Thursday, May 10, 2012

Connecting the Dots on So-called Same Sex "Marriage" part 3: Dot #2: SSM is NOT about Equal Rights

Here is the next installment where Bishop Dowd explains Why So-called Same Sex Marriage is NOT about equal rights. Proponents of SSM and "the separation of Church and sate might find the conclusions interesting... and for them, disturbing.

Dot #2: Same-sex marriage is not about equal rights

As part of his original question, Eric asked:

In an age of rampant divorce, cheating, etc. why would we get concerned that a loving couple would want the same civil (and only civil) rights as others?

Answer: Because this proposed social project is about more than civil rights.

Indeed, one of the arguments put forward by proponents of same-sex marriage is that it is merely a mechanism for ensuring the civil rights of homosexual couples.

This is a false argument. The various levels of governments have the option to ensure these civil rights (e.g. property rights, rights of access, etc.) by other means. Quebec did so, for example, by creating the category of "civil unions", which protect all these various civil rights in a blanket manner, rather than one by one.

In his speech introducing Bill C-38, however, the Prime Minister states that he does not support the creation of a different category such as civil unions. As he puts it, "separate is not equal". This is strong rhetoric, as it is a slogan drawn (most recently) from the days of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. For him, nothing less than the full recognition of marriage itself will do.

Apartheid was wrong, however, because the supposed "need" for separation was based on illusory racial considerations. The Prime Minister is, in effect, declaring that believers in the intrinsic value of natural family bonds are clinging to a theory as unworthy as the racial theories of South Africa. This is not merely appalling, it is wrong. The separation between marriage and civil unions is about the inclusion (or not) of the natural family bonds in the very concept of marriage itself, something that Bill C-38 and its background court judgments backhandedly demonstrate. If such bonds, as such, are worthy of special social support, then they are worthy of having an institution of their own that reflects that social support. The legal distinction is not unjust because it is grounded in a distinction that exists in real life.

So what is this really about, if not about equal civil rights? From what I can see, it is about the creation, not of social tolerance, but social APPROVAL, for same-sex unions.

The restriction of the legal definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples, as I have already demonstrated, contains an implicit recognition of a distinct value to natural family bonds. These natural family bonds are generally considered a good thing, given that society only steps in to legally sever them in extreme cases. Marriage, therefore, has contained within it a certain emphasis of social approval — while not every opposite-sex marriage produces children, the simple fact of the reservation of marriage to opposite-sex couples provides a mechanism for affirming and supporting these natural family bonds which are generally acknowledged to be good.

Homosexual relationships, on the other hand, have met with great social disapproval over the course of history, even to the point of threats against peoples' lives and livelihoods. The decriminalization of homosexual behaviour a few decades ago marked the beginning of a new era of tolerance. Slowly, slowly, the law has been rewritten to allow for equal civil rights, culminating in the creation of the category of civil unions.

But tolerance is not yet approval, and many people believe that unless same-sex unions receive the same social approval as opposite-sex unions, real equality is missing. To be honest, they are right. But when the government decriminalized homosexual behaviour, it recognized that there are limits to the right (and ability) of public authority to legislate moral disapproval. The flip side also applies, however: the law should not try and legislate moral approval beyond the domain of civil rights either, because if it does it is actually becoming a religion, not a government.

(As an aside, this would mean that the "church-state" conflict which many claim is happening is not really a church-state conflict, but a conflict between explicit churches and the state acting as an implicit church. This changes the perspective on what is really going on considerably, and explains why so many religious types are leaping to religious arguments in a civil matter. It's not just because it is the only argument they know, it is also because they — perhaps only unconsciously — recognize this implicit "churchification" of the State.)

The mess we have is the result. Cultural equality, and not merely equality in civil rights, is believed to depend on social approval (or at least coincides with it). In turn, that social approval, for it to be total, requires a broadly-accepted status of "married" for same-sex couples. But the very reason opposite-sex marriage has such an approval is because it implicitly includes reference to the natural family bonds. The definition of marriage, therefore, winds up getting amended to remove reference to the very thing that leads to social approval of marriage in the first place. Ironically, then, the final result is that by seeking to come under the "social approval umbrella" of marriage in this way, the same-sex couples pull the rug out from under the thing they are looking to for their equality. In the end there is cultural equality, but it is an equality of dishonour, not honour.

CONCLUSION #1: Citizens are often made to feel that if they wish to reserve the definition of marriage to opposite-sex unions, they are necessarily bigots. They should not feel this way, because (1) there is no necessary denial of civil rights, and (2) the social honour paid to marriage is an echo of something only opposite-sex relationships can have: the intrinsic inclusion of honoured natural family bonds. Indeed, expanding the definition of marriage in the manner demanded by the courts and implemented in Bill C-38 removes the basis for the social honour paid to marriage in the first place.

CONCLUSION #2: People who really desire to ensure the separation of Church and State should oppose Bill C-38, because in legislating social moral approval the government oversteps its bounds and becomes an implicit religion. Those who claim to wish this separation but who do not oppose Bill C-38 are, perhaps without realising it, actually trying to have it both ways: they want to see the Church kept out of affairs of State, but they have no problem seeing the State make pronouncements consistent with the field of activity of the Church

First Installment: Setting the Stage

Third Installment:Dot II So-called same sex "marriage is NOT about Equal rights

Fourth Instalment Dot III Parental Rights and responsibilities

Fifth Installment: Dot #VI. Essay on the Nature of Human Culture

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