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January 15, 2001

How stable relationships benefit society

Donna Laframboise
National Post

TORONTO - The sun wasn't shining, but neither did it rain yesterday as two newly-married couples emerged from Toronto's Metropolitan Community Church. Having just been wed by Reverend Brent Hawkes, the couples -- consisting of two women and two men -- say their unions are as legally binding as any other.

Whether the church is correct in its assertion that a loophole in the Ontario Marriage Act permits it to marry same-sex couples so long as it reads banns aloud to the congregation beforehand remains to be seen. For its part, the province says it won't be registering these unions since marriage can only take place between a man and a woman.

But there is a growing sense of inevitability about this, a feeling that sooner or later, one way or another, Canada will join such countries as the Netherlands in recognizing same-sex marriages. Many corporations have extended employee health benefits to homosexual couples for years. Recent court decisions have ruled that discriminating against people on the basis of sexual orientation is not permissible. And last week, the Supreme Court of British Columbia gave the government in that province the go-ahead to directly challenge federal legislation forbidding same-sex marriages.

Considering homosexual unions equal to heterosexual ones is, of course, anathema to people who argue that once all the rights and obligations of marriage are available to everyone, the whole point of being married vanishes.

Marriage has historically been about society extending its approval -- through the awarding of special rights and privileges -- to certain kinds of relationships. In a harsh world it's a bad idea for people to engage in casual, uncommitted sex since the children who inevitably result aren't provided for.

A lot can happen in the nine months between conception and delivery. Dad may have cycled through a handful of new sex partners, leaving mother and child at risk of starvation.

Societies that wished to prosper were societies that encouraged their members to form stable family units with a single spouse, and to devote their time, energy and resources to that unit so the next generation could be raised successfully.

Today, there's no shortage of empirical social-science data confirming that our ancestors had the right idea. Children do best in intact, two-parent families. More of them finish high school and go on to university. More of them successfully make the transition between school and the workplace. More of them form successful marriages themselves.

From this perspective, there's no compelling argument in favour of the state recognizing same-sex unions since marriage is about what's best for the children and the number of same-sex couples who parent is so minuscule social-policy makers need not concern themselves with the matter.

But marriage has also historically been about trying to ensure social stability by meeting people's sexual needs in an orderly manner. A community in which people continually sleep around is a community in which there is a lot of conflict. In heterosexual relationships, men who arrive home to find someone else in bed with their wives often commit murder in a jealous rage. Women who have sex with other women's husbands are persecuted most fervently by their female peers -- because their actions threaten the well-being of these wives and their children.

Societies that value peacefulness and order should be in favour of extending marriage -- along with all its rights and privileges -- to as many people as possible. There's something to the argument that the promiscuous lifestyle embraced by many homosexuals, with its attendant health risks, is a direct result of society's refusal to provide these people with the socially approved outlets heterosexuals have long enjoyed.

Although there may be some dispute about how large, precisely, the homosexual community is, in Canada there's no question it's larger than, say, the Jewish community.

A peaceful, harmonious society is one in which Jews enjoy the same benefits of citizenship as non-Jews, in which they are welcomed as "insiders" rather than marginalized as "outsiders" -- even though their traditions and beliefs differ from those of Christians.

Should gays and lesbians be extended special rights -- such as preference in work-place hiring and promotion since they are a minority? No.

Should they be able to marry before God and the community? Should they be entitled to pledge to love and honour one another -- for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do them part?

Yes. And anyone interested in social stability should welcome them into the fold.

(Each link opens a new window)

  • Marriage Act of Ontario
  • Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto
    The church that has solemnized gay and lesbian weddings by publishing the banns to license common-law unions.
  • An Act to modernize the Statutes of Canada in relation to benefits and obligations
    Also known as Bill C-23.
  • Justice Canada
    Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere, one of the prime lobbying groups for gays and lesbians in Canada.
  • Foundation for Equal Families
    Their proclaimed mandate is mandate is "to achieve equality and recognition for same-sex relationships and associated family rights through legal action and education." Look for updates on their court battles.
  • Focus on the Family Canada
    An "Info-Pack" on Bill C-23 from the Christian family values group.
  • Xtra (Toronto)
    Get the gay male perspective on Bill C-23 and other pressing issues.
  • Citizen Impact
    Another Christian group's point of view on the bill. (They're against it.)
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