Friday, January 21, 2005

It's a Hack day (not a Wonk)

Contrary to Bob's sentiment here, I think it's far too early for Cosh, Steyn, me, or anyone else to say "I told you so" that legal SSM will lead to legal polygamy. Among other things, the legalistic arguments that there is no slippery slope are compelling. But I would like to revisit two points:

First, it says here that popular support for legal polygamy is up a few points today, entirely by virtue of the issue being in the newspaper outside the context of Bountiful or some other creepy religious compound with the stench of coercion.

Second, here is Cosh's concluding phrase from a post last month:
Again, my basic question is, if there's nothing exceptional about the conjugal relationship between a man and a woman, then what's so damn special about the number "two"?

Set aside your own answer to this question, and mine, for a moment. The interesting adjunct to this question is, "Who, precisely, is going to defend redefined marriage against further redefinitions?" One of the answers, today at least, is the Liberal government, but I think even most supporters would concede that a firm Liberal position is a contradiction in terms, and their machinations over the past 5 years on this file demonstrate that. (Out of the memory hole: in the June 2004 election campaign, Paul Martin was unwilling to say whether he personally approved or disapproved of SSM).

The answer to the adjunct, I think, in terms of a base, must be "committed gay-rights supporters". Polled support for SSM comes from this group, and from the group whose attitude could roughly be characterized as, "I am a live-and-let-live type of person. I have no problem with gays and lesbians, and I don't wish to discriminate. They want their unions to be called 'marriage'? Sure!"

The only defensible answer to Colby's question (besides "nothing") must be based on an affirmative defence of same-sex relationships as "the same" as opposite-sex ones, and "superior" to polyamorous, non-conjugal etc. relationships. And I think it's asking a lot of the live-and-let-live types to get on board with this. There's the obvious - they already decided that the traditional definition of the word "marriage" isn't dear enough to them to warrant telling others how they may appropriate it. Beyond that, some percentage of this group is already fatigued with having to affirm their tolerance of gays and lesbians in some new form every few years (live and let live is a bidirectional pact, no?).

As for the opponents of SSM, well, I think Selley is right when he says the "slippery slope" is a bad analogy - it's really more like a bell. Once marriage has been redefined, the bell is rung, and traditionalists and the religious will stop concerning themselves with what the government says about it - forget about any vocal defences of "two persons".

So how will this play out? Uh, I dunno. Harper is already on the "slippery bell" angle. I think he's being intellectually honest more than politically cagey, though - if you accumulate my "logic" in the preceding paragraphs, it says that the number of people inclined to oppose SSM on the grounds that it might lead to further redefinitions is rather small. (That said, if you consider the SSM issue to be as yet unresolved, it may be enough to tip the scale).

Two final thoughts:
1) You are free to argue that I've projected my own attitudes onto an unreasonably high percentage of Canadians - you may or may not be correct in some way.
2) I look forward to Paul Martin's ongoing impassioned defense of the fundamental human right of gays and lesbians to be married. If Paul Wells has the stones to present a juxtaposition of Martin's "very, very clear" position on SSM over the years, I think my head might explode with delight.


At 6:15 p.m., Blogger John the Mad said...

Excellent post. It will be fascinating to watch this one develop.

At 10:51 p.m., Blogger David Wozney said...

Prime Minister Paul Martin stated: "Polygamy is against the law and, as far as I'm concerned, it will always be against the law".

Can Prime Minister Paul Martin or anyone else explain why polygamy is against the law in Canada?

Consenting adults can be involved in loving polygamous relationships without there being any spousal or child abuse.

Consenting loving adults who are very happy with their polygamous relationships, and who want to continue their polygamous relationships, cannot have their polygamous relationships registered with governments in Canada.

Polygamy is discriminated against by governments in Canada since polygamous relationships cannot be legally registered in Canada.

Why do polygamists not have the right to have their polygamous relationships recognized by governments in Canada?


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