Time to redefine the question
My Chief Ottawa Correspondent (Sabu, Hunter of the Narwhal), remarked recently that I haven’t weighed in yet on the same-sex marriage debate. Given the fact that I’ll generally take a shaky and unjustified stand on any given issue, even when no stand at all is perfectly sufficient, he was understandably surprised. Well, my friend, have no fear – The Babbler is about to take a firm editorial position in that puddle of quicksand over there. Watch, and get ready to throw me a rope.
I don’t feel like I have a dog in the same-sex marriage fight, to be perfectly honest with you. Oh, the so-cons will say I need to man the bastions against the onslaught of immorality poised to overrun Christendom, and the Jack Layton crowd will say everyone has a vested interest in seeing the victory of human rights over homophobic bigotry. I think they’re both full of bunk.
The group doing the most damage to ‘traditional marriage’ right now is married folk who don’t take the commitment seriously enough. You demean marriage when you cheat on your husband every time you go on a business trip, or when you get divorced a year after you got married, or when you put rings on each others’ fingers just because you’re twenty-eight and you’ve been cohabitating for four years now and all your friends are getting hitched. Liz Taylor and Britney Spears have done more to damage the institution of marriage than Rosie O’Donnell ever will.
The crowd screaming ‘discrimination’ and ‘human rights’ is equally daft. Marriage is discriminatory, and it should quite frankly remain that way. The discriminatory nature of marriage won’t change just because you suddenly let folks from the Pride Parade into the club. By defining marriage as a union of two consenting adults of distant-enough blood relation (regardless of sex), you may include same-sex partners, but you still discriminate against polygamists, beastialists (I may have just coined that term), pedophiles, and incestuous crazies, among others. What of their supposed ‘rights’? If a definition is to be worthy of the name, it will include some and exclude others. To suggest that embracing one particular group - like gays - while continuing to reject others will magically make marriage ‘inclusive’ is just politically-correct hogwash.
So, how would I solve the dilemma? Well, first I’d get government out of the business of marriage altogether: civil unions for everyone.
Marriage is too loaded and unclear a term for use in this debate. It’s an anachronistic throwback to the days when the state assumed everyone had Judeo-Christian beliefs. In today’s society, when you talk about marriage, you have to ask: are you talking about Catholic marriage – the type you can only do once unless one spouse dies or the marriage is annulled? Are you talking about financial obligations, like common-law marriage? Are you talking about both, or about something else entirely?
I say we remove the debate as far as possible from the passionate traditional and religious undercurrents that swirl around the term marriage, and debate the terms of civil unions in this country. Let churches decide whose unions merit God’s blessing (they're going to do it anyhow), and leave the completely separate legal rights and obligations to the state.
At that point, the question becomes more clear: which types of relationships should receive legal protection in this country, and why? Which should tolerated, but accorded no special favoured status? Finally, which should be prohibited?
Personally, once the question is clarified, I believe child-bearing unions of two or more should receive special status, and that the status should attach to the children. That is to say, a widow, widower or single-parent should retain the special status even in the absence of a spouse. Society has a vested interest in promoting decent child-rearing, because it contributes to the continuation of the species and to the health of society. If you don’t believe procreation is something society should encourage (because of global overpopulation or some such reason), we part ways here. Likewise, if you believe only a man and a woman in a long-term relationship should be supported in their efforts to raise children, we part ways here.
Childless unions – of heterosexual, homosexual, polyandrous, polygamous, and even incestuous partners – should be tolerated, but not sanctioned by the state. Again, I must stress: feel free to sanction or censure whatever you want in your church. Incestuous procreation should be prohibited, for the obvious genetic reasons. Consent should remain a requirement for any union within the parameters of this discussion – children, animals, and the severely mentally-disabled can’t give consent, and so should remain barred from any relationship of this nature.
I’m guessing many of my readers are scraping jaws off desks right now. So much for tidy political categorizations, eh? Now that I’ve staked myself out in the cold, you are free to begin throwing rocks from both left and right.