When the Civil Marriage Act becomes law (which I believe it will) we are assured that nothing will change. Churches will maintain authority over their own visions of marriage. The fact sheet explains the rationale behind this.
This week, 'Peg City Kid and I exchanged views for and against same-sex marriage. Needless to say, neither of us leave this debate with changed minds.
Peg believes that equality in marriage is a 'rights' issue. He argues that denying gays and lesbians the right to marriage is tantamount to sending them to the back of the bus. He further suggests that clergy will be protected by this new law, but that government has an obligation to protect gays and lesbians so they can freely participate in their religion:
Peg said: Is marriage not a part of Christianity? Judaism? the teachings of Islam? . . . The Canadian government cannot force religious establishments to perform gay marriage.However, the Canadian government has the responsibility to make sure that the right of the individual are upheld and they are not discriminated against.How can the government ensure a persons right to practice there own religion if that person has been descriminated against in part of that religion. That is the point. It's not about civil unions, it about the right for an individual to practice religion.
I argue that marriage is not a 'right' and that if it were, then the other excluding elements (age, number of persons, familial relation) would have to be removed as well, because they are discriminatory. I don't believe gay and lesbian couples meet the criteria for marriage, therefore the institution should not be adapted to them, but another institution created to allow them the same benefits that marriage would bring.
What I find interesting is the one thing on which we both agree. If marriage is a 'rights' issue, as 'Peg says, then allowing churches etc. not to marry them based on 'religious reasons' would be the same as sending gays and lesbians to the back of the bus.
'Pegs paragraph above spells it out very clearly. "It's not about civil unions, it's about the right for an individual to practice religion."
Now 'Peg is not just speaking for himself. He is speaking for all those who champion this law. His talk is their talk. And he's correct -- it isn't about civil unions, it's about stripping religions of their autonomy.
In the year or two following the passage of this bill, the challenges to religious institutions will start coming. A gay Roman Catholic couple will approach their church and request a wedding. When it is denied, they will sue. They would argue that they are not being treated the same as their opposite-sex peers. They would say that they have a right to practise their religion, and for their religion to prevent them from participating in a sacrament which is offered to others, is no different from blacks having to use separate facilities during segregation. Lawyers would call it 'religious Apartied' to allow churches etc. to discriminate in the name of 'freedom of religion'.
What side do you think the government will come down on? A priest might be protected from a lawsuit, but religion is not protected from state interference when rights and discrimination are in play.
Anyone who thinks this issue is black and white is mistaken. Religious freedom is precarious. In Canada, it depends on judicial consent. Many people think the concept of 'separation of church and state' is a measure to protect states from religious interference, when in fact the opposite is true.
I don't believe marriage is a rights issue, but our current government does. If marriage is a right, then should religions and religious institutions be allowed to discriminate based on 'freedom of religion?'
If not, if religions must change their core understanding of marriage and its sacraments to reflect the 'moderate' worldview imposed on them by a government, then they no longer serve their intended function. If they are simply another apparatus of the state -- why not just save time and abolish religion?