My name is Fred and I am a gay conservative living in Ottawa. This blog supports limited government, the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security, and tries to expose the threat to us all from cultural relativism, post-modernism, and radical Islam. I am also the founder of the Free Thinking Film Society in Ottawa (

Saturday, December 17, 2005

More thoughts on Stephen Harper and Same-Sex Marriage

I watched the boring debate last night and fortunately, I didn't have to wait long for a section on same-sex marriage. Here are some of my thoughts on Stephen Harper and SSM.

1. Have a look at Stephen Harper's language on same-sex relationships:
Our party position is to support the traditional definition while supporting similar rights and benefits for all other equivalent relationships.
What exactly does similar mean? Exactly the same? Somewhat different? I would certainly like to have this clarified. Even before SSM passed in the House of Commons, gay people had all the sames rights and benefits as straght people except for one: Timing. All of the court cases on SSM were based on timing - the fact that straght people derive the benefits of marriage immediately after marrying. Gays had to wait. So, the court cases were fought over timing, more than anything else. So, Stephen Harper's statement is somewhat curious.

I would also like to ask Stephen Harper whether similar rights and benefits extends to having gay couples adopt children.

2. I firmly believe that there is no way for SSM to be overturned except via the notwithstanding clause. The reason is simple: Sexual orientation is a protected class under the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. This means that gay people, under the Charter, CANNOT be deprived of any of the same rights as straight people. I actually beieve that Parliament, and not the Courts, must make law. However, we must recognize that if Parliament votes to take away SSM, it clashes with the Charter, and the Courts will overrule Parliament.

3. I don't understand the Conservative insistence that we have a free vote on SSM. The plain fact of the matter is that they CANNOT force the other parties to vote freely on this issue. So, if the Conservatives win the election, and there is yet another vote on SSM, it seems likely that Jack Layton will tell his MPs to support SSM, and Paul Martin will probably have his front bench support SSM as well. Are we to have a continuing series of votes on SSM because the vote wasn't 100% totally free???

4. Stephen Harper has said that if SSM is overturned, he would still recognize existing Same-Sex couples. This would mean we would have three clases of people - straight married couples, gay married couples grandfathered from the first passage of SSM, and gay civil unions. Does anybody really believe the Courts would support the existence of three different classes of 'marriage'???

5. Lastly, I doubt that the Conservatives will get a majority. That being the case, it is highly unlikely that the votes are there to overturn SSM.


Blogger Bryan G. Cowell said...

This is probably more of an answer to Irwin Cotler's legal Disneyland comment than anything you've posted Fred, so my apologies at the start.

My first point is, are we sure that Stephen Harper continues to bring this up because it's a pressing issue for him, or merely an attempt to stay consistent and avoid attacks for flipflopping (and to a lesser degree calm the so-con rabble)? I'm not entirely sure that he is even comfortable talking about, and I think the way the CPC is fighting this election, is proof that he would rather talk about other issues.

The fact of the matter is, even with a free vote, SSM is not likely to be repealed. Legal experts think it's a charter issue. Fair enough. Let's consider that.

Now, lets say that Harper wins the election, this legislation is even introduced, which based on his comments recently I'm not even sure that that will happen (specifically consulting the other leaders about the likelihood that it will pass) and it carries through parliament.

At the onset, lets remember the SCC did not decide that question, rather they simply said that SSM was consistent with the charter, not required by it.

Harper's position on SSM seems fairly straight forward to me (even though I do not agree with him): Stephen Harper does not believe that SSM is a charter right. (I believe that he is wrong). If he is right, however, the issue of using s.33 is not even relevant because the charter of rights is out of play. If he is wrong, and it is a charter right, he will not use s.33 under any circumstances on this issue.

Where's the uncertainty? Why does this need to be clarified?

If the issue is muddled it's because the Liberal are trying to portray Harper's position as one which is a deliberate attempt to remove rights and that he'll stop at nothing to do so. That is clearly not what Harper is talking about. Liberal spin makes this issue confusing, not Harper's position. Harper's own statements on this seem more likely that Harper is willing to leave well enough alone should he be proven wrong.

Again, I'm sorry about not answering your legitimate, if ultimately moot points for the reasons I've stated, namely that even if Harper is successful he will likely fail). To conclude it seems to me that Harper's position is really about trying to stay consistent, keep the So-Cons in line, while trying to talk about other issues.

Sorry about the essay, and sorry for not discussing your points directly, but to some degree this helps me practise for my constitutional law exam on Monday.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I tend to agree with you on SSM, but only because it's an issue in which the country has already gone through a needless bloodletting and division - we don't need another one.

Where I think Harper is missing the mark is in not framing the discussion around this fact: Civil unions, such as those just instituted in Britain, would have met the requirement for equality. Had Parliament vacated the field of defining marriage at all, every province would have filled the gap with what they might have called marriage. Those who disagree could have declared their disagreement without running the risk of being called anti-gay and being hauled up before human rights commissions that aren't bound by federal law restrictions.

