It was probably inevitable that Ralph Klein, the recently re-elected Premier of Alberta, would be the one to suggest a national referendum on whether same sex marriage will be legal across the nation.
And I suppose it was equally inevitable that Stephen Harper would claim the Supreme Court ruling that the Federal Government can proceed with legislation making such marriages legal, as a tremendous victory for those who would prevent such an eventuality.
Both politicians obviously have no qualms about trampling a right guaranteed under the Canadian Constitution for the sake of partisan political gain.
Klein said as much to The Globe and Mail.
“There is very little legally we can do about it, but there is a lot politically,” he grumped.
Both men are counting on their assessment that most Canadians oppose the right of gays and lesbians (or heterosexuals for that matter) to take same sex partners as legally blessed partners, entitled to the civil benefits of such pairings in the same fashion as man/woman partnerships.
But Klein and Harper have a problem.
Most Canadian provinces (excepting Alberta and three in the Atlantic Region) have already accepted lower court rulings that such marriages are legal. There has been no indication of massive protest in any of those provinces. Nor is there any indication of support should any federal attempt be made to use the notwithstanding clause in an attempt to circumvent the lower courts.
If the parliament voted to use the clause to disavow the highest court in the land, that action would provoke a national crisis in government the like of which we have not seen since the days of the War Measures Act.
So what is left for those who would deny the right of same sex couples to have their union legally blessed? For that is the effect of the Supreme Court decision — that the right to marry someone of the same sex is an undeniable right under the Canadian Constitution.
What is left for reckless and feckless politicians is the opportunity to rouse deep emotional beliefs on the religious propriety of such unions, in blind opposition to the rational decision making of those ladies and gentlemen of the highest court in the land.
For that is the essence of the division between those who accept the idea that those of a different sexual persuasion have the inherent right to marriage and those who believe such unions are an affront to God, and forbidden by the teachings of Christianity, despite the fact that Christ himself offered no commentary on the subject.
That is where the debate comes apart: emotion based belief versus intellectual reason.
This is why the two sides in the debate can never come to an accommodation: they argue from an entirely different premise — rational evidentiary analysis versus blind belief.
Which is to say that the Supreme Court issued the reference it did, because it came to the conclusion that it was the only reasonable conclusion to reach, based on the facts of the case.
In doing so, the court rejected the arguments of Christian religious movements: that such marriages would lead to a further breakdown of man-woman marriages (curiously, in the United States there are more divorces amongst fundamentalist Christians that any other religious group).
There simply was no evidence leading to a rational analysis that would support such a denial of equality under the Constitution of this country.
That is how the court defined the question before it — as one of equality.
Those who would have the court deny the right of same sex civil marriage argue that the threat is implicit, but they cannot mount any evidence to support their argument.
This is not to disavow the sincerity with which some people hold to their beliefs, based on their interpretation of biblical teachings.
But those beliefs do not make them right, nor give them the right to deny the rights of others because of the beliefs they hold.
I do not know why many people are so passionate in their denial of same sex marriage rights. Some cite Old Testament biblical injunctions. But you can find an Old Testament quote to justify or deny (and sometimes both on the same subject) almost anything.
There seems to be a fear that such marriages threaten the survival of the institution of heterosexual marriage, the family, children and society as a whole.
But no one seems to be able to say why this would be so.
Religion is based on belief. So is politics. Both are emotion based. That makes a dangerous political stew for people like Stephen Harper and Ralph Klein to stir.
And it is totally irresponsible for them to do so.
Religious denominations across Canada have been experiencing their own problems in dealing with what has become the most divisive of issues, and for the same reasons — emotion, based on fear, versus the idea that gays and lesbians have religious rights that entitle them to have their unions sanctified by their church.
The reasoning goes this way: our sexuality is the essence of who we are. It cannot be separated from who we are as individuals. Homosexuality has always existed in every society. It defines the sexual essence of some people. Like heterosexuality, it is a condition of our humanity. It cannot be unlearned. It cannot be denied without emotional injury.
Through the years, Christian religious institutions have all (with more or less emphasis) proscribed the practice of sexual activity outside of marriage. They allow for sexual activity within marriagefor the purpose of procreation and for the expression of mutual love between two committed partners. It must approve the latter, or it would deny the right of sexual activity to women after menopause.
Therefore, it is argued — if sexuality is part of our essential humanity, inseparable from who we are; and if the practice of sexual activity is permissible as an expression of mutual love within marriage; then the church must allow for the sanctification of homosexual love as well as heterosexual love — within the bounds of marriage.
Otherwise, the church is denying gay people a right it accords to others, and places them beyond the pale in committing fornication when they express their love sexually in a committed relationship.
But that is reason, and belief is not based on reason.
There is a phrase in the Nicene Creed which accords to the Almighty the responsibility for creating “all things visible and invisible.” That would seem to include the condition of homosexuality.
And that leads to a theological question: why would God create homosexuals as well as heterosexuals, and then deny them for being what he has created? That would be an enormously cruel and contradictory thing to do.
The question cannot be dealt with by giving answers that are of the “we are all equal in the sight of God, but some are more equal than others” sort. Nor by the ecclesiastical quip, “love the sinner, hate the sin.”
The congregations of the churches must find their own way through the emotional minefield this debate represents.
My Christmas message to Klein and Harper is this: in this season of love, try to find it within yourselves to withstand the temptation to prey upon the fears of people for your own political aggrandizement.