Honourable senators, first, I must admit to my own sexual orientation. I am a gay man, living in harmony – harmony conditioned by human nature – with a kind and gentle man and whose silver ring I wear with comfort on the ring finger of my right hand.
Having admitted that, I must also tell you that my opposition to this bill has nothing to do with my sexual happiness, nor do I want to be married to my ring bearer, nor do I need my union with him to be recognized by the government and society, for I need only the recognition of my children and grandchildren, my immediate and extended family and my friends. I have that. Why then do I oppose this bill?
I oppose it, first of all, because it is not necessary. It is a bill, according to its framer and sponsor, that makes evident what has been the rule of law since at least the beginning of Confederation and confirmed ever since on numerous occasions. I also oppose it because it defies reality.
Here is what the Law Commission Of Canada stated in its December 2001 report: It appears that a significant minority of Canadian households consists of same-sex couples.
So we have these unions. They are part and parcel of the fabric of our national life. The reality is that gay people form unions and perform the responsibilities imposed by that union just like married couples do and just like common-law couples do. That is the reality.
Above all, I oppose [the bill] because it is discriminatory.
By arguing that marriage as a civil right and conferring a civil status is the exclusive right and status of heterosexuals denies that right and status to those who are homosexuals. Thus, it is an affront to the Charter Of Rights And Freedoms. We are told that marriage has been ordained since time immemorial for the union of a man and a woman. Well, it is not so. It became so. However, it well to remember or to know that antiquity was full of same-union marriages; also, it was so in the early times of Christianity and Orthodoxy. This practice of same-sex union endured for centuries.
Honourable senators, if one looks at the historical evidence, one cannot escape the fact that marriage became a same-couple extravaganza, blessed by all sort of deities, in order to assure the legitimacy of the children, the safe passage of the inheritance and the status of royals, feudal lords and families. They feared that illegitimacy, the fruits of which they came to enjoy through adultery, would cause havoc with the social status of the family and the tribal order.
The church went along with it, no doubt because men of the cloth have always feared the power of women, particularly in sexual matters. Marriage made a woman the property of her husband and subject to him, thus controlling her to the largest possible degree. They forced her to hide her femininity under yards of cloth and contrived with the men of her family and with her husband to keep her ignorant and chained to the stove – a state that has been the fate of women in every conceivable church and religion we believe in and which have all been established by men wearing skirts.
In the long and cruel campaign against homosexuals of either sex, but particularly gay men, many have been discriminated against in the name of the gods and their lives ruined to maintain the hegemony of a fragile orthodoxy. They died in the dungeons of the princes of the churches and of the states or burned at the stake by order of the churches or stoned in the public square of Imams. They died as well in the concentration camps of the Nazis. They died abandoned; they were denied comfort; they were reviled in the pulpits during the first days of AIDS, a moment in our history that I know much about; and they still die in the dark streets and parks of our cities.
Moreover, while they lived and live, they were and are discriminated against – an abuse of human rights too often blessed by the silence or the conspiracy of the churches.
But we have survived. Even though our denials of rights and status and recognition continue, the gay women and men of today living in my country are better off than I was in my youth, in my early manhood, in my middle age and even 10 years ago at the beginning of my old age.
Why am I telling honourable senators all this? It has nothing to do with bitterness for the atrocities of the past. I am telling you all of this because I do not want any more exclusion for any citizen of my beloved country. Exclusion always leads to betrayal and persecution. This is the lesson of history.
* Laurier LaPierre, a long-time journalist, was appointed last year to the Canadian Senate. The bill before the Senate to define marriage to not include gay men and lesbians was adjourned after LaPierre’s speech last month.