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Social consequences of gay rights laws can't be ignored


A barrage of statistics confirms that heterosexual marriage is an indispensable institution to a healthy society, by far the best and safest environment for raising children. Enduring heterosexual relationships should, therefore, be encouraged and nurtured.

It was reported in the Vancouver Sun last Wednesday that “same-sex partners of federal government employees will now be recognized as “spouses” — at least temporarily — under a directive issued by the Treasury Board.” On the provincial scene, of course, we recently saw Glen Clark proudly proclaim into law bills 31 and 32 which changed the statutory definition of "spouse" in two crucial family laws to include same-sex couples. It would appear that the gay rights agenda is picking up quite a head of steam in Canada these days.

Yet many Canadians are not cheering. A 1996 poll by Angus Reid indicated that the country is deeply divided on these issues. While a clear majority supports the granting of same-sex benefits, Canadians remain split on the issue of the legal recognition of same-sex marriages, and strongly opposed to gay and lesbian adoptions.

Simply more evidence of bigotry and irrational fear, reasons B.C.’s Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh, as the provincial government rams its legislation through with less than fourteen hours of debate and resists all attempts at any kind of public consultation. Meanwhile, on the federal scene, the government sneaks in its changes to the definition of “spouse” via a human-rights tribunal rather than having to debate the issue in the house.

Something is wrong with this picture. I remember learning in grade ten social studies that the strength of the democratic system lies in the fact that it is representative of and responsive to the wishes of the people.

But representative democracy has fallen on hard times in Canada of late, as we increasingly witness governments boldly acting in a high handed manner, ruling as if by executive fiat, and being openly disdainful of the wishes of the people they are supposed to represent.

Iain Benson, lawyer and Senior Research Fellow for the Centre for Renewal in Public Policy in Ottawa, is concerned about this trend. He sees the recent Treasury Board decision as “yet another example of how Canada is steadily moving away from real democracy. Now the important changes are not discussed debated or analyzed, they are done in a rush by bureaucrats or some judges who seem to have forgotten that without the substance of democracy mere democratic processes cannot long survive.”

Why is it, if the Canadian public is divided on whether or not to grant marriage rights and opposed to granting adoption rights, that these two levels of government insist on fooling around with the definition of “spouse”? The problem of granting same-sex benefits is an actuarial one, which, I am told on good authority, could just as easily be handled by adding a new category, that of “registered domestic partnership,” to the relevant laws and statutes. In changing the definition of “spouse” to include same-sex couples, these governments are clearly setting the stage to push the gay agenda into the areas of marriage and adoption rights and thereby granting to gays those very rights which the Canadian public does not want them to have.

Clearly the fair treatment of all persons, including gays and lesbians, should be aggressively pursued as a worthwhile goal of a just society, and I am convinced this is the desire of the vast majority of the Canadian public. But taking the gay agenda further may not be in the interest of the general culture.

Dr. Paul Nathanson of Montreal, himself a homosexual, is a scholar and cultural critic who has researched these issues extensively. Nathanson is convinced that changing the definition of spouse to include “same-sex” couples puts the issue of gay rights ahead of all other considerations. Nathanson believes society needs to look at its larger goals in thinking through this kind of legislation. While obviously not against gay couples, he is against giving them marriage status for a number of reasons.

A barrage of statistics confirms that heterosexual marriage is an indispensable institution to a healthy society, by far the best and safest environment for raising children. The research is clear, children should ideally have one parent of each sex in a long term committed relationship. That means marriage. If what is best for children is to be our prime consideration in all of this, then we need to commit ourselves as a society to helping bring men and women together to form stable marriage relationships for the purpose of raising them.

Nathanson believes that enduring heterosexual relationships are too much taken for granted in Canada; they need to be encouraged and nurtured. Marriage should, therefore, be set apart and enjoy a privileged status in society with specific legal recognition and beneficial advantages.

A major problem in representing this kind of perspective, however, is that some in the gay movement have been willing to employ radical tactics to effectively block serious public and legislative discussion about these important issues. Today, a climate of intimidation exists around gay rights issues, such that many feel almost afraid that any criticism or even reservation about the homosexual agenda will automatically be viewed as hateful and intolerant. Politicians, so attentive to cultivating the right image, have been particularly susceptible.

During the recent passage of Bill 31 and 32, Gordon Wilson was the only MLA to raise his voice in the legislature in opposition to the same-sex amendments. His comments indicated he was clearly upset and incredulous that such important changes would be rushed into law without serious and careful reflection.

Wilson is right. It is remarkably short sighted to act as if the only issue that need be considered in making changes to the age old definition of spouse and marriage is that of gay rights. Isn’t it obvious that Canadians from many different backgrounds and perspectives need much more input into any process of decision making on such fundamental issues?

As it is, this kind of legislation heralds a grand program of social experimentation being undertaken without any public mandate, no public consultation, and no thought to the real social consequences that will ensue.

The Canadian public deserves better. And Canadians like Dr. Nathanson deserve better; they deserve the opportunity to make their arguments.


J. Fraser Field, “Social consequences of gay rights laws can’t be ignored,” Vancouver (British Columbia) Sun, 28 August, 1997.

Reprinted with permission of the Vancouver Sun.


J. Fraser Field is Executive Officer of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center.

Copyright © 1997 The Vancouver Sun



Copyright © 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved