Mr. Speaker, as you may have noticed, the debate on this bill to change the definition of marriage is having a polarizing effect.
Such is often the case when an ethical issue is at the heart of a process of reflecting.
I use the expression “process of reflecting” intentionally because I presume that no one, not in this House nor in the general public, has taken a position on this major social issue without giving it a great deal of thought.
This is an ethical issue because it has meaning for everyone. It is an ethical issue because it concerns the collective meaning and values that drive us all as humans.
Those who support changing the definition of marriage and those who wish to uphold the traditional definition of marriage have wasted no time presenting arguments that have polarized opinions, indeed speaking in terms that are moralizing, to say the least.
This often has the perverse effect of making some appear open, progressive, advanced, defenders of rights and others bigoted, reactionary, backward, not to say obtuse and almost half-witted.
This might be because many people turn this into an emotional debate, when they focus on the notion of discrimination by asking, for example, if love between same sex partners is not equal to love between opposite sex partners, or by talking about the real suffering of same sex couples who are victims of discrimination and homophobic behaviour.
As a result, the groups are put into opposing camps, and the attempt was made early on to show that there are only two possible options with regard to such discrimination: if we agree with the bill, we oppose discrimination; if we oppose the bill, we support such discrimination. However, there is a third option, which is to oppose the bill and discrimination.
I decided to use a Cartesian approach to analyze the redefinition of marriage. I have discussed this issue with colleagues, former parliamentarians, voters and experts in law, ethics and education. I want to take this opportunity to thank these people for their frank discussions with me.
This bill aims to redefine marriage; in other words, to change or amend the definition of marriage and, consequently, to change a social reality.
The definition of the social institution is central to this issue. So we must question what we are defining and, logically, ask ourselves some questions. Here are a few of them. What is marriage? What are the goals of marriage? What is the purpose behind this social institution? What, therefore, is its ultimate purpose?
To answer these questions by saying the ultimate purpose of marriage is solely to give expression to the love and commitment of two individuals, without involving procreation implicitly, is very different than to answer that marriage is a genealogical institution.
When defined as a genealogical institution, marriage is a social reality that defines family and, among other things, enables children born from such a marriage to know their biological parents.
If we eliminate the notion of generational renewal and the survival of the human race as the implicit goal of marriage, we are giving precedence to individual rights and changing a societal norm.
The definition of marriage under natural law as the union between a man and a woman is not the result of a moral or ethical value imposed by mankind, but simply a biological fact that only a man and a woman may procreate and perpetuate life.
The traditional definition of marriage does not discriminate, it reflects a biological reality. Neither assisted reproduction nor adoption changes that natural rule.
We all know that there are people who get married but do not wish to have children, and that there are couples who cannot have children for a number of reasons. There is no doubt that their love and commitment are just as noble and deep as those of couples that start a family. As far as I am concerned, that is not the issue. There are always exceptions. There are exceptions to every rule.
The issue for me is whether we are discriminating when we view differently realities and goals that are different. It is perfectly legitimate for same sex couples to wish to formalize their union and enjoy related social benefits. However, it seems to me that this wish can hardly be reconciled with the genealogical nature of marriage.
Another issue is the protection of religious freedom. A number of people are concerned by the protection of religious freedom in the context of the celebration of marriage and given the fact that the Supreme Court used caution in its response to the reference's third question. First, as regards question No. 1, the Supreme Court said the following:
Although the right to same-sex marriage conferred by the proposed legislation may potentially conflict with the right to freedom of religion if the legislation becomes law, conflicts of rights do not imply conflict with the Charter—
As regards question No. 3, the Court said:
—the Court is of the opinion that, absent unique circumstances with respect to which we will not speculate, the guarantee of religious freedom in s. 2(a) of the Charter is broad enough to protect religious officials—
The Court showed caution. Therefore, it is legitimate that some people would be concerned. These people are expressing a serious doubt and wondering if, following the redefinition of marriage as proposed in the bill, the next request by same sex couples might be to ask for equal rights regarding religion in the context of this new definition.
As a member of Parliament and legislator, I will have to vote on this bill. It will be a free vote and I will vote freely. I will do so according to my conscience, after careful consideration. My conscience reflects my own views and also those of other individuals, because it takes into consideration the best interests not only of today's society, but of tomorrow's.