The Supreme Court of Canada has recently ruled that it is in with our constitution that members of the gay and lesbian community can enter into legal marriages. It remains for parliament to pass the necessary legislation, but several provinces within the country have already enacted their own, enabling those who so wish to marry.
The discussion over gay and lesbian rights - to marriage, or to any sort of legal sanction - has stirred controversy just about anywhere one might introduce the topic for discussion. At the heart of the issue for many so-called "straight" people is the fear that sanctioning a lifestyle that they consider to be "unnatural" or even "sinful" could in some way compromise their own marriages. It is an unthinking and unfortunate reaction, although one that can be understood at a visceral level. Homosexuality has so often been portrayed either as a sin or as some form of mental disease that most of us are conditioned to condemn rather than condone it.
Perhaps, this is not a driving issue in small communities such as ours. Many of us are engaged in stable, long-term heterosexual relations from which we have no desire to leave. Most of us associate with friends who are similarly engaged. If we know homosexuals at all, they are more or less accepted as slightly odd members of the community. They respond, for the most part, by being discrete and ingressive in promoting their lifestyles.To some members of the larger community, the rarity and propriety of local homosexuals may suggest proof that this is an aberrant lifestyle. In reality, though, we have relatively few people of homosexual orientation living here because we have, unconsciously but systematically, created a hostile environment that forces young homosexuals into the anonymity of larger communities as soon as they can escape the censure of family, school, and neighbourhood.
Still, as I mentioned above, the issue currently before Parliament continues to stir emotions.
Over the years, I have tried to strike a balance in my arguments in this column, when I have engaged in them at all. I try to approach controversial topics in a tone of inquiry, or of discussion, rather than one of argument or debate. Such is the case here. Personally I tend very strongly toward the moral and philosophical position that, as individuals, we all have the right to determine how we will live our lives, and that that right should be compromised - by law or by social pressure - only when it infringes on a similar right of another. Whether a couple of people down the street or elsewhere in the community decide to live together in some arrangement that is currently beyond our accepted norms really has nothing to do with how I decide to live mine. The fact that two gay or lesbian people may be able to marry legally in Canada has nothing at all to do with the relationship that has been so meaningful to me for nearly forty years.
And, I must admit that the recent Supreme Court decision makes me proud to be a Canadian. At a time when the richest and most powerful nation ever to arise is becoming more and more judgmental and intolerant of anyone who does not fit an increasingly narrow definition of "godliness", countries like Canada can still proclaim to be fair, welcoming, and tolerant to people of different cultures, religions - and even sexual persuasions.