Mon Dec 13/04
Gay marriage — the fallout

If you don't like it, quit
The Vic Toews show continues apace. Here he is on Friday:

How does the Prime Minister now intend to statutorily protect not only religious organizations, but also public officials with moral concerns about same sex marriages?

And here he is on the letters page of today's Post:

It should also be noted that the government's proposed legislation offers no protection to any public officials such as public schoolteachers [? –ed], or justices of the peace and civil marriage commissioners, who may have religious concerns about same-sex marriages.

Of all the cockamamie things to get your knickers in a twist about… I mean, seriously, what is he smoking? We're redefining civil marriage, Vic, so no, civil marriage commissioners emphatically will not have the right to hand out licenses, or not, based on their personal beliefs. Neither do passport office employees with grave concerns about immigration policies have the right to refuse applications based upon those beliefs. How schoolteachers factor into it, only Toews can say.

The still-slippery slope
Colby Cosh is more convinced than ever that polygamy is the inevitable result of the Supreme Court's recent decision. In reference to the following paragraph from the decision —

The only objective core which the interveners before us agree is "natural" to marriage is that it is the voluntary union of two people to the exclusion of all others. Beyond this, views diverge. We are faced with competing opinions on what the natural limits of marriage may be —

Cosh writes that "the language used… is so doctrinaire in its deference to disagreement that Muslims and unreformed Mormons have, to all intents, already won their case." In backing down from that position today, he retreated to an argument he made in the Post some months ago: that changing "man and woman" to "two people" is conceptually the same as changing "two" to "any number of".

But it just isn't. I can't say there's no chance of polygamy becoming an issue down the line — just that there's an infinitesimally miniscule chance. And here's why:

   While public opinion on gay marriage is split, public opinion on polygamy is most assuredly not split. Cosh believes that given the activist nature of our Supreme Court, common sense and public opinion will prove no obstacle. I think this is silly.

   "Muslims and unreformed Mormons have… already won their case," says Cosh. What case? Where are these people? "Muslims" are not polygamists as a rule, of course — a tiny number of nutjob Muslims are. Likewise, unreformed Mormons form a statistically insignificant group of weirdos. The plight of the polygamist in 2004 cannot be compared to the plight of homosexuals 30 years ago, which is what the slippery slope theorists are basically doing, for the simple reason that polygamists are, as a rule, nutters. Recent evidence in Canada confirms that polygamists are not just normal folk — truck drivers, plumbers, accountants — who happen to believe in having more than one wife. They dress in frocks and starched hats; they milk livestock by hand; they force 13-year-old girls into sexual relationships and marriage. For obvious reasons they have no wish whatsoever for integration, and they would be bloody foolish ever to bring their "case" to the attention of authorities.

   Which brings me to my last and most important point: we don't need common sense and public opinion to bar the door, because unlike gay marriage, polygamy itself (to say nothing of its attendant child abuse) is expressly illegal. Churches have always been free to perform marriages of same-sex couples — some have been for years — so long as the participants understood that the union had no basis in law. This is not so for polygamous unions (my emphasis):

Every one who practices or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practice or enter into… any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or celebrates, assists or is party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction [such] a relationship… is guilty of an indictable offence.

So that's the bride and groom, the witnesses, the attending minister — perhaps even the florist — facing hard time for even pretending at polygamy.

Obviously our society places an enormous taboo on multiple marriages, not unlike that we place on incest indeed, it is widely held that neither relationship can exist without coercion and abuse. Notwithstanding the BC government's nauseating reticence to crack down on the very disturbing goings-on in Bountiful, polygamy is not only illegal, but in practice it involves many other things that happen to be illegal in and of themselves. To suggest that "legalizing" gay marriage is the same sort of decision as "legalizing" polygamy is emphatically wrong; even placing them in the same ballpark is, to my mind, alarmist at best.