3 min

The right vs human rights

The pope and Dubya parade their homophobia

Credit: Capital Xtra files

The pundits of homophobia are waking up to the fact that the right to marry is being extended to all Canadian citizens.

The alarm bell has been ringing south of the border in George W Bush’s ear. The American president recently commented: “I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman. And I think we ought to codify that one way or the other. And we’ve got lawyers looking at the best way to do that.”

As the representative of the American people, it is disturbing that Bush continues to lead his country in a prejudiced and undemocratic manner. His position, however, would be more understandable if he avowed that he runs his country as a Christian state, administering it according to Christian doctrine.

Without exception, US presidential platforms embrace the notion of freedom. The hypocrisy of that nation’s administrators is laid bare by the fact that they are making the move to consciously and actively deny social justice to some 28 million lesbian and gay American citizens by blocking their right to marriage.

Bush’s statement is undoubtedly a response to Canada extending the right to marriage to all Canadians. And more importantly, it’s a move to veto the marriage licences of lesbian and gay Americans who have wed north of the border.

The call to homophobia is also ringing in Pope John Paul’s ears. The Vatican has launched a world-wide campaign against equal marriage which stipulates that it is the moral obligation of Catholic politicians to “oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

In their 12-page release, the Vatican also condemned adoption of children by gay couples as an act of violence against children. The Vatican’s statement is also clearly aimed at influencing Canadian Members of Parliament who will be voting on same-sex marriage legislation in the near future.

Both statements by these two very powerful figureheads are cause for concern. Democracy is not based upon unilateral decision-making from a pre-determined moral standpoint.

Debate concerning lesbian and gay marriage should not involve organized religious groups. Religious leaders have no place in the dialogue over the lesbian and gay right to a civil marriage license. Legislation of same-sex marriage is a social justice issue, not a religious one.

I was astonished that the Globe and Mail would publish the drivel written by Bishop Fred B Henry of the Archdiocese of Calgary. Henry erroneously claims that “the whole concept of separation of church and state is relatively recent, dating back to the constitution of the state of Virginia.”


In England, the movement toward ultimate independence from papal jurisdiction was enacted with the statutes of Mortmain in 1279, Provisors in 1351 and Praemunire in 1393. With the 15th century’s Humanist movement and 16th century’s Reformation, ecclesiastical jurisdiction formerly exercised by the pope was transferred to monarch and parliament.

By advising MPs from its fold to vote against same-sex marriage, the Catholic Church is calling upon a return to a medieval way of life. The democratized systems of modern life developed from personal judgement, rather than adherence to the Catholic Church’s medieval system of authority.

In the era in which we now live, church and state are separate. Period.

So, what then, is upsetting George W Bush and Pope John Paul so much that they are mobilizing an international contingent of supporters to decry the so-called beleaguered rights of heterosexuals?

It is certainly not that same-sex marriages will have an impact on heterosexual unions. The very suggestion is fatuous. Never will a divorce, separation or instability in a heterosexual couple’s marriage be the result of a lesbian or gay marriage.

The one source of both the Bush administration and the Vatican’s opposition to same-sex marriage is homophobia. There can be no other answer.

I would like to draw a parallel with a situation that existed up until 40 years ago in the US. As unthinkable as the following proposition is, imagine that people of African descent are forced to sit at the back of buses. Imagine that they are barred from patronizing segregated businesses. Imagine that they are the target of violence, as well as socially and governmentally sanctioned prejudice.

Now imagine the mindset of the religious leaders and government officials who were in favour of this treatment. Imagine what they were thinking when they spoke out against inter-racial marriage. Imagine what they believed when they insisted Afro-Americans sit in the back of the bus. Imagine what they taught when they supported segregation.

Clearly, they did not believe that Afro-Americans were equal to everybody else. Clearly, neither the Bush nor the papal administrations support equal human rights for lesbians and gays. If they did, they would champion Canada’s decision to legalize lesbian and gay marriage. They would celebrate the evolution of society where all human beings have the same human dignity and the same human rights and privileges.