Irish Justice Minister speaking with a forked tongue


Ireland’s Iona Institute points out how the country’s Justice Minister is speaking with a forked tongue.

In the Irish parliament this week, the Institute says, Alan Shatter delivered a speech that inadvertently but comprehensively demonstrated the case against redefining marriage.

We have said all along that redefining marriage radically redefines parenthood, attacks the rights of children and attacks freedom of religion. Minister Shatter’s vision of the family as outlined in his Dail speech proves this.
He sees no special place in Irish law or social policy for motherhood or fatherhood or the natural ties.

He has no real understanding of the state of marriage in Ireland currently.

He has a very shrivelled view of religious freedom.
The words ‘mother’ or ‘father’ appear nowhere in his speech. He simply does not seem to believe that society has any special interest in encouraging men and women to raise their children together in loving unions.

There is no indication that he sees the sexual unions of men and women as being different in any socially significant way from any other kind of sexual union, or indeed from any other kind of emotional union, period.

He was very far from the mark when he said in his speech, “we are more deeply attached to marriage as a society than ever”.

It is true that more of us are married in absolute terms. But that is only because there are more of us anyway.

But our marriage rate is now lower than Britain’s, and Britain’s is the lowest it has ever been.

More than a third of births are outside marriage. Almost 250,000 Irish people are divorced or separated and our rate of cohabitation has soared.

If the Minister for Justice is unaware of these facts, or is prepared to ignore them, then that is deeply worrying. What, if anything, would compel him to say, we are no longer so attached to marriage?

On the matter of religious freedom, he told the Dail that he will ensure religious solemnisers of marriage don’t have to perform same-sex marriages. But the Constitution almost certainly forces him to do that in any case.

But what happens to marriage guidance counsellors, wedding planners, wedding stationers, florists, photographers? Must they all go along with the proposed redefinition of marriage or be driven out of the business? The answer appears to be yes.

So Minister Shatter’s speech shows just how high the stakes are in this debate and how vitally necessary it is that we play our part in it.

His speech in full can be read here.

Is this not a very flawed vision of mankind, society and its laws?

Problems ahead for Lady Justice?

The New York Times this weekend gave us its considered views on the state of the marriage battle in the culture wars. It embodies a very flawed vision of mankind, society and the institution of marriage. If lawmakers continue on the path some of them seem determined to follow, propelled by this kind of media thinking, are they laying the basis for a great deal of confusion and trouble in decades to come?

As historic and welcome as we found the Supreme Court’s two recent decisions on same-sex marriage, the Times tells us, they served to emphasize the lingering inequality for millions of gay and lesbian Americans who do not live in the 13 states that enforce the right of all adult Americans to marry the person of their choosing.

If it is inequality to deny it to two people of the same sex whose sexual urges mover them in that direction why is it not inequality to refuse to legitimize the marriage of three persons whose sexual urges move them to want to legitimize such a relationship as a marriage? No just reason can be given for this discrimination. Sexual difference is the only real basis for the existence of the institution of marriage. Ignore this difference and confusion and dysfunction seem inevitable.

 In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, they complain, is standing by his 2012 veto of a measure to allow gay couples to marry and is refusing to free Republican legislators to follow their conscience on an override vote. Mr. Christie is imposing a large ideological tax on thousands of couples and their families whose interests he is supposed to protect. He is depriving them of federal benefits, which their tax payments help underwrite.

Why should sex only and not all loving relationship be the basis for the provision of these benefits? Logic suggests that any registered committed loving relationship should merit receiving them. Christie’s case can be clearly seen as based on fiscal logic and an understanding that making a sexual relationship the sole basis for these benefits would he inherently discriminatory.

Certainly, The Times editorial judges, the Supreme Court propelled the nation toward greater equality in late June with two 5-to-4 rulings that restored same-sex marriage in California and struck down the central provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act, the dreadful 1996 law that denied federal benefits to same-sex couples married in states that permit it.

It is a very unequal equality so long as it has nothing more than sexual partnership as its basis.

The Times tells us that by disposing of the California case on narrow procedural grounds, the Supreme Court  perpetuated a mean and irrational patchwork in which duly wed couples may not be considered married when they cross state borders.

This whole movement is creating an utterly irrational and discriminatory patchwork which will ultimately undermine all the laws and institutions which society has put in place over centuries to facilitate orderly social and family relationships. The result will be that there will no longer be any fundamental basis for the laws governing polygamy/polyandry.

Eliminating that unfair system, the Times argues, will require a multipronged effort — to add more states to the list of 13 that permit same-sex marriage and to challenge remaining state laws that violate the standards of equal protection as the Defense of Marriage Act did. Last Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a challenge to a Pennsylvania law that allows marriage only between a man and a woman and rejects other states’ marriage equality laws.

“Eliminating that unfair system” will simply compound further unfairness if it is based on nothing more than sexual relationships. To be truly fair it should be based on all relationships of mutual commitment of love and support.

They commend the Obama administration which the see moving with commendable diligence and speed to extend benefits like health care, life insurance and immigration rights to gay and lesbian married couple,…benefits like vision, dental and long-term care insurance and survivors’ annuities.

On what rational basis can the same benefits be denied to couples in other diverse “family” – their much vaunted love for “diversity” seems a very restricted one – arrangements entailing permanent commitments? What they envisage will leave us with a very flawed and inherently unjust law. It is not based on any proper understanding of equality. The concept of equality espoused by the gay and lesbian advocates is totally flawed because it is giving equal status to two different things.

