Oh Ca-nada…

Not immediately a European issue, but still: Canada has (once again) joined the ranks of civilised countries today, by removing a law clause that reserved marriage exclusively to heterosexuals. So far, only the Netherlands and Belgium have preceded Canada, while the Spanish government is preparing a similar change to its marriage law. The vast majority of EU and western countries does have laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but somehow exempt their marriage laws.

Is this another example of “activist law-making”, as argued by opponents of the change? Well, perhaps, and that certainly increases the risk of losing popular support: Already, the conservative opposition has announced it will seek a revote of the law if it wins the next elections. But even if the law is activist and politically risky, that does not make it morally wrong to pursue its adoption. In fact, the Canadian government has done admirably what governments in a democracy are supposed to do: to show leadership and vision, also in the face of public opposition.

What keeps surprising me in debates like these, is not so much the opposition itself, but the lack of philosophical coherence behind that opposition. If same-sex marriage was opposed solely on the grounds of religion or tradition, I could easily accept (though not agree with) that argument. But more often than not, opposition comes from people calling themselves Liberals or Conservatives: People who, supposedly at least, put individual liberty first and who have a healthy distrust of state intervention in people’s personal lives.

How do they combine such principles with homophobic state intrusion?

** update ** The Spanish parliament has delivered, increasing the number of Truly Civilised Countries (TM) to four in the world. Next in line: Cambodia?

5 Responses to “Oh Ca-nada…”

  1. Pascal Van Hecke Says:

    Oh, Spain…
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4636133.stm

  2. Elaib Says:

    This conservative, and dodgy right winger can see no earthly reason why Homosexual unions should noot be recognised by the state in a similar way in which heterosexual relationships are. Hoever it would be wrong to legally describe them as marriage, and it would be doubly wrong to try to impose society’ssecular views upon the church. So as long a people do not expect to be able to have same sex marriages confirmned by their church, fine. Sadly ourexperioence is not this but a demandthat not only should same sex unions be legitimised and equal in the eyes of the law, but there will be leagl threats against the church with the demands that theyu be recognised as of equall worth by the deity.
    Man does not have the right nor power to do that.

  3. eulogist Says:

    Elaib, how so? This is only about a change of the law of the state and nothing else. Marriage is a civil contract, defined in law, with important legal, financial, and practical consequences. Marriage also has strong symbolical meaning to most people, whether they are religious or not, and whether they marry in a church or not. As far as I know, getting married without being legally required to involve a church is possible in all civilised countries – which is precisely why I do not see your point.

    Churches are free to give or withhold their blessing to whatever kind of relationship they see (un-)fit. Give me one example, just one, of a church in the Netherlands or Belgium that was forced to hold a marriage ceremony for a union it does not agree with. I know that there is none and I am convinced there never will be one.

    *esprit d’escalier update* Just wanted to add that most European countries have had laws requiring equal treatment of men and women in employment matters for decades, yet this has never resulted in court orders forcing the Roman Catholic church to ordain women priests. So why this would suddenly become different now laws have started to treat couples equally is beyond me.

    Where I do of course agree with you is that churches should indeed not be forced to accept homosexual marriages. That is, I certainly hope that those churches will change their views and I am glad that some already have – but any change in this respect has to (and can only) come from the inside, not from the outside.

  4. Mark Giebels Says:

    I’ m still waiting for the first truly civilized nation that abolishes state-defined marriage altogether…

  5. Reflections on European Democracy » Norway gets gay marriage - Ja, vi elsker dette landet! Says:

    […] people of the same or opposite sex can get married”. After the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain, and South-Africa, this will take the number of countries in the world that allow homosexuals to […]

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