The topic was “Is the same-sex marriage battle over?” in reaction to the Supreme Court of Canada Reference that was released last week.
The program was mostly infuriating, as a cavalcade of “marriage is a sacred procreative union of man and woman and has been for thousands of years” callers squirmed to justify their “uniqueness” without appearing “bigoted.” Here is a typical example of this, from a caller from Saskatoon:
The redefinition of marriage as it’s being proposed really does trump the notion of equality; I think that if this passes it will inflict irreparable damage on this institution and I think that, you know, to give a homosexual couple civil union status with according benefits is fine, we could all accept that, but I do wish these people would not explode the last vestiges of this universally sacred institution. Could they not leave us that. We allow their culture, and ask only that they allow ours.
Thankfully there were more rational callers, like this guy from Nova Scotia:
I just hope I don’t lose too many friends after tonight… I’m just an ordinary hetrosexual person, but to me it is a matter of principle, and it’s a principle of equality, in rights, and in dignity. I find it quite hypocritical to hear people say “give them their rights,” like the last caller said, but what I hear behind is “as long as their rights are not our rights.”
I’ve looked deep, deep within myself to try and find a scintilla of reasoning why men shouldn’t be allowed to marry men and women should be allowed to marry women. I come up dry.
Even if, for some odd religious reason, you think gays and lesbians are “evil” I can’t understand why “allowing them” to marry is so threatening to some. And I can’t understand why “they” are “them” and “we” are “us.”
And even if it is threatening, it disturbs me that people can’t look beyond their own discomfort and look at the broader issues of equality involved.
And even if people can’t muster enough strength to think about equality when it runs contrary to their base instincts, I can’t understand how in any way it makes sense to turn away from two people, regardless of gender, who voluntarily say “we love each other, and we’d like to make a public commitment to that love.” In what way can that be construed as a negative or harmful endeavour?
When I was a kid in elementary school, one of the worst insults you could hurl at someone — and we did it all the time — was “you’re so gay.” There was also lots of “suck me off” talk. I’m sure most of us didn’t know what we were talking about (I didn’t learn what “gay” meant until I was ten years old: I watched this episode of The Bob Newhart Show and asked my father; I can’t remember what he told me, but I know it was a more open-minded answer than the fathers of most of my friends would have given).
Through my youth, though, it was pretty clear, both in the popular culture and on the playground, that “being gay” wasn’t something to aspire to. And I didn’t even get the condemnations from the pulpit that kids in religious families would have.
As much as I’d like to think otherwise, I can’t help but thinking that the reaction against same-sex marriage is rooted in deep-seated fear, ignorance and discomfort about homosexuality, gay sex and gay culture. Although it has become de rigueur to pay a constricted sort of respect to gays and lesbians — this is what “give them their rights” means, I think — if you scratch beneath the surface, I think there’s a huge popular well of anti-gay sentiment in Canada.
If all of the “God’s sacred relationship between man and woman” rhetoric is simply cover for “we’re queasy about gay sex” — and I suspect that a large part of it is — what can we do about that? And, perhaps even worse, if large numbers of Canadians are members of anti-gay religious sects, how do others who aren’t live in community with them?
I want to live in a world where people are free to express different opinions, live different lives, eat different foods, practice different faiths, follow different paths; a world where as much as we hold our own personal beliefs dear, we’re smart enough, and guided by a sense of justice strong enough, and courageous enough to know that even when things made us afraid or uncomfortable or seem to involve a lot of change, a higher power of mutual respect and understanding guides us towards following the path of equality, plurality, and understanding.
How do we get there?