“Gay marriage is an abomination to Jesus Christ,” says third-year University of Toronto student Maureen Sukhu. “I am a part of Christ; therefore, I condemn gay marriages and consider it a great, great sin.”
This is a typical view of those opposed to same-sex marriages. With the recent Ontario Superior Court ruling that the legal definition of marriage is discriminatory, the debate surrounding gay marriages has been fired up again. But brace yourself: not all Catholics are against gay marriage and perhaps equally as surprising, not all gays are for it.
Christine Tin Sive is a third-year psychology student at U of T, and a devout Roman Catholic. She was born and raised in a religious family, with whom she regularly attends church.
When she learned the Pope would be coming to Toronto for World Youth Day, she jumped at the chance to volunteer. While she has great respect for the pontiff, she departs from the teachings of the Vatican when it comes to same-sex marriages.
When asked how she feels about a man joining another man in marriage, she began by reciting the following passage from the Bible:
“‘Love is patient, love is kind…it is not proud, it is not rude…it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’
“I believe very strongly in this passage and it’s not only because it is in the Bible,” she said. “I am not against gay marriages because I haven’t found any significant arguments that have been able to induce me to believe that gay marriages are wrong.
“Marriage is a commitment to love, respect and share. I don’t think that gays are unable to follow the criteria for marriage.”
Paul Bowser is a graduate student at U of T and the internal coordinator of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgendered of the University of Toronto (LGBTOUT).
His opinion, which does not represent that of LGBTOUT, is that marriage, in general, is not a desirable institution. He views the fight for legal recognition of gay marriages as a diversion of time that could be better spent working towards social equality, rather than towards an institution that is fundamentally flawed.
“Marriage privileges some at the expense of others,” said Bowser. “Even if gay and lesbian couples get access to marriage, those privileges will still be unavailable to people whose relationships are structured in non-traditional ways.
“So, while marriage supporters claim their quest is all about equality, I think it’s really just about equality for them… as long as they get their prize, they don’t seem to care that others are being left behind.”
Echoing these sentiments is Kevin Beaulieu, a U of T graduate and co-ordinator of LGBTOUT.
“I wish the state would get out of the business of ‘recognizing’ any marriage, because recognition is a form of privilege, and where privilege exists, there can be no equality, even if you’re among the privileged,” said Beaulieu. “Seeking equality by joining the ranks of the privileged is like fighting poverty by getting rich.
“It’s discouraging and possibly unfair that so much of our community’s energies and resources are devoted to the marriage issue. It’s a red herring.”
On July 12, a panel of three judges at an Ontario divisional court ruled unanimously that prohibiting gay couples from marrying is unconstitutional and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The decision stemmed from lawsuits launched by two gay couples in Toronto against the Ontario government for failing to accept their marriages as legally valid.
Shortly after the Ontario Court ordered the federal government to alter its definition of marriage to include gay men and women, Justice Minister Martin Cauchon said the government would seek leave to appeal the ruling.
“There is no consensus, either from the courts or among Canadians, on whether or how the laws require change,” said Cauchon. “The government believes it is the responsible course to seek further clarity on these issues.”
The case will be heard by Ontario’s Court of Appeals sometime in the coming year.
Ontario is not the only province dealing with this issue. Last year, the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled against same-sex marriages and that case is now being appealed. Quebec is also expected to issue a ruling in a third challenge to the federal definition of marriage as a “union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others” this fall.
Ultimately, all three cases are expected to wind up at the Supreme Court, but not before the federal government exhausts all appeals at the provincial level, which could take up to six years.
Brenda Cossman, a lawyer and professor of law at U of T, thinks the legal argument for equality is the only thing that matters. “I believe that it is only a matter of time until gay and lesbian marriages are recognized by the courts in Canada,” she said. “The Ontario Court decision is the future, the British Columbia decision is the past. And legally, it is a no-brainer. Denials of formal equality violate the Charter, period.”
The issue of same-sex marriages is clearly a contentious one, in both the gay and straight communities.
One student, who wished to remain anonymous because many of his friends have yet to learn he is gay, also welcomed this diversity. “I’m glad to see that there are queer folks who are against the idea of same-sex marriages [or marriages in general],” he said.
“I sometimes ask myself: if I wasn’t gay, would I still be supporting same-sex marriages? I may not agree with them, but it’s a good thing to see that we have ‘diversity within diversity.'”
Illustration by Derrick Chow