Stockwell Day's speech on Bill C-38
Date: Thu, 31 Mar 2005
From: "Vellacott, Maurice -VellaM0@parl.gc.ca>
House of Commons Hansard - March 24, 2005
Mr. Stockwell Day (Okanagan-Coquihalla, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, to be constrained by parliamentary rules to only 10 minutes to speak about a law intending to alter a social definition, marriage, that has existed since time immemorial is a challenge indeed, but one which I will try to meet. A far more serious defect in the debate is the disturbing act of tyranny on the part of the Prime Minister and the leader of the NDP who are muzzling their MPs and forcing them to vote a certain way on such an important topic.
On the issue itself, first allow me to give a historic overview. Discussions on marriage certainly are not new. In the historically reputable journals of a Jewish physician by the name of Luke, almost 2,000 years ago, he recorded a debate between Jesus and various religious and community leaders. It is clear in their discussions that the monogamous nature of marriage was accepted as the norm despite the fact that the Hebrew culture had embraced polygamy during an earliertime in its social development.
Jesus used that opportunity to underline the fact that the earliest writings of Mosaic tradition, notably the Pentateuch account, made it clear that the God of the Hebrew people intended that marriage would be between one man and one woman exclusively.
For the two millennia following Christ's teaching on the matter, rightup until this day, that has been the western world view. Even during the post reformation period of the enlightenment and the development of rationalism, there was never any serious consideration given at any time in western society to change the definition itself. Therefore, though marriage is rooted in the religious base of the Judeo-Christian construct, and other religions, even philosophical and social commentators who were not theistic never suggested a change in the meaning of marriage itself.
This is also true in Greek, Roman and other western eras when homosexuality was accepted and practised somewhat freely and openly. At no time was there a group of activists demanding a definitional change of marriage itself.
Today, our legal system derives significantly from the pillars of the Judeo-Christian concepts. In the development of common law from its British, American and Canadian precedents, even those who rejected the concept of nature's God still drew heavily from the concept of nature's laws.
Simply put, this is the belief that certain facts of the nature of the universe, including human nature itself are so obvious that they are deemed to be self-evident. Therefore, by extension, human laws were drawn up to be in harmony with the self-evident laws of human nature and the universe around us.
Some people accept a divine creator, God, behind these laws of nature. Others still accept natural law and common law but without acknowledging a divine intelligence behind them. The fact still remains that until a very few short years ago, neither group felt intellectually, philosophically or religiously compelled to alter a millennia old definition that actually predates governments and even predates the church, synagogue and mosque. A very few years ago a tiny group of militant homosexuals suggested, and then demanded, that they had a right to appropriate the term marriage to describe their unions. That group of course has grown to encompass other advocates. They continue to demand this despite the fact that many homosexuals themselves do not support a change in the definition of
marriage and despite the fact that their conjugal relationships enjoy the full range of equality benefits that are available to heterosexual couples.
It should also be acknowledged that just because a person or a group demands a certain right, or says that a right exists, does not mean that the right exists either in relative or absolute terms just because they demand it. There is no absolute right for instance to freedom of speech. One cannot go onto an airplane and shout, "hijack". The person would find out that there is a limit on freedom of speech. Even a taxpaying citizen does not have the right to stand in the parliamentary galleries
above us and give a speech. The individual will be stopped, as a woman was right here only a few weeks ago.
Marriage is not an absolute right either. I cannot marry my sister, or my brother for that matter. I am sure they will be relieved to hear that today. I cannot marry my grandmother. I cannot marry my neighbour's wife. She is already married. I cannot marry a 14 year old. So, simply declaring a right to be human or absolute does not make it so.
Our national media refuses to report that even the Supreme Court did not say marriage was a human right in all cases nor did it say that the heterosexual definition violated anyone's right or that the heterosexual definition of marriage was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court itself did not say that nor did it command us in Parliament to change the definition. The court did say that if change was to occur, it is Parliament's role to make that change, not the courts, and I concur with that.
If a poster misleadingly asks Canadians if homosexuals should have their rights denied by not allowing them to take the word "marriage", many Canadians being fair minded would say, no, not to take away their rights. If the pollster asks the constitutionally accurate question, should the definition of marriage remain with a man and a woman as long as homosexual couples still have equality when it comes to benefits, most Canadians will say to leave the definition of marriage alone and let homosexuals have equal and beneficial unions also.
As we seem to be close to altering the definition, we must be prepared to ask the tough questions relating to the consequences of such a monumental change. Now some people get enraged when these questions even are raised. I would say to those people once their anger has dissipated, would they still answer the following questions. Among the majority of my constituents who believe we should live and let live, including letting the heterosexual definition of marriage live, many have asked me to search out the following questions for them so that they can more fully understand the consequences of the Liberals' legislation and then decide if they like it or not. I therefore submit these questions for consideration along with responses I have received to date from the appropriate authorities whom I have already asked. First, if the Liberals' law is passed, will sex education in the schools, including elementary grades, include the same portrayals of sexual activity which presently exist in heterosexual instruction? Will there be the same presentation of homosexual activity? Of course there will.
Second, will we see changes in terminology in our systems of public registration, for instance, in the use of words like "husband", "wife", "father", "mother", et cetera? Of course, these terms will gradually dissipate and fall into disuse. It is already happening in Ontario in the registration systems.
Third, is it true that Scandinavian countries which expanded the marriage term have statistically reported depreciation, that is a lessening of appreciation, for heterosexual commitment to marriage? Yes, in those jurisdictions the social indices themselves are clear. Fewer heterosexuals feel legally compelled to officially marry and more children are born outside of marriage's traditional terms. Some people may say that is a good thing. Some may say that it is not. That is simply a fact and it is tragic that the notion of what is best for children gets so little discussion in this debate.
Fourth, following the move for marriage to include homosexual, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender relationships, will polygamists demand to be included also? Of course they will. They already are asking to be included. Even non-religious polygamist groups in Canada are asking as well as those who are polygamists within their religions. As a matter of note, the few polygamists and bigamists whom I personally know are kind, caring and loving toward their children and their multiple partners. I am sure there are also abusive polygamists just as there are abusive homosexual and heterosexual couples. However, being kind does not translate into having the right to call oneself married any more than the two elderly sisters who are raising an orphaned nephew can call themselves married, even though they have a full right to all of the social and financial supports that were available to the married heterosexual parents.
Fifth, will religious freedoms be protected and respected? No, they will not be. These freedoms are already disappearing. Marriage commissioners who choose not to marry homosexuals are being fired. A Knights of Columbus chapter in British Columbia is in court because it chooses not allow a lesbian group to use its facility for marriage ceremonies. The list goes on. Even the Supreme Court would not guarantee religious freedoms, so let us not lure people into thinking that the religious factor will be protected. It will not.
These are only a few of the undisputed consequences of embracing a change in the definition of marriage. There are many more. If this is the brave new world that members want, then by all means vote for the change. If members want the definition to stay as it is, while still respecting the rights and choices of others, then vote against the legislation.
The point of respect is very important here. I dedicate my remarks today to my mother and to my recently deceased father who brought me up understanding and respecting a few things. First, is to respect marriage itself. My parents did not have a perfect marriage. I was pretty good, but it was not perfect. My marriage is not perfect. My wife is, but I happen to be imperfect. However, that does not discount the fact that the definition of marriage must be defended and protected.
As all human beings are, in my view, creatures of God's design, we must respect all other human beings. That does not mean I have to agree with their choices or agree with their opinions, but indeed I respect them as human beings. I hope we can keep these things in mind as we continue this debate.