The problem as it affects entitlement to benefits is that once the difference, nature’s own “diversity”, between the sexes is denied then a new definition of equality is accepted and should be absolutely applied. If not, these laws will be unjust and the unjust distribution of benefits which they will lead to will eventually be challenged. If the courts are just they will be overturned in one way or another.

The discrimination is only beginning. The only just way forward in this needlessly created morass would seem to be to forget about marriage as the ground on which all these benefits, rights, etc., are granted and institute a fair and universal system based on all forms of committed relationships. That may cause fiscal turmoil, but if it does, so be it. That is the price which will have to be paid for accepting an equality which ignores the differences between the sexes and the special arrangements which millennia of human experience have guided humanity to put in place to cater for the needs which flow from these differences, this beautiful and glorious diversity.

Adding once more to the follies of four thousand years

“What are they thinking”, we sometimes cry out in near despair as we look on at the folly of governments and their agents, here and around the world, dismantling and destroying before our eyes the very substance of our social and economic fabric.

The economic fabric is, in most if not all western societies, the patient currently in intensive care. The medical teams are furiously arguing with each other about the treatments being applied to bring the wounded subject back to some level of well-being. The austerity faction has the upper hand but no one is really sure – with the exception of the opposing team – what history’s verdict is going to be on that. We are hoping for the best.

What there is no doubt about in anyone’s mind is what the judgement of history will be on why we got here. Everyone now knows that the folly of greed brought the house down about our ears.

But while we worry and fret over this patient, a deeper and more sinister folly remains rampant and untrammelled in the corridors of the powerful and is tearing apart something which will be much more difficult to restore to health. Every day – and for some decades now – the people entrusted with the care of the common good are putting new measures in place which are one by one destroying the very core elements which sustain our human and social well-being.

Booms and busts have been and will always be, we are told, part of the economic cycle. They come and go and as we muddle through them we learn a little each time – and then promptly seem to forget it again, falling back to some earlier position as in a game of snakes and ladders. But generally our muddling along seems to work out on average like three steps forward and two steps backwards.

With our social fabric the story is frighteningly different. For some reason, probably because the process of collapse is more silent and slow-moving, we are being lead onwards blindly into what a a growing clamour of voices is warning us will be a morass of social dysfunction and disintegration.

How is this happening? Part of the answer may be found in a wise and sobering book by one of the great popular historians of the Twentieth century, Barbara Tuchman. In The March of Folly, she dissects the “wooden-headedness” of the world’s leaders – of every political persuasion, from tyrannical despots to dedicated democrats – in their pursuit of public policy. This is a book which makes sober but certainly not consoling reading and explains something of the riddle we are forced to contemplate in our own day and age.

 A phenomenon noticeable throughout history, she writes, regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any human activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defined as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and available information, is less operative and more frustrated than it should be. Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggest? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?

 Tuchman wrote her book in the early nineteen eighties so she did not have a chance to witness or comment on the economic follies of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. She did not need to. Her case is watertight without them. From the lesson on man’s folly shown to us in the mythological tale of the wooden horse of Troy, through the follies of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, down through to the follies of any number of empire builders who ended up destroying their own work, to any number in our own day, the embarrassment of the powerful should be assured.

The mystery she puts before us is why can mankind, elsewhere than in government – and in government she includes all agencies engaged in the shaping of public affairs, like trade unions, representative organisations, and others – accomplish such marvels: inventions to harness wind and electricity, raising earth-bound stones into soaring cathedrals, construct the instruments of music, and so much more, and yet make such a mess of government. She quotes John Adams, the second President of the United States who had just witnessed one of the greatest follies of the 18th century – Britain’s blundering loss of her extension into the North American continent. Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, “While all other sciences have advanced, government is at a stand; little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago.”

Indeed, if we look at the United States today and compare it with the achievement of its founding fathers, we would have to question whether its governance is a “little better” or a good deal worse than in John Adams’ day.

No country or state has a monopoly of the commodity we call folly when it comes to public policy. The Chinese state is forging ahead to economic world-dominance while at the same time it is cutting its own throat with a one-child policy which will cripple it in the not too distant future as pampered spoiled brats grow into selfish adult males who will wreak havoc on a limited female population brought about by the whole-scale culling through sex-selective abortion. India, another state promising itself great achievements in the economic sphere, is silently destroying itself with its unlimited sex-selective abortion on demand.

Meanwhile in Europe the old countries which began their domination of the planet a millennium ago are slowly dying under the weight of their self-indulgence, aided and abetted by governments at every turn. Rampant divorce rates are wrecking families. Marriage is being destroyed in the rush to facilitate homosexual self-indulgence in the name of a concept of equality rooted in an utterly flawed anthropology.  Marriage has been further weakened by fiscal arrangements which facilitate cohabitation without commitment. The unintended consequence of this: rampant child abuse – where mothers seek to nurture multiple children begotten serially by nameless fathers.

All of this is fostered in one way or another by governments.

Tuchman qualifies her concept of folly in a way which makes it more than just idiocy but makes it culpable. Idiots can be excused. Culpable fools should not be excused.

