Same-Sex Marriage, Part I

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“I Cannot Breed in Captivity” ~ Gloria Steinem

At the beginning of May, the British Columbia Supreme Court overturned a previous ruling by an appeals court regarding same sex marriage restrictions. The unanimous decision echoes those of the Supreme Courts of both Ontario and Quebec. Effectively, this means that all of us can choose to marry if we wish, regardless of gender or orientation. This victory for civil rights is not a fait a compli. The Supreme Court of Canada has a year to consider this decision and uphold or overturn it. Still, this third ‘yes’ vote signifies a powerful advance toward inclusion.

There are many who endorse Ms. Steinem’s sentiments regarding the institution of marriage and scratch their heads at why this is an issue at all. After all, marriage is a relatively new concept, only a few hundred years old, and designed to protect the inheritance trail of wealthy landowners; romance and love had little to do with it. The original reasons for marriage have long since deteriorated and been transformed into a social statement of love and commitment. Our government offers tax incentives to those who choose to sign on, and community property legislations offer some protection for wives and children. Even so, marriage is now a business (a multi-million dollar business!) and a social tradition that endures despite the objections raised by feminists during the sexual revolution of the sixties and an ever-growing acceptance of living together without benefit of legal approval.

For those who long to make public their mutual dreams of life together, this legislation validates their wishes. No longer denied the rights of others, gays and lesbians can soon choose whether to marry. This marks another important step away from the shame and fear associated with being inside the closet and outside the realm of acceptability. Surely, this is reason to celebrate!

Love is difficult to find and even more so to sustain and nurture. Lesbians and gays know full well the lack of social supports others enjoy in enduring the inevitable strains of living together. This legislation will provide an important link to community backing. It will, as well, protect children and guarantee the rights and responsibilities heretofore taken for granted by heterosexuals. No longer must couples fear losing property to obscure blood relatives, or worry about how medical staff will respond to a mate’s directives about life-threatening crises. In other words, lesbians and gays will be treated pretty much like everyone else.

Religious adherents and other conservative thinkers will object to this legislation. We must weigh their arguments about the perceived threat to the family, and eventually we will need to redefine the term. ‘Family’ will come to mean those who love and protect one another, who support and nourish their bond, and who identify as a small group within a larger community. Come to think of it, isn’t that already a working definition? Let’s embrace all those who come together in love and kindness, companionship and care, and welcome everyone who chooses to celebrate publicly such society-sustaining values.

Kudos to our courts! The law often lags much farther behind in reflecting society’s values. Truly, this decision signals a reason for all of us to be proud, regardless of the gender of the people we love.