Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Grandfathering the gays isn't good enough

There's a little bit of fun alliteration for a Tuesday morning! But my title speaks to the government motion to be introduced in the House of Commons today:

“That this House call on the government to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages.”

As tempting as I might find it to be part of an exclusive cohort of married gay couples in Canada, this resolution is odious, and should be soundly defeated. Moreover, I would strongly urge Stéphane Dion to whip the caucus on this vote. I supported the NDP decision to do so on Bill C-38, and I think the Liberals need to follow the same path if they are to have credibility on this issue in the next election. And if this drives out the Tom Wappels and Dan McTeagues from the party, so much the better. The social conservative wing of the party is long overdue for a swift kick in the pants - possibly right out the door.

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At 11:47 am, Blogger wvtassel said...

my only concern is that a whipped vote gives Harper an excuse to raise the issue again as a campaign issue -- and to have yet another vote on it if he should yet again get to form a government

At 2:59 pm, Blogger Al B Here said...

I'll admit my ignorance here, but what aspect of marriage is getting everyone so hot and bothered? Is it the use of the word when referring to same-sex couples? Would people have such a problem if it were simply called something else?

At 5:24 pm, Blogger Matt said...

Al - it depends on which opponent you are speaking of, and whether you believe what they say. Some people object to the use of the word "marriage" alone, but would be content with a "separate-but-equal" approach for same-sex couples. Others get completely rabidly insane at any state sanction of homosexual relations.

You also have a spectrum on the other side - some gay and lesbian people would accept a different term than marriage, but there is also a strong current of objection to a differential treatment, likening it to Jim Crow laws in the pre-civil rights movement Southern US. There have also been those who think that the state should get out of the "marriage" business altogether, leaving this to individual religions, and establish a separate civil category that encompasses state-derived benefits and obligations that currently stem from marriage.

At 5:25 pm, Blogger Matt said...

wvtassel - I think the only way that Harper could gain from a whipped Liberal vote is to try to paint the Conservatives as being more democratic by permitting free votes. But in light of the whipped Conservative vote on the Quebecois nation motion which led to Michael Chong's resignation, that would sound rather hollow.

At 10:09 pm, Blogger Al B Here said...

My uncle died long before gay marriages were ever discussed, so I never got a chance to hear his view of it. Part of me wonders if he would have gotten married had it been legal.

I recall that my grade 9 history teacher, Pat O'Brien, chose to sit as an independent when this issue came up last time around. Sure, London can be pretty closed-minded, but I've often wondered whether his choice reflected his own personal beliefs or the beliefs of his constituents. If his stance was indicative of his constituents, so be it. But if he was simply abusing his position to force his views on others, I strongly object.

All that being said, I don't believe the government has any business meddling in personal lives of its citizens. If two people want to celebrate a life commitment to one another and call it marriage, civil union or even call it happy-time singalong, then so be it.

At 12:16 am, Blogger kasie said...

it seems to me that there is a contradiction happening when a person is frustrated by party politics and yet still wants to see party members tow a certain line and have a whipped vote. so much for democracy and representation.

At 12:37 am, Blogger Matt said...

Kasie - I didn't realize you had a blog! I'll have to start reading it.

I'm frustrated more by the internal mechanics of party politics than by the overall nature of the party system. I may not be overly content with the options that I have between the parties, but I do think that most people vote for a party platform and leader, rather than for their local MP (this of course does vary from riding to riding somewhat). In light of that fact, it is incredibly frustrating that certain individuals run under a party banner, but don't support key principles of the party. Most of the Ontario "Liberals" who oppose gay marriage would never have been elected in their ridings had they run as Conservatives - especially the gang of Scarborough MPs that is at the forefront of the opposition to gay marriage. Since we do have a system that is dominated by the parties, I think that more individual MPs should have the courage of their convictions, and run for the party that actually is in line with their political views.

I also tend to subscribe more to the stance that an MP is elected not merely to be the unquestioning representative of their constituents' current views, but also to provide leadership on social/political issues for their riding. If their constituents end up being unhappy with the overall record of their MP, then they can turf them out next election. But that's a subject for another, more detailed post (or lengthy academic paper).


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