To qualify as folly the policy adopted by a government or a representative agency must meet three criteria, she says. Firstly, it must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight. Judging a past era by the standards is a rampant modern practice which generates its own kind of folly. The injury which is perpetrated by the folly must be something recognised and predicted and warned against by contemporaries. Secondly a feasible alternative course of action must have been available.  Thirdly, to remove the problem from reasons of personality, a third criterion must be that the policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual ruler, and should persist beyond any one political lifetime.

The follies we fret over and predict above, as the harbingers of social disaster, fulfil all these criteria.

President Obama and his administration are constantly being warned of the legacies they are bequeathing to their society as a consequence of the destruction of the institution of marriage in which they are currently engaged. The same is true of the Dutch, the French, the British and now the Irish. David Cameron – with his government – is proceeding relentlessly with his redefinition of marriage in spite of a petition from well over half a million of his citizens to stop his folly – not to mention the wise and solemn warnings from the leaders of all the main religious denominations.

In relation to another folly, the world’s legislators were well warned by the teachers of the Catholic Church about the consequences, moral and social, which would follow the generation of a contraceptive mentality by the whole-scale ignoring of its teaching on human life and human sexuality in Humanae Vitae and the provision of contraception services to all and sundry. There are plenty of warnings on record to both the Chinese and the Indians about the folly of the abortion and semi-eugenicist practices which their policies are generating.

The governments of the world’s oldest states, and some relatively new ones, are verifying once again the truth placed before us by Barbara Tuchman and John Adams. Tuchman concludes:

 If John Adams was right, and government is “little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago,” we cannot reasonably expect much improvement. We can only muddle on as we have done in those same three or four thousand years, through patches of brilliance and decline, great endeavour and shadow.

 That is a worrying thought, for the stakes involved in our current follies seem much more serious than any since the follies she listed which lead to the tragic religious rupture of Europe in the sixteenth century. The injuries which mankind will sustain from our current follies will require much more than some geo-political adjustment or economic tweaking to put them right. The consequences may require much more than a bit of muddling on.

Defending marriage and the family

The government of the Republic of Ireland currently has a national forum in place to review the constitution of the state. For many this is no more than a trojan horse to allow it to introduce radical legislation which the existing constitution prohibits with its pro-life pro-family and pro-marriage provisions. Submissions to this forum have been asked for and the following is one sent by yours truly. More are needed but the deadline for submissions is tomorrow, Tuesday, 19 March. If you want to defend important provisions of the present constitution, do so in the next 30 hours or so.

The re-definitions of marriage which are being proposed and adopted in some other countries are rendering meaningless the institution as we have known it for millennia.

Firstly, essentially marriage is an institution whose ultimate value to society is the protection and upbringing of children. They will be the losers if the institution is destroyed. It has already been severely damaged by no-fault divorce and it is clear to everyone that by a wide margin children suffer more through divorce than through the effort to sustain troubled marriages.

Secondly, the failure of states to support marriage, and the devaluing of marriage which this has resulted in, has led to widespread single-parenthood. Here again, on balance, children are the victims. This movement, based totally on selfish pursuits, falsely proclaiming itself in the name of equality, is one of the greatest threats to a healthy society which the modern age has seen. Look behind this campaign, denied by some but openly admitted by others (eg in this interview here ) and you will see where it is leading us. This campaign is ultimately going to lead not just to a redefinition of marriage but to the destruction of the institution itself by removing all its capacity to do what it is really meant to do in the first place. Individuals do not need marriage to express their love for each other. Children do need marriage to give each and every one of them the mother and father to which they should be considered to have an inalienable right.

If you have any doubts about the need to defend the definition of marriage as we now know it, look at this descriptive video.

The link for making a submission.

A web of deceit?

Two stories – at least – in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph in London puzzled over the mystery of David Cameron’s strange behaviour in the recent past. Janet Daley asked how Cameron could go from what looked like a possible triumph in his European Union difficulties to what looked like a scuttling of his own party on the redefinition of marriage legislation. Christopher Booker puzzled over the same thing but soon came up with an answer which might well be, for most of us, the solution to the riddle of Cameron’s folly.

“The greatest puzzle about the ‘gay marriage’ furore” Booker wrote, “is why this issue suddenly erupted from nowhere to the top of the political agenda. Why has David Cameron been willing, as one commentator put it, to ‘trash his party’ in pushing so hard for something that, before the last election, he refused to endorse or to include in the Tory manifesto? And why, just as it was provoking the biggest Tory rebellion in decades, was it also prompting a similar row in the French National Assembly?”

Janet Daley, reading the conundrum in terms of keeping Cameron’s political scoreboard, confesses that she can’t keep up.

Was his European summit intervention a triumph over the EU budget, or not? She asked.  And if it was a success, does it cancel out the ghastly calamity of the earlier half of the week? That depends on whether the cleverness and determination of the second half was more revealing of the Prime Minister’s true character than the bloody-minded foolishness of the first. The same-sex marriage question should have been, she said, “on the scale of the country’s immediate problems, an issue of vanishingly small political import had been propelled into a five-star megacrisis of stupendous proportions”.

Was it, as one of Daley’s disgruntled and mystified confidants from the tory back benches said, a silly, off-the-top-of-our-heads gesture inspired by a half-understood observation of the US presidential election. She suggested that it might be a question of “a juvenile crush on the charismatic guy across the Pond.” Barack Obama, the epitome of “cool” in the eyes of star-struck Cameroons, had committed himself to legalising gay marriage – and he had won the election by taking states with largely urban, metropolitan electorates. Ergo, thought the great brains of Downing Street, endorsing gay marriage brings you electoral success in cosmopolitan conurbations of the kind that the Tories need to win, she said.

