" marriage. Students from religiously and/or socially conservative families will experience the same type of conflict as they do between the theory of evolution and creation science. They will have to endure the same contradictions as students did in the America South over racial desegregation, and -- a century ago -- over human slavery.
bulletAffect on children: Many studies have evaluated the parenting skills of same-sex parents:
bulletMost of the studies by religious and social conservatives indicate that children need a father and mother in order to thrive. These findings may have been influenced by a very strong belief among many religious conservatives that a successful marriage is based on the innate differences between males and females. Women and men are seen to fit into very different roles in a family: the husband is expected to lead and make decisions; the wife is expected to submit to her husband.
bulletMost of the studies by religious and social liberals, gays, lesbians, etc. have concluded that same-sex parents are equal or better than opposite-sex parents. They often find that the children are more tolerant and less bigoted than children from families led by opposite-sex parents.
bulletStudies by neutral observers generally show that there is no significant difference in children of same-sex or opposite-sex parents.

Senator Joyal stated during the debates over the government's C-38 bill to legalize SSM: "Same-sex couples compare on measures of relationship quality. Lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children. The development of sexual identity, personality and social relationship develops similarly in children of homosexual and heterosexual parents. The belief that gay and lesbian adults are not fit parents or that the psychosocial development of the children is compromised has no basis in science. Our position is based on the review representing approximately 50 empirical studies and at least another 50 articles and book chapters, and does not result from the results of any one study. These articles appeared in such journals as Developmental Psychology, The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, American Psychologist, Marriage and Family Review, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, et cetera." 1

bulletAffect on marriage generally: Religious and social conservatives have attacked SSM as a threat to the Canadian culture. They are extremely worried about its long-term effects. We have discussed elsewhere on this site at least 26 reasons why they feel that SSM is a bad idea. 

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Results of studies on the impact of SSM:

Senator Jack Austin, the leader of the Government in the Senate spoke in support of bill C-38. He said:

"There are those, such as Senator St. Germain, whose religious beliefs, deeply held I know, cause them to proclaim that same-sex marriage is contrary to God's law and even not Senator St. Germain but others that it is an abomination. I have heard that from religious sources. They argue that religious law forbids same-sex marriage, and civil law should have the same position."

"As I see it, apart from the religious connection, at the core of opposition to equal rights to marriage, whether opposite sex or same sex, is the belief that same-sex marriage is wrong because it will cause harmful results to society. Senator St. Germain also made that argument. However, what is lacking is any evidence to make that case. For example, the U.S. state of Massachusetts has permitted same-sex marriage for a few years now. The search by opponents of same-sex marriage has produced no statistics that there has been any effect on the lives of opposite-sex marriage persons or their children. Opposite-sex marriages have continued and they raise families at the same statistical rate as before. Nor has the divorce rate shown any change. As one commentator noted, the only negative to be found by the study as a result of same sex-marriage being legalized was the added cost of buying a few more wedding gifts." 2

One curious phenomenon that we have been unable to understand is the extremely low divorce rate among same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage became available in Canada in 2003-JUN. But it was not until 2004-SEP-14 that Justice Ruth Mesbur of the Ontario Superior Court issued the first divorce to a married same-sex couple in Canada. 3,4 The second same-sex divorce was granted in British Columbia in 2005-JUN. 5 In the meantime, thousands of couples had married.

Both divorces were by lesbian couples, giving a new meaning to the term "gay divorcee." From this data, it would appear that the divorce rate among lesbian couples is quite small compared to the corresponding rate for opposite-sex couples; gay marriages appear to be extremely successful with no divorces after more than two years of SSM.

It would appear that if there are any negative results caused by SSM, that those results are miniscule and not readily detectable. Of course, a small negative impact may take years to develop and become obvious.

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An often overlooked motivation of religious conservatives:

Aside from their distress about the impact of SSM on the institution of marriage and on the culture of Canada, there is a second genuine concern among many religious conservatives: the eternal destiny of persons who engage in same-sex behavior.

Conservative Christian theologians generally:
bulletBelieve that the Bible was written by authors who were directly inspired by God. Thus their writings are seen as inerrant -- completely free of error as originally written.
bulletThe Bible is regarded as the actual Word of God. Thus whenever the Bible and science disagree, the former must be right.
bulletMost interpret the Garden of Eden story in the book of Genesis as indicating the fall of humanity into sin. They view homosexual behavior as one evidence of that sin.
bulletWhen they study the Bible for guidance on homosexuality, they generally look for proof texts -- passages that clearly and directly deal with the topic.

Most have concluded from the analysis of the six famous anti-homosexual "clobber" passages in the Bible that God hates same-sex behavior, whether it is practiced by persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation. God hates it whether is is an act of casual sex or within a loving, committed same-sex relationship. Further, they interpret 1 Corithians 6:9-10: as implying that homosexuals -- and by extension some bisexuals -- will not inherit the Kingdom of God (heaven). The King James translation renders this passage:

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." (Emphasis ours)

Although many conservative Christians believe that saved individuals who are fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, those who covet other people's possessions, drunks etc. can attain heaven, many believe that homosexuals -- which they usually define as people engaging in same-sex behavior -- are irrevocably destined to spend eternity in Hell.

Many interpret 1 Corinthians 6:11 as implying that homosexuals and bisexuals will be converted to heterosexuals when they are saved. The King James Translation renders this passage:

"And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."

They conclude, from their interpretation of these and other passages, that if a person continues to engage in same-sex behavior, they are not saved and therefore eternally doomed to the tortures of Hell. Most conservative Christians take the Great Commission -- the instruction by Jesus to win souls to Christianity -- very seriously and are distressed at the unsaved status of homosexuals.

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References used:

  1. "Debates of the Senate (Hansard)," Volume 142, Issue 84, 2005-JUL-19, at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/
  2. "Debates of the Senate (Hansard)," Volume 142, Issue 80, 2005-JUL-04, at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/
  3. Tracy Tyler, "Judge redefined 'spouse.' Same-sex divorce was of 'two persons'," The Toronto Star, 2005-FEB-02, Page A7.
  4. "Ontario judge grants first same-sex divorce," CTV News, 2004-SEP-14, at: http://www.ctv.ca/
  5. "B.C.'s first gay divorce granted," CBC, 2005-JUN-15, at: http://vancouver.cbc.ca/

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Site navigation:

 Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Canada > here

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Copyright 2003 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-NOV-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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