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Confusion over marriage issue: Stephen Harper and Archbishop Meagher.

Opposition Leader Stephen Harper cannot have it both ways: promise to uphold the traditional legal definition of marriage, while insisting that homosexual couples should have essentially the same obligations and benefits in law as married couples.

Yet that is precisely the contradictory position that Harper has adopted. In a statement on December 14, he disclosed his intention to move an amendment to the government's legislation on same-sex marriage that will affirm "First, a clear recognition of the traditional definition of marriage; second, full recognition of same-sex relationships as possessing equivalent rights and privileges to marriage."

If, in conjunction with the provinces, Harper were to achieve both goals, he would accomplish nothing for the preservation of marriage in Canada. Consider the Norwegian experience. In a recent article in The National Review, Stanley Kurtz, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, noted that, in 1993, the Norwegian Parliament enacted a law on registered partnerships that does not allow same-sex couples to marry, but grants them the equivalent rights and privileges to marriage in civil unions.

Today, marriage in Norway is in a state of collapse. In 2002 in Nordland district, 67 per cent of children were born out of wedlock. In the case of first-born children, the ratio was 82 per cent.

Kurtz comments: "Since the Norwegian tendency to marry after the second child is gradually giving way, it is likely that the 67 percent figure for all out-of-wedlock births will someday catch up to the 82 percent figure for first-born out-of-wedlock births. At that point, marriage in Nordland will be effectively dead."

By this standard, marriage is already dead in several parts of Quebec. According to the province's official Institut de la Statistique, 85.7 per cent of children in the Gaspe region were born out of wedlock in 2003.

In 2002, the Quebec legislature adopted an act on "civil unions" that grants same-sex partners living in conjugal relationships essentially the same benefits and obligations as conjugal heterosexual couples. While this law has obviously not been the sole cause of the impending collapse of marriage throughout Quebec, it is bound to be an aggravating factor. In a cross-country study of continued marital decline in Norway and the Netherlands, Kurtz has found: "Even de facto same-sex marriage undermines marriage" [Editor: see article on the Netherlands, Same-sex marriage disconnects from parenthood, p 14].

It follows that anyone who appreciates the vital importance of marriage to the well-being of children should oppose both the legalization of "same-sex marriage" and the conferral of marital benefits in all but name on cohabiting homosexual couples.

Christian clergy, of course, have a special responsibility in this debate. All of them, Catholic and Protestant, should boldly affirm the historic teaching of the Christian church on the uniqueness and sanctity of marriage.

Instead, some clergy have abandoned marriage outright, while others equivocate. Consider the statement issued by Archbishop Anthony Meagher of Kingston on January 23: "Although we (Catholics) believe that same-sex sexual relationships are immoral, we respect the freedom of others who may not hold these beliefs. If the Government (sic) believes it has no choice but to acknowledge such unions, legislation could be drafted which would protect the rights and benefits of two men or two women who choose to enter into such a relationship without encouraging these relationships by equating them with marriage."

Meagher would have done better to point out that the government and the opposition have a choice: they should uphold the traditional definition of marriage and oppose the conferral of rights and benefits equivalent to marriage on two men or two women in a same-sex sexual relationship.

This is not to suggest that the state should unjustly discriminate against homosexual couples. To the contrary, as a couple, cohabiting homosexuals should retain what they already have: the same rights in law as two brothers, two sisters, a parent and a child or any other couple that is living together in a non-sexual relationship.

Prime Minister Paul Martin says that, as a Catholic, he upholds the sanctity of marriage, but as a politician he has no choice but to follow the marriage-bashing dictates of the Supreme Court of Canada. That is nonsense. Like all MPs, he can and should choose to fulfil his duty in law and morality to uphold the traditional definition of marriage.

Rory Leishman is a national affairs columnist for the London Free Press in London Ontario. His homepage is
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Title Annotation:Columnist
Author:Leishman, Rory
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 1, 2005
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