So what does Daley conclude? That Cameron may be too facile with language and arguments? She thinks that, maybe like a very bright but vaguely lazy student, while he can pull out a gifted verbal performance when it is absolutely necessary – when his political life depends on it – he then slips back into haphazard sloppiness when the crisis is past?

Booker’s analysis ultimately gives Cameron more credit, but if it does it is also more worrying for anyone with a modicum of democratic instinct. Ultimately, as well, it could signal an even deeper crisis for Cameron’s own party for it will be seen as signalling a subtle and sinister subversion of British sovereignty to the creeping hegemony of the European Union and the Council of Europe.

The real story behind this drama goes back to 2010, Booker argues. It has three main players, the Home Secretary Theresa May, our former Lib Dem equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone, and that shadowy institution, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, with its controversial adjunct, the European Court of Human Rights.

In March 2010, ministers from the 47 countries represented in the Council of Europe agreed a “Recommendation” on “measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity”. Section IV focused on Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, guaranteeing “respect for family life”. It proposed that where national legislation recognised same-sex partnerships, these should be given the same legal status as those between heterosexuals. There was no mention of marriage as yet, except in a proposal that “transgender persons” should be entitled to “marry a person of the sex opposite to their reassigned sex”.

Four days before the 2010 general election, the Tory party issued a pamphlet, signed by Theresa May, in which a section on “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBT] issues” promised that the party would “consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage”. But this was not in the manifesto, nor, after the election, in the Coalition Agreement.

In June that year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that, though there was no obligation on countries to recognise same-sex partnerships, Article 8 did not specify that the right to enjoy family life applied only to couples of different sexes. It could be taken as equally applying to same-sex couples. The court proposed that, when a “consensus” emerged among the member states, this could allow the right to same-sex marriages to be recognised under the convention.

Shortly afterwards, Lynne Featherstone, the equalities minister, set out new guidelines allowing “religious music” to be used in civil partnership ceremonies. She suggested that this should be regarded as a step towards allowing gay marriages. In September, the Lib Dem party conference backed her call for same-sex marriages to be legalised.

 In December a campaign group, Equal Love, helped a group of British same-sex couples to launch an action in the ECHR asking for civil partnerships to be given full marriage status. They were supported by Peter Tatchell, who told the BBC that banning gay people from marriage sent “a signal that we are regarded as socially and legally inferior”.

The campaign – with much conferring behind the scenes between ministers and gay lobby groups – was under way. In March 2011, May and Featherstone issued an official policy document, “Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality: Moving Forward”. It committed the Government to work “with all those who have an interest in equal civil marriage” on how “legislation can develop”. Furthermore, it committed the Foreign Office and the new Gender Equality Office to work for “full implementation” of the Council of Europe’s 2010 Recommendation, with a target date of June 2013.

In November 2011, when Britain took over the six-monthly chairmanship of the Council of Europe, it put this at the top of the agenda. (Featherstone had already committed £100,000 of government money to creating an LGBT unit in Strasbourg to plan implementation of the policy). Britain was so keen to take the lead that, on March 27 last year, the UK’s representation in Strasbourg organised the council’s first “closed conference” (ie, public not admitted), to agree detailed plans for the June 2013 implementation, with a keynote address from Featherstone. A speech by the British judge, Sir Nicolas Bratza, then head of the European Court of Human Rights, signalled that the court was ready to declare same-sex marriage a “human right”, as soon as enough countries fell into line.

Such are the real reasons that our Government needed to rush through last week’s vote on gay marriage. We are committed to “full implementation” of the Council of Europe’s policy no later than this June (and hence the similar law now being rushed through in France). It has been a brilliant political coup by the gay lobby, aided by Featherstone, May and those shadowy European bodies that, in so many ways, now rule our lives. But why weren’t we told more honestly and openly why it has all happened?

And that is the question which makes this whole issue a much bigger one than the sentimental journeys of some gay people or the sympathies of those who fail to see the importance of fundamental change in the definition of an institution which is at the heart of a stable society and which has such bearing on the welfare of children.  The calculated manipulation of political institutions, the manipulation of public opinion and the deceit at the heart of all this is what should really be disturbing us. If the political establishment is prepared to this in pursuit of one policy it will do it for any policy.

(Posted earlier this evening on Conjugality)

Illogically induced brain trauma

I was in the Late Late Show audience last night. The show, on Irish television, is the longest running “chat” show in the world – we are told. I was invited on the basis of my being on the side of traditional  marriage in the forthcoming debate on gay “marriage” which is going to begin raging in this jurisdiction soon.

One homosexual person on the panel, “married” with children, objected to the term gay being attached to their campaign for legislative change. He said that what their campaign was about was “marriage equality”. A strange signal hit my brain cells – like when someone says something entirely illogical but you cannot at once put your finger on the illogicality. Essentially the nerve-ending which was touched was the one which sent a signal to my brain when writing the last paragraph telling me again that when gay is used with the word marriage then that word marriage must be put in inverted commas – because as a compound noun, gay marriage does not, and cannot, exist if marriage is accepted as a bond between a man and a woman sharing rights which depend on their complimentary biological nature.

