“Bishop Frederick Henry of the Catholic Diocese of Calgary…himself has been hauled before the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal for promoting traditional marriage in his pastoral letters. ‘The human rights tribunals have become like thought police,’ he says. ‘In Canada, you can now use the coercive powers of the state to silence opposition.’ …If someone tells you same-sex marriage won’t affect your marriage, tell them to look north. The evidence is building.”
November 6, 2005
North of border, gay marriage spurs social revolution
In Canada, where same-sex marriage became legal in June, a social revolution is underway.
by Katherine Kersten, Star Tribune
A proposal to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman in Minnesota’s Constitution is one of the biggest issues our state will face in the next legislative session.
Some people argue that same-sex marriage wouldn’t change anybody else’s marriage but merely expand the institution to provide equal rights for all.
Canada made same-sex marriage the law of the land in June. What’s happened there in recent months suggests a different story.
Bishop Frederick Henry of the Catholic Diocese of Calgary, Alberta, has been at the forefront of Canada’s battle over marriage. On Thursday, he will address the Minnesota Pastors Summit — a ground-breaking interdenominational conference of Catholic and Protestant pastors — at Grace Church in Eden Prairie.
When I spoke to Henry last week, he said that Canadians, too, were originally told that same-sex marriage was just a small step to promote “inclusiveness.”
“But today in Canada a social revolution is underway,” he said.
How could a simple law redefining marriage as a union of “two persons” have such a revolutionary effect? There are two reasons.
First, marriage is Western society’s most fundamental institution. As such, it is embedded throughout our law, child-rearing practices and culture in general. When marriage is redefined, other social institutions are likewise transformed.
Second, when male-female marriage and same-sex marriage become equal in the eyes of the law, treating them differently becomes discrimination. In Canada, “privileging” male-female marriage in any way is now a violation of human rights. According to Henry, “Canadians who believe in the historic definition of marriage, who believe that children need a mother and father, are now the legal equivalent of racists.”
Today, Canada is combing through its laws and institutions to remove evidence of heterosexist discrimination. Terms such as husband and wife are now forbidden across the spectrum of Canadian law and government programs. The legal meaning of parenthood is being transformed, with consequences no one can predict.
Henry says Canadian schools are becoming battlegrounds. “Children will have to be taught about homosexual acts in health class, as they now are about heterosexual acts. Books that promote same-sex marriage are being introduced in some elementary schools. In one action, complainants have demanded ‘positive queer role models’ across the whole curriculum. If parents complain, they’ll be branded as homophobes.” Sound farfetched? People who disagree with same-sex marriage risk charges of hate speech. In British Columbia, teacher Chris Kempling has been found guilty — and disciplined — for defending male-female marriage in newspaper opinion pieces. Henry himself has been hauled before the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal for promoting traditional marriage in his pastoral letters. “The human rights tribunals have become like thought police,” he says. “In Canada, you can now use the coercive powers of the state to silence opposition.”
Although the new Canadian federal law claims to exempt people from sanctions for expressing a belief in traditional marriage, Henry says the provision will likely prove meaningless. “The courts and provincial governments, not the federal government, have the competence to decide such matters.”
Ironically, says Henry, it appears that only a small fraction of gay Canadians have taken advantage of their new right. He gives a local example: “A church in Calgary offered a marriage-preparation course for same-sex couples but had to cancel it because only one couple showed up.”
If someone tells you same-sex marriage won’t affect your marriage, tell them to look north. The evidence is building.