Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I hope you're happy, now that you're choosing this

Bob Tarantino, writing at The Shotgun, has pretty much the same perspective on the passing of C-38 as I do: In any event, it is now important for the Conservatives (and anti-SSM conservatives) to decide whether to make repealing Bill C-38 a priority and one of the central planks in their electoral platform. Stephen Harper today confirmed that he intends to do so. Kevin Libin has argued that doing so will reap electoral profits. I have expressed my doubts about that strategy, but it's not an issue over which I'd leave the party (to borrow a phrase from Damian Penny, "I'll still vote for the Conservatives because of, well, pretty much every issue except same-sex marriage" - well, except for their lukewarm support of tax cuts, their abandonment of the principle of private involvement in healthcare delivery, their inability to articulate a free-market, strong-democracy, smaller-government, rights-and-responsibilities vision for Canada... I'm disheartened to see several other posters and commenters at The Shotgun go from moderately apocalyptic to nearly hysterical in denunciation. I will grant that I still have grave reservations about the likelihood of persecution of clergy and civil officials who refuse to solemnize (or even approve in passing) same-sex marriages, and reading correspondence for the HM's office as I have been, I'm well aware that much of the pro-C-38 crowd sees that as a feature, not a bug. However, that very reasonable complaint aside, I wish the right would calm down a bit. Whether or not same-sex marriage was enacted with fair and just procedures and protections for objectors - and it was ultimately done within the law, properly passed by Parliament, no matter what you may think of an activist judiciary - it's passed. It's here. I doubt that, put to some sort of general referendum, it would be rejected; activist support would probably outweigh activist opposition and passive indifference combined. That it was also passed only with the aid of the Bloc makes no difference; as long as Quebec is part of Canada, their votes count equally in the House. To claim otherwise is to let the governing party define which provinces have enough of a stake in Canada to meaningfully participate in democracy such as we practice it, and I'm sure no one wants to go down that road. Whether you like it or not, it's over. Royal assent is imminent. If Conservatives want to continue making opposition to same-sex marriage a central plank of election policy, the party is now going to have to run on eliminating existing rights. I'm not against that in the general sense; if a majority of party members clearly want to enact a certain policy, then by all means that should be front and centre in the platform. But the optics will be terrible. Every news cycle, every day in the next election, will headline how Stephen Harper wants to take away rights - and not just recently enacted ones. Remember last election, when the PM claimed that a Tory government would outlaw abortion? That was ludicrous, but the meme persisted nonetheless. If Harper actually plans to run on reversing C-38 (and no matter how small a part that is of the entire platform, in the eyes of the media it will be the one and only issue), then those claims - of limiting free choice, of abolishing rights - won't be wholly without merit, and you can bet those optics will only get worse. I'll probably support the CPC regardless, because - like Tarantino - this isn't my single hot-button issue; while I don't see the doom that some predict for Canada in it, it's ultimately not that important. Trade, defense, personal liberty, honest governance: those are important. Yesterday's vote was merely officially admitting and formalizing a longstanding social reality.

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