I am actually referencing the Letter of the Day ("Let's have a responsible vote on same-sex marriage") in today's National Post, which is unfortunately behind a subscribers' firewall. Douglas Farrow, associate professor of Christian thought, McGill University, Montreal wrote a rebuttal to the previous day's editorial, "Vote your Conscience".
Friday's editorial was a poorly-written piece in my opinion. It was full of logical flaws and outrageous partisanship, but finally ended on a note urging each M.P. to vote his or her conscience during the free vote in the fall:
It is clear that Canadians remain divided over the issue, a divide that is founded on the basis of individual morality and religious beliefs, but also on the basis of support for equality rights, minority protections and adherence to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Consequently, Canadians would be well served if MPs of all parties were to ignore the agitation of special interest groups and their party leadership, and vote their conscience.
Such a vote should be further informed by the consequences -- or, more accurately, the lack of consequences -- of allowing homosexuals the same rights to marriage as heterosexuals. The issue is an emotional one and has attained an outsized political footprint as a result. But in truth, gay marriages have had a very small effect on life in this country: The fact is that relatively few gay couples have availed themselves of the right. Despite predictions to the contrary, the fabric of Canadian society has not been rent.
Professor Farrow counters:
In point of fact, there is no such thing as purely private morality. Morality, whatever its guiding lights, is by nature public. But in any case -- as every serious participant in this debate knows -- we are faced with here a conflict of very different, and equally public, moral claims. Chai Feldblum, a legal scholar and proponent of same-sex marriage at Georgetown University, was quoted in The New York Times last week to the effect that it is only honest to acknowledge that "we are in a zero-sum game in terms of moral values."
In response to the 'sky hasn't fallen yet' argument:
But who is really so foolish as to suppose that the consequences of a major change in public moral values, or in the social institutions that embody them -- especially marriage -- will appear in the first year or even in the first decade?
And legal consequences like question of parental names on birth certificates:
Many people do not seem even to be aware that C-38, in its consequential amendments, removed the very concept of "natural parent" from Canadian law and, at a stroke, made parenthood a gift of the state -- a legal construct -- rather than a natural right.
Finally, he agrees with the Post that each M.P. should vote his or her conscience but only after diligent study and reasoned debate, as that which occurred in France where a Parliamentary Report on the Family and the Rights of Children concluded that same-sex marriage was not in the best interests of the child:
I'm not sure what will happen in France, but I know what I would like to see happen in Canada. Let our MPs vote their conscience, by all means. But consciences require both formation and information. So ... here's my suggestion: Before holding another vote on same-sex marriage, let the present Parliament act in a more responsible manner than the previous one and follow the French example. Let our MPs sit down and study the issues properly instead of behaving like a university student union. Let them digest the French report, and perhaps even write one of their own. Then let's have the vote.