Marriage in this sense, the sense in which the marriage bond has been understood from time immemorial, has nothing essentially to do with love. A marriage contracted between a man and a woman may be loveless and it will still be a marriage. A marriage without the commitment to share the couple’s complimentary sexual faculties is not in the proper sense a marriage at all.

I thought to myself that there must be some logical formula which can unravel this fallacy? Perhaps this is it?

Current meaning of marriage: “biological man+ biological woman+(children)”. That’s it.

What the “marriage equality” campaign is proposing is the following: “biological man+ biological woman+(children)” = “biological man+ biological man+(children)” or  “biological woman+ biological woman+(children)”.

Is this not patently false?

If you want to see the somewhat unbalanced discussion and experience first-hand the same brain trauma you can check it out at 1 hour sixteen minutes into the show.

Reason speaks to reason but questions remain unanswered


It may be a pastoral letter – from a bishop to his church in a diocese in just one part of the world – but it speaks reason to reason and not just to faith to reason. What is more, it put questions to those who claim to be reasonable. Those questions have been asked before but have not been answered – they have just provoked abuse. The fear of many – and it is echoed in this letter –  is that this abuse will soon become judicial and violent, and the questions will still remain unanswered.

Thomas John Paprocki is the Catholic Bishop of Springfield in Illinois. He has written to the Catholics of his diocese, but his message can resonate around the whole of the Western world which is now in the grip of the campaign for the redefinition of human nature and the institutions society has forged from within that nature to help its own true fulfilment. He writes in the context of the state of Illinois’s consideration of a legislative proposal called “The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.”

Without mincing his word’s, Paprocki says, “A more fraudulent title for this dangerous measure could not be imagined. The proposed law is, in truth, a grave assault upon both religious liberty and marriage.”  The bill as drafted would in the first instance, he says, be trying to legislate an untruth.

What is that untruth and why is it untruthful? He explains why, with rational precision, and in terms which can be transferred with very little difficulty to every legislature in the world which is contemplating similar legislation :

The pending bill would, for the first time in our state’s history, redefine marriage to legally recognize same-sex “marriages.” But neither two men nor two women – nor, for that matter, three or more people – can possibly form a marriage. Our law would be lying if it said they could.

 The basic structure of marriage as the exclusive and lasting relationship of a man and a woman, committed to a life which is fulfilled by having children, is given to us in human nature.


Notwithstanding the vanity of human wishes, every society in human history – including every society untouched by Jewish or Christian revelation – has managed to grasp this profound truth about human relationships and happiness: marriage is the union of man and woman.

 The bill’s sponsors maintain it would simply extend marriage to some people who have long been arbitrarily excluded from it. They are wrong. The pending bill would not expand the eligibility-roster for marriage. It would radically redefine what marriage is- for everybody.

 It would enshrine in our law – and thus in public opinion and practice – three harmful ideas:

  • What essentially makes a marriage is romantic-emotional union.
  • Children don’t need both a mother and father.
  • The main purpose of marriage is adult satisfactions.

 These ideas would deepen the sexual revolution’s harms on all society. After all, if marriage is an emotional union meant for adult satisfactions, why should it be sexually exclusive? Or limited to two? Or pledged to permanence? If children don’t need both their mother and father, why should fathers stick around when romance fades? As marriage is redefined, it becomes harder for people to see the point of these profoundly important marital norms, to live by them, and to encourage others to do the same. The resulting instability hurts spouses, but also – and especially – children, who do best when reared by their committed mother and father.

 Indeed, children’s need – and right – to be reared by the mother and father whose union brought them into being explains why our law has recognized marriage as a conjugal partnership – the union of husband and wife – at all. Our lawmakers have understood that marriage is naturally oriented to procreation, to family. Of course, marriage also includes a committed, intimate relationship of a sort which some same-sex couples (or multiple lovers in groups of three or more) could imitate. But our law never recognized and supported marriage in order to regulate intimacy for its own sake. The reason marriage is recognized in civil law at all (as ordinary friendships, or other sacraments, are not) is specific to the committed, intimate relationships of people of opposite-sex couples: they are by nature oriented to having children. Their love-making acts are life-giving acts.

 Same-sex relationships lack this unique predicate of state recognition and support. Even the most ideologically blinded legislator cannot change this natural fact: the sexual acts of a same-sex couple (regardless of how one views them morally) are simply not of the type that yield the gift of new life. So they cannot extend a union of hearts by a true bodily union. They cannot turn a friendship into the one-flesh union of marriage. They are not marital. This is not just a Christian idea, but one common to every major religious tradition and our civilization’s great philosophical traditions, beginning with ancient Greece and Rome.

But the Illinois bill, which is seeking to have its cake and eat it, is also deceptive in another important way – as are the proposals of David Cameron’s coalition government in the United Kingdom and every other legislature we know of trying to do to the same thing. It is pretending that this legislation, if passed, will not conflict with the religious freedom of the citizens of any country which adopts its model. Those legislators who are not inherently hostile to religion – and many are – are burying their heads in the sand if they do not recognise that this legislation is going to lead to a denial of freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and ultimately to religious persecution.

