by Barry Weisleder
After decades of street marches, bitter protests, and expensive legal battles, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Dec. 9 that a same-sex marriage law would be constitutional. The High Court Justices said that Parliament has the authority to redefine marriage to include gay or lesbian couples, but religious
officials cannot be forced to perform unions against their beliefs.
The federal Liberal minority government of Paul Martin is pledged to introduce such a law early in 2005.
Following Netherlands in 2001 and Belgium in 2002, Canada would be the third country to legalize same-sex marriage.
Indeed, the federal Liberals may try to ride the now popular bandwagon for gay/lesbian rights in the hope of distracting public attention from their penny-pinching fiscal policies and their steady shift towards Washington’s stance on Ballistic Missile Defence, the Middle East, and wars of intervention (which Paul Martin’s “Duty to Protect” doctrine would portray as multilateral rescue missions).
While Liberals rarely create bandwagons, they are proven adept at hopping aboard them. Legalization of gay marriage, one of the demands of the multi-faceted, mass-action movement for lesbian/gay liberation, is a case in point.
Acceptance of homosexuality among Canadians has increased exponentially over the past 15 years, says Environics Research Group vice-president Keith Neuman, quoted in the Dec. 10 Toronto Star: “Back in 1987, only 10 percent of Canadians generally approved of homosexuality. It’s now up to almost 50 percent.”
This has translated into a majority opinion in favour of same-sex marriages, Neuman says. About 57 percent of Canadians support the right of same-sex couples to marry, according to Environic’s latest poll on the issue.
Conservatives and religious fundamentalists are gearing up to fight the new law, saying they must heed a divine call to uphold tradition.
But when it comes to marriage, it seems change is what is traditional. Over the past 50 years, same-sex marriage may not even make it into the top three on a list of major changes to the institution of marriage.
For one thing, half of all first marriages fail. And a huge number of couples forego formal nuptials altogether.
For much of human history, and in many parts of the world today, the only acceptable marriages were those arranged by parents, politicians, or clerics. Love had nothing to do with it.
Indeed, today, some of the growing support for same-sex marriage springs from seeing marriage as a contractual matter. Economic insecurity under
capitalism makes everything, from custody of children to property dispersal, not to mention inclusion of spouses in extended health-benefit coverage, a legal issue for millions.
Once society is cleansed of scarcity, inequality, and oppression, humans will for the first time be able to exercise free choice in all social matters. That’s a
prescription for socialism, towards which every freedom gain, including legal equality for gay/lesbian marriage, is an important step.