Since July 20, 2005, same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada. Canada was the fourth country in the world and the first country in the Americas to legalize the same-sex union under the term “marriage.”
Since then, there have been about 15,000 such “marriages” in Canada and about 3,000 of them were for couples who had come from outside the country.
Now a wrinkle has turned up. On January 12, 2012, two women presented themselves before the courts to dissolve the same-sex marriage they had pledged to in Toronto in 2005. One was now living in Florida and the other in the United Kingdom.
A lawyer for the Canadian government made the point that they could not be divorced in Canada because the laws of the states from which they had come did not recognize same-sex marriages. It was also noted that by existing law, in order to obtain a divorce in Canada they had to be residents of Canada for one year.
This immediately caused a stir: If the two could not be divorced in Canada, how could they earlier have been married in Canada? Did not the same limitations pertain? Other such questions surfaced.
The controversy has been renewed and the Canadian government has set about to amend the Canadian law so that marriage and subsequent divorce in Canada can be valid. But will that make marriage or divorce valid in their places of residence – Florida and The United Kingdom?
This episode is one more bump in the road in the ongoing verbal and legal effort by an aggressive minority to make marriage something it is not. The definition that “marriage is the union of one man and one women excluding all others” has been widely agreed to for as long as history has been written.
But for more than half a century a war has been waged on several fronts against this long-accepted understanding of marriage. In addition, against the social and behavioral benefits of marriage as universally understood. Those fronts include no-fault divorces, living-together-unmarried as a widening trend, sex between consenting adults merely for recreation with no thought of marriage, and now “marriage” as a union of two persons of the same sex.
As mentioned above, the aggressiveness of small but well-organized elements in society pushing for same-sex marriage has had its effect on legislatures here and there. But the battle is far from over. Where opinion is sought from an entire population (as in California’s Proposition 8 in 2008) the majority of people favor defending marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Furthermore, there are organizations that are ready to do battle for this majority and for the historically understood definition of marriage. In my opinion the major line of defense is made up of the great number of Christian schools plus churches, Christian fellowships, cathedrals and synagogues (perhaps as many as 450,000 on this continent) where Scripture is read and expounded, seminars are conducted, retreats are sponsored, and most of all, marriages that are wholesome and honored stand out in faith communities as examples of what is possible.
The objective of this emphasis is not to act against the gay community. The issue is to retain the integrity of what the word marriage stands for. Where civil unions can accommodate civil needs this should be honored. But the objective is to keep the term marriage intact and properly circumscribed because, as one has said, this must be done because there is nothing like marriage.
Also, in faith communities, marriage is not to be emphasized in such a way as to exclude singles or give them the sense that they are second class citizens. With the brokenness of our society their numbers have increased significantly. It can be said that most of them would like to marry but the opportunity does not present itself. When the church ministers to them with equal honor it is contributing to the increase of domestic stability in the church and community as a whole.
What happens to the Canadian law defining same sex unions as “marriage” remains to be seen. And how far the efforts go to make same-sex marriage universally approved is also uncertain everywhere on this continent. However, when the verdict is finally in let us hope that by our example and by voice and vote we have all done what we can to elevate marriage as a covenanted union between one man and one woman. And at the same time, we have treated all humans with love and respect.