The Liberals know they are going into the coming federal election with their leader, Justin Trudeau, weighed down by the heavy baggage of the SNC-Lavalin debacle and the India Tickle Trunk Tour, amongst many other embarrassments. So the Conservatives had to expect some desperation moves to cast their leader, Andrew Scheer, in what the Libs consider an equally bad light.
And right on cue, the Libs unearthed a 2005 video of Andrew Scheer explaining to the House of Commons why he was personally opposed to the legalization of gay marriage.
We would do well to remember that the words Scheer spoke then constituted the belief system of 99% of the planet earth, including Barack Obama, who flipped on the issue when it became politically safe to do so. Gay marriage wasn’t even on the horizon of most countries in the West, nor is it legal yet in many western countries. (And as former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair pointed out in a CTV interview, Canadians would also do well to remember that in 1995 Ralph Goodale didn’t believe gays should even have the right to civil unions, let alone marriage.)
Scheer has no intention of revisiting gay marriage politically. It’s settled law, and he has given no indication that he considers it less than settled. Bringing up what he had to say in 2005 may be politically advantageous as a distraction, but it is unfair, while Conservative attacks on Trudeau for gaffes he has made and is still making as prime minister are perfectly fair comment.
Nevertheless, since it will be a talking point for a while if not for the whole campaign, let us examine Scheer’s 2005 remarks. What exactly did he say that was so terrible? He said that while gay unions may share many of the “collateral features” of marriage with heterosexual unions, they do not have the “inherent feature” of heterosexual unions, in that “they cannot commit to the natural procreation of children.” There is nothing shocking here. He merely stipulated that his definition of the word marriage, along with 99% of humanity since the beginning of recorded history up until 50 years ago, was inextricably bound to procreation.
Scheer did not say gay people should not have the same legal rights as heterosexuals. He merely differentiated between marriage and civil unions. I agreed with him then, and while I quite understand why gays were not satisfied with anything less than the word “marriage” to prove their equality of social worth, I was troubled by the ease with which a word signifying an ancient and near-universal custom could be stripped of its real meaning and changed by fiat to mean something quite other for ideological reasons.
Logically, rather than changing the definition of marriage, which was not government’s invention, the government should have decided that henceforth, for legal purposes, everyone would enter into civil unions and declared spouses rather than man and wife. Marriage ceremonies could then be private affairs, but of no significance for legal purposes. I would have been perfectly happy with such an arrangement, and so would a host of other gay marriage opponents, religious and secular, including gay conservatives.
We would have been happy with such a compromise because we knew that the redefinition of marriage would likely have negative consequences even those in favour of gay marriage might not like someday. And that someday is now. The redefinition of ancient words with specific meanings in the name of “inclusivity” has taken a turn that is affecting them.
If words and their meanings are dependent on the feelings of gender minorities, then it makes perfect sense to call someone homophobic if he or she holds to a specifically heterosexual definition of marriage. Now that this conclusion has been entrenched in our culture, it also makes perfect sense to call someone transphobic if he or she insists the word “woman” defines someone who is anatomically female. Heterosexuals were compelled to relinquish ownership of the word marriage. And now, women having been forced to relinquish ownership of the word “woman,” biological males are erasing biological women on sports podiums, and a biological male is tying a human rights commission in knots because of his legally entrenched “right” to have vulnerable women who offered a service to women only handle his penis and testicles.
Categorization is the basis of knowledge. Once you privilege feelings over knowledge, you’re on a slippery slope to total cultural confusion. Don’t blame Andrew Scheer for that.