Same-Sex Marriage in Canada Research Paper

Pages: 6 (2228 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Women's Issues - Sexuality

Same-Sex Marriage in Canada

Same-sex marriage has been a controversial issue in most places where it has been raised. The issue was recently addressed in a California election with Proposition 8 intended to prohibit same-sex marriage, and the proposition passed and generated a strong backlash that currently continues. Much of the opposition in America has been fueled by religious fervor of a sort that has taken numerous political positions in recent years. The idea of same-sex marriage ahs been more widely accepted in Canada than in the United States and was embodied in law in 2005, after a period of time during which different provinces had different laws. The situation was normalized with the passage of Bill C-38 in 2005.

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Opponents of the law depicted it as a threat to religious freedom in Canada, an argument that has been made in the U.S. As well. The claim was made that churches would lose their tax-exempt status, that discussions of same-sex marriage would be censored, and that the religious community would be banished from the debate. Proponents such as Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of Foreign Affairs, would state, "Canada is a unique political project. As an open society, we have taken up the challenge of equality amidst diversity and we have proudly made this a touchstone of our identity" ("Same-sex marriages (SSM) in Canada" para. 5). The issue was placed under study in 2002 by Prime Minister Jean Chretien and justice minister Martin Cauchon, who created a parliamentary commission to hold national hearings on the issue and to note how other jurisdictions had handled it to date. It was thought that the options for this commission would include be to see about expanding marriage to include persons of all sexual orientations, to creae a parallel system of civil unions for gay and lesbian people to provide the same rights and privileges as marriage, or to get the government out of the marriage business so that it would have no legal significance but would only be a religious union ("Federal Parliamentary Commission and Discussion Paper" para. 1).

Research Paper on Same-Sex Marriage in Canada Same-Sex Marriage Has Assignment

Same-sex marriage was made legal in Ontario in 2003, and the idea spread gradually to other provinces as provincial courts declared that laws prohibiting same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. By June 2005, same-sex marriage had been legalized in eight provinces and one territory. The House of Commons then passed the Civil Marriage Act (Bill C-38) on June 28, 2005 by a vote of 158-133, making same-sex marriage legal in all of Canada. At the time, Alberta had been the major holdout against same-sex marriage (Moran paras. 1-3).

An even earlier victory in the Canadian Supreme Court held that for the purposes of family law, same-sex partners had to be considered "spouses." That was in 1999, and while this did not create same-sex marriage, it did create the background against which that right would be given later. This decision by the court was "the culmination of Canadian activists' decade long strategy of appealing to Canada's young Constitution and Equality Charter-which guarantees the right to 'human dignity' -- to win, one after another, 'common law' responsibility and benefits for same-sex pairs" (Graff 23). The process seen in Canada was being repeated throughout the Western nations as courts and legislatures granted some recognition to such unions and then developed a consensus to permit a more full-fledged form of same-sex marriage. The latter was developing in the Scandinavian countries and was endorsed in South Africa.

Charlene Gomes addressed the issue after endorsement of same-sex marriage in Canada, noting how Canada was now ahead of the United States on this issue and that change would come to the U.S. As well in time. The sign cited by Gomes was that "the Canadian government indicated acceptance of same-sex marriages when it chose not to appeal an Ontario provincial court decision that allowed gay marriage. British Columbia followed Ontario by legalizing same-sex marriages in the province on July 8 [2003]. The Canadian government plans to draft legislation to fully legalize same-sex unions soon" (Gomes para. 1)..

The change in Canada has been examined by people around the world, including those who support same-sex marriage and who want to see how it works in a real situation, and those who oppose same-sex marriage and who want to find problems and cite Canada as a reason not to allow such marriages elsewhere. Andrea Mozek and Peter Jon Mitchell note the change in Canada and the fact that what happens is that once the new right is instituted, new battles begin over those rights. They offer a specific definition of marriage because they state that without a clear definition, no real decision on the nature of the institution can be made:

Marriage as an institution is meant to constrain human behaviour, not liberate or grant rights. Put differently, where individuals have both rights and responsibilities, marriage falls more in the latter category; it is a responsibility, not a right. (Mozek and Mitchell para. 3)

The authors appear to oppose same-sex marriage, though they are not very open about their stance. They do claim that Canadians have been quitet about the change and see this as evidence of self-censorship, "led by the real possibility that speaking out will result in public maligning, or worse" (Mozek and Mitchell para. 13). The authors offer no proof that this is what Canadians are doing but only assume it.

Michael Coren is more direct in calling same-sex marriage Canada's biggest mistake, finding that this is so because the Canadian action cuts off debate on the issue and marginalizes critics as hateful and extreme, and he agrees with Morek and Mitchell on one point:

It's important to emphasize that this is not really about homosexuality at all, and has nothing to do with homosexual people living together. Opponents of same-sex marriage may have ethical and religious objections to homosexuality, but they are irrelevant to the central argument. Which is not about the rights of a sexual minority but the status and meaning of marriage. (Coren para. 3)

Coren spends a good deal of time raising arguments that have been raised and denying their validity, but what he does not do is discuss any problems specific to th Canadian law and how it is being applied.

Such criticisms are largely rehashes of the sort of arguments waging for some time in the United States over this issue. In part, the argument may indeed involve the meaning of marriage and specifically over what those asking for the right for gays to marry mean by the term. It is clear they mean for some sort of legal recognition of the domestic arrangements of gay citizens so those citizens can enjoy certain legal benefits. This may be all that some are asking, while others are demanding a social acceptance as well. At present, there are huge legal hurdles to same-sex marriage, but there are social and religious barriers that are even greater. Homosexuality inspires ambivalence and confusion in much of the straight population. Clearly the word "marriage" carries certain connotations that the heterosexual world wants to protect. Social conservatives and religious leaders in most denominations have taken the view that marriage is intrinsically a matter between men and women. Indeed, some people in the gay community also see marriage as a heterosexual institution with which they want no part, but gays considering the issue today have been forced into this issue by the realities of the AIDS epidemic. Gays discovered that they could not count on the same protections married couples take for granted, such as insurance benefits, bereavement leaves, and inheritance rights. These issues can be addressed through legislation to give people living together these rights, and the arrangement that results is called a domestic partnership. Some in the gay community, however, see the domestic partnership as an inherently second-class status that even at its best lacks the symbolic value of marriage (Salholz 69).

Domestic partnership itself was unheard of a few years ago, but more recently it has been adopted by a handful of corporations and a dozen local governments. There has been significant opposition to this sort of arrangement as well, largely from conservatives and religious groups. Almost 3 million of the nation's 93 million households today consist of unmarried couples. The number of "traditional" families has at the same time declined steadily. Domestic partnership may be defined in different ways, but it is presently confined almost exclusively to cohabitants who have a stable, intimate relationship and are financially interdependent. In 1992, the city council of Washington, D.C. passed an ordinance stating that almost anyone living together, including siblings or platonic friends, would be defined as a domestic partnership. The measure did not go into effect because Congress did not approve it. Domestic partnership has often been seen as a gay issue, though this is not necessarily the case, and indeed the vast majority of people using domestic partnership laws are heterosexual. The benefits accruing in domestic partnerships also vary widely. In some… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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