Paprocki continues:

The pending bill is not only a dangerous social experiment about marriage. It is also a lethal attack upon religious liberty. This so-called “religious freedom” would not stop the state from obligating the Knights of Columbus to make their halls available for same-sex “weddings.” It would not stop the state from requiring Catholic grade schools to hire teachers who are legally “married” to someone of the same sex. This bill would not protect Catholic hospitals, charities, or colleges, which exclude those so “married” from senior leadership positions. Nor would it protect me, the Bishop of Springfield, if I refused to employ someone in a same-sex “marriage” who applied to the Diocese for a position meant to serve my ministry as your bishop. This “religious freedom” law does nothing at all to protect the consciences of people in business, or who work for the government. We saw the harmful consequences of deceptive titles all too painfully last year when the so-called “Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act” forced Catholic Charities out of foster care and adoption services in Illinois.

 These threats do not raise a question about drafting a better law, one with more extensive conscience protections. There is no possible way – none whatsoever- for those who believe that marriage is exclusively the union of husband and wife to avoid legal penalties and harsh discriminatory treatment if the bill becomes law. Why should we expect it be otherwise? After all, we would be people who, according to the thinking behind the bill, hold onto an “unfair” view of marriage. The state would have equated our view with bigotry – which it uses the law to marginalize in every way short of criminal punishment.

He proposes to the citizens of his state, and his proposal con be considered by every reasonable citizen of the world: The only way to protect religious liberty, and to preserve marriage, is to defeat this perilous proposal. Please make sure our elected representatives understand that and know that they will be held to account. We should all do the same when this campaign – as it certainly will where it has not done so already – puts pressure on our democratic representatives to consider similar legislation.

(Also posted to MercatorNet’s Conjugality blog this morning).

Marriage will always be marriage – but lies can destroy language


The weakness of any argument is often revealed in the reversion of its advocates to the ad hominem mode – which is just another way of avoiding the issue at the heart of an argument. While not exactly ad hominem, more a question of ad institutionem, the media onslaught on the mild but clear utterances of the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales over Christmas did little more than betray the shallowness of the gay case for the redefinition and ultimate destruction of the institution of marriage.

As the British media response group, Catholic Voices, points out on its blog today, “references to the threat to marriage in Archbishop Vincent Nichols‘ Midnight Mass homily were brief — a matter of a few lines in what was mostly a gentle meditation on the meaning of the Nativity. He referred to “the love of husband and wife, which is creative of new human life” as being “a marvelously personal sharing in the creative love of God who brings into being the eternal soul that comes to every human being with the gift of human life.” Later — following a paragraph about businesses failing to respect people, and other examples of “corrosion” of human dignity – he added: “Sometimes sexual expression can be without the public bond of the faithfulness of marriage and its ordering to new life. Even governments mistakenly promote such patterns of sexual intimacy as objectively to be approved and even encouraged among the young.”

The blog notes that he also made forthright, heartfelt and thoughtful comments to the BBC, broadcast on Christmas Day, about the shambolic and contemptuous way in which the Government was going about the implementation of same-sex marriage.

But these mild and surely legitimate expressions of authority  by a teacher in a law-abiding Church were enough to provoke what Catholic Voices termed “some stern sermonizing from same-sex marriage advocates, who rather than engage with his points, declared that Christmas was about ‘peace’ and ‘love’ which was being hijacked by the Archbishop of Westminster’s attempt to mount a political rally.”

The problem about peace and love is that one man’s peace is another man’s war and for King Herod the arrival of a particular baby in the world was about anything but peace. Archbishop Nichol’s reading of the significance of the event was true to its entire context. The reading of the media advocates of the gay lobby’s argument had more to do with the schmaltz with which the 20th century has smothered it. In the whole gay “marriage” campaign, the hi-jacking of language is rampant. The message which came into the world in the aftermath of that event in Bethlehem has for two thousand years consistently and persistently moved hand in hand with the message that marriage between a man and a woman is central to the well being of humanity and human society.  Surely the outrage should be provoked by those who try to suggest that Christmas would be celebrating anything as contradictory as proposing that a sexual relationship between two people of the same sex be described as a marriage and be somehow consistent with the moral tenets of Christianity. If so it was not to be found in the British press this week. The campaign which can only result in the destruction of marriage in any meaningful form has far greater affinity with the world which Herod was seeking to protect than it has with the new world heralded by the arrival of the child he sought to destroy. He also was deceitful about his intentions. Gay lobbyists paying lip-service to Christianity are no less so.

Catholic Voices surveyed the press  reaction to Nichols’ words:

There was Graeme Archer in the Telegraph, who claimed that “real men and women woke up on Christmas Day with nothing but love in their hearts, switched on the radio, and heard Nichols’s message to the planet. The bit about Jesus and love was cut from the headlines, in order to give him space to push his political agenda.”  There was Ben Summerskill, head of the multi-million pound gay rights lobbyist Stonewall, who thought it “sad” that “an archbishop should sully the day of the birth of Jesus by making what seem to be such uncharitable observations about other people”, before adding, with an extraordinary mixture of pseudo-piety and acidity, that “some of us are mindful of Luke 2:4, which reminds us that Christmas Day is a day of peace and goodwill to all men. Perhaps Archbishop Nichols should have spent a little more time in bible study.”

Catholic Voices then raises the question:

If a Catholic bishop cannot raise the alarm over the destruction by the state of the most essential civil society institution in society and history, one founded on the God-created fertile complementarity of man and woman; and if he cannot do so on the eve of the Government bringing it before Parliament; and if he cannot express, when he does so, the mind of the Church — which is pretty much made up on this — then he would hardly deserve to be entrusted with the office.  Summerskill seems to think that the Church should render unto Caesar everything and shut up shop.