Martin tried to say churches were protected under his law. They're not - nothing stops a human rights commission from ignoring the law and imposing its own assessment. In any case, churches should not be agents of the state in solemnizing what is essentially a civil contract, and if they were smart, they'd disengage from that responsibility, sending their parishioners to city hall (or wherever) for civil solemnizing, and to church for the "real deal".

In this way, churches, mosques, synagogues, and other places of public worship would have been welcome to teach as part of the tenets of their faith that one must be properly married before God. This is what has worked successfully in numerous countries around the world.

In addition, we should remember that this whole mess started as a Liberal wedge issue, where Martin went for political gain at the expense of the country (again). The logical thing to have done would have been to get a definitive answer from the Supreme Court, by appealing the lower court decisions. Their failure to do so is a failure of leadership, and an indication they are willing to split the country apart if they think it will give them a few points in the polls.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Jarrett said...

From what I understand, even if Harper won every single seat in the country, he probably wouldn't be able to revoke SSM. Support therefor is very much divided on Urban/rural, young/old lines. Were we to add most of Harper's Ontario candidates, especially those in the Ottawa and Toronto areas, we'd find a lot of libertarian-types. Were we to include Quebec... well, there'd be no chance of SSM failing.

(Incidentally, working on some boards out here in BC, why is it that most all the people in favour of SSM are from the Canadian Alliance wing of the party? All the former PC members couldn't stand the idea!)

2:27 PM  
Blogger ferrethouse said...

What exactly does similar mean? Exactly the same? Somewhat different? I would certainly like to have this clarified.

He is fending off scare tactics from the Liberals. Gays will have all the benefits of marriage without using the term marriage which has been defined by history.

Sexual orientation is a protected class under the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. This means that gay people, under the Charter, CANNOT be deprived of any of the same rights as straight people.

Marriage isn't a right.

I don't understand the Conservative insistence that we have a free vote on SSM. The plain fact of the matter is that they CANNOT force the other parties to vote freely on this issue.

Then what are you worried about? Let them have the vote and this will be over.

3:03 PM  
Anonymous ann said...

What complicates this issue is that in fact it is not simply the Alliance that supports more discussion. Close to 40 of Martin's own MP's voted against the motion regarding same sex marriage. Martin didn't allow his Cabinet to vote against the motion, so we don't know how many more. Also 1 NDP MP voted against as did 5 Bloc MPs.

I don't know why this is a political hot button, but it does go through all of the Parties, not just the Conservatives.

Maybe if Martin hadn't cut short the debate and he'd followed proper process, the outcome would have been the same, but more people would accept it as a result of democracy rather than an unresolved issue?

7:18 PM  
Anonymous ann said...

Whether you agree or disagree with the traditional definition of marriage, it should be important that proper democratic process is followed for any issue in Parliament. I found this morning's poll in the Toronto Sun interesting..readership mostly urban/ far, results demonstrate a desire for democracy (regardless of the outcome): Should there be a free vote in the House on the same-sex marriage issue?
Yes 78%
No 22%

Total Votes for this Question: 1379

11:10 AM  
Anonymous ann said...

Now doesn't this seem hypoGritical? Or is it simply arrogant, and Mr. Martin is letting his MP's know that they really don't count...In today's National Post, Mr. Martin now says: "Liberal candidates are entitled to run in this election even if they want to deny Charter rights to gays and lesbians seeking same-sex marriage." "The issue is not 'What does an individual MP say?' An individual MP is entitled to his or her vision."

9:46 AM  
Blogger Ottawa Core said...

the issue is whether we allow any minority segment of our society the rights and privileges afforded to the larger realm. i say absolutely.

the glbt segment of society have been looking at providing themselves with not only their constitutional rights but preferential treatment as an extra ordinary and special class. it is, of coures, their right as canadians within our federation. just like quebec.

if you're canadian, under the regime of entitlement and legally endowed trudeauite rights one there's nothing stopping you from asking for more. it's your trudeau given right. maybe one day they'll write up a special clause.

i'm not saying glbt people shouldn't empower themselves. our society has cruised through the trip with women's. but do i have to address the issue as if it were the only issue? percentages, or those professing their private sexual orientation (i've always believed it's no one's business) aren't sufficiently numerous to give it too much thought.

the larger issue is the special status' bleating legal teams forcing their agenda. advocates should keep promoting issues AS IF the glbt were the constitution and right thinking people believe. more traction and benefit would issue from this approach. legal recourse is a final slap in the face option. why are we at that place now?

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Harper will try and put in a civil marriage plan is in Britain where they are EXACTLY the same things, the only difference being man-woman is called marriage, and man-man, woman-woman is called something else, like "Civil partnership". This being seen to be enough to please social conservatives, but if all rights are the same except for the name it may please the Courts.

Failing that, there is always the option of doing what they do in France and saying government has no authority to deem what is marraige, it has always been a private and or religous definition, and the government can only recognize civil marriages for tax, will, estates, etc purposes. So everyone gets a civil marriage. In which case all is equal again.
See law professor F. DeCoste from the University of Alberta for more on the latter topic of government having no legal right to define marriage whatsoever.

7:01 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home