Equally patronizing was Ian Birrell –tellingly, a former speech-writer for David Cameron — in The Independent, who suggested that the opposition of the Churches to gay marriage was evidence of their ‘irrelevance’ and ‘diminishing importance’. In other words, we don’t need to bother with their arguments or concerns, only to reassure ourselves that these are institutions which belong to the past. But because they persist, they must be dealt with harshly by the law. Thus ‘churches should no more be allowed to ban gay people from marrying in church than those who are black and disabled’, he rules, adding: ‘With luck, a rapid appeal to the European court of human rights will remove any opt-outs given to hostile religions’. As in China, revolutionary Mexico, or Soviet Russia, the remedy is simple: abolish any right the Church may have to govern itself; the ‘progressive’ state is limitless.

Birrell also tries to claim that the Archbishop has no right to criticize the undemocratic nature of the Government’s consultation because the Church is not a democracy. ‘For an outfit headed by someone who proclaims infallibility to complain about the lack of democracy when an elected government seeks to pass a law on a free vote in parliament takes not just the biscuit, but the entire packet,’ he writes, echoing Minette Marin in the Sunday Times: maybe the Government’s plans are shambolic and undemocratic, she says, ‘but the Church of Rome is hardly known for democracy or political accountability itself.’

Leaving aside the misunderstanding of the idea of papal infallibility, the stupidity of this argument is obvious. Almost no organization in society is run as a democracy: not businesses, not civil society bodies, and certainly not newspapers (when was the last time an editor was elected?), which, let us remember, have been in the dock for ignoring the law and fleeing public scrutiny. If the Independent, Telegraph or the Sunday Times do not run on democratic lines, with what justification – according to their columnists’ reasoning — do they slam the Government every day?

This post appeared on MercatorNet’s Conjugality blog yesterday evening.

David Page, from the United States, commenting on the post on Conjugality  objected  as follows:

This article is full of flaws. Mr. Kirke claims gay people are arguing for the destruction of marriage. That’s just silly. Gay marriage affirms the stabilizing effect of marriage. The Church should, at the very least, recognize this and stay out of the way. If they don’t like gay marriage then don’t perform any. But don’t try to tell my church that we have no right to perform gay marriages if we want to (and we do).

To which the author replied:

Consider this: the Communist regime in East Germany, when it came to power described itself as a democracy. As we well know it had as much to do with democracy as the regime which preceded it. Whatever hopes the unfortunate people of that region of Germany might have had of living in a democracy had those hopes destroyed when their ideological masters took control of their language and as much of their lives as they could. The true meaning of democracy remained and the effort to programme reality through language was of course a failure. Marriage will always be marriage – the conjugal union of a man and a woman. What will be destroyed by the attempt to change the definition of marriage in any given society will be the public perception of that institution within that society. A lie will become the official “truth”. That is a pretty destructive thing to do. For the unfortunate men and women in that society – as well as the children and families created by their conjugal unions – the connection between their unions and the word marriage will now be destroyed. Eventually however, the folly of the sentimental nonsense underlying this entire project will collapse under its own internal contradictions – like the Berlin Wall – and anthropological reality will reassert itself. In the meantime be prepared for the catalogue of dysfunction and misery which gross self-indulgence always brings in its wake.

Two islands hand-in-hand on a path to moral and social chaos?

The Irish government, currently wriggling its way towards legislation to overturn its country’s pro-life laws without any clear mandate to do so from its electorate, will  also soon be trying to overturn its pro-family and pro-marriage laws in pursuit of the folly of gay “marriage”. It is now embarking of a review of the Irish Constitution which since the 1930s has kept Ireland’s laws in a framework friendly to all those values. This review is being driven by elements within the government who see their mission in Irish society as one of bringing it into line with the rest of the liberal world. In doing this they are doing no more than imitating their nearest neighbours in the United Kingdom.

Indeed, what is unfolding in the Irish Republic is nothing short of a mirror-image of what its former colonial masters have done and are doing to themselves – providing abortion on demand, destroying marriage and de-Christianinsing their society at a breakneck pace.

The terms “dismay” and “outrage” seem too mild to describe the reaction which is evident across Britain in the wake of the government’s decision there to press on with its redefinition of marriage. Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph in its editorial comment decried the needles import to Britain of what it called America’s “culture wars” on this issue. Writing about the pitiable inadequacy of the so-called guarantees of religious freedom being offered by the government it went on to say:

Nor do the religious protections address another matter that vexes critics – namely the redefinition of marriage, understood by every human society through the ages to be a legal relationship between people of opposite sexes. Many Tory MPs and voters will simply not be reconciled to this, and neither will the churches, which have not even begun to organise against the Bill. They have millions of followers, and should they target vulnerable Conservative seats – as happened to Labour when the Roman Catholic Church forced the last government to retreat over faith schools’ admissions quotas – Mr Cameron may come to rue the day he embarked on this reform. Sad to say, but in a country that prides itself on its tolerance, he risks sowing division where none previously existed.

The latest onslaught on the government comes from the media response group, Catholic Voices, which this morning issued a statement describing the government’s announcements as shameful, undemocratic and cloaked in false legitimacy.

Their assessment and detailed analysis is as follows:

Tuesday’s Government response to its marital redefinition consultation, conducted earlier this year, has conclusively demonstrated that the entire consultation process had no purpose other than to shroud a shamelessly undemocratic exercise in a cloak of false legitimacy. It has made clear that it intends to redefine marriage despite opposition from the overwhelming majority of respondents to the  Government’s proposals.

Of 228,000 individual responses to the consultation, 53pc – fewer than 121,000 – said same-sex couples ought to be able to marry, according to the Government. However, with every single petition the Government received on the issue opposing marital redefinition, it’s clear that more than four times as many people contacted the Government to support the traditional understanding of marriage rather than to overturn it: the Coalition for Marriage’s petition alone bore 509,800 signatures when it was submitted. It now bears more than 620,000.

The Government, therefore, can claim no mandate for its plans, and Archbishops Vincent Nichols and Peter Smith hardly exaggerate when they say “the process by which this has happened can only be described as shambolic”.

Marital redefinition went unmentioned in both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat election manifestos, and was absent from their 2010 programme for government. Parliamentary process has been scorned in the rush to redefine marriage: the Government has produced neither a green paper nor a white paper on this issue, which wasn’t so much as alluded to in the Queen’s speech at the State Opening of Parliament this May.

Despite lacking democratic legitimacy, Mr Cameron admitted last week that he intends to go even further than previously planned by facilitating the solemnizing of same-sex marriages by religious bodies. This U-turn makes a mockery of the already questionable consultation process, and is a profound betrayal of those who responded in good faith to the consultation – which a dozen times ruled out changes to what it called ‘religious marriage’.

Responding to Mr Cameron’s admission, the Anglican bishops drily observed that at least this suggested that the Government was starting to realise that, contrary to the chaotic language of the consultation document, the law recognises only one institution of marriage: “We welcome the fact that in his statement the Prime Minister has signalled he is abandoning the Government’s earlier intention to distinguish between civil and religious marriage.”

The Anglican bishops said that they looked forward to studying the Government’s response to the consultation, but will have found little comfort there. The Government boasts that it intends to introduce a ‘quadruple lock’ to protect religious institutions from being compelled to act against their principles in connection with the proposed legislation, but admits that churches and other religious bodies could still face legal challenges if they refuse to solemnize same-sex marriages.

The Government’s decision is probably motivated by a desire to evade challenges under the  European Convention on Human Rights , but it is difficult to have confidence in any planned safeguards; the Human Rights Act embeds the ECHR in UK law, and the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that if a state allows for marriage between persons of the same sex, it must do so on exactly the same basis that it allows for other marriages.

Leaving aside how later parliaments might rescind any safeguards established by this one, it seems clear that any religious body which declined to solemnize same-sex marriages would almost certainly be acting against the Human Rights Act and the ECHR, and would, at the very least, be seriously vulnerable to legal challenges.

The Church of England, uniquely to be banned from solemnizing same-sex marriages, will probably be proof against such challenges, but in this case it would be the state itself that would be compelled to stand in Strasbourg and justify why same-sex Anglican couples should be uniquely barred by law from marrying in their own churches.

The proposals raise important questions about the status of the Church of England as an established church; the Government recognises Parliament’s right to overrule Anglican canon law, but ignores how the basic definition of marriage in English law has for centuries been that embedded in the Church of England’s official prayerbook, licensed by Parliament and recognising marriage as a voluntary union of a man and a woman with the principle aim of bearing and rearing children.

The Government’s proposition would require the state to speak differently from both sides of its mouth, Parliament saying one thing, and the Church of England saying another. This raises a profound constitutional problem, as George Pitcher recognised on BBC this week:

 “If we’ve got the state having a completely different definition of what marriage is from what the Church calls ‘holy matrimony’ then it’s a bit difficult to see that the Church can continue with such a central area of our theology at variance with the state. We’ve got the Queen, who is not only the head of state but also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, presiding over our established church and – as a figurehead –  over the state, and it’s very difficult to see how that can cohere once we’re departing on such important institutions in our heritage and history.”

Not merely is Mr Cameron out of his depth on how redefining marriage could have serious repercussions for the British constitution, but the entire Government seems to have a grievously flawed understanding of religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

The Government insists “no one should face successful legal action for hate speech because they preach the belief that marriage can only be between a man and a woman,” but in using the word ‘preach’, it seems, as with cases currently being considered by the European Court of Human Rights, to reduce ‘freedom of religion’ to mere ‘freedom of worship’. The ECHR, however, guarantees freedom to manifest religious belief in “worship, teaching, practice and observance”.

Catholic priests may be able to preach that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, but will ordinary Catholics be permitted to practice what the Church preaches? Will those who believe ‘same-sex marriage’ to be a contradiction in terms be obliged to recognise it as a reality, rather than a legal fiction? The Government’s response is far from clear on such issues, and Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth seems to have been fully justified in asking, “Will Catholic schools, societies and institutions be free (and legally safeguarded) to teach the full truth of Christ and the real meaning of life and love?”

Interviewed on Radio 4 this Tuesday, Culture Secretary Maria Miller displayed her fundamental incomprehension of such issues when she dismissed concerns about consummation and adultery as irrelevant to same-sex marriages. Responding to the fact that some see these issues as central to what the word ‘marriage’ means, she said, “this may well be why the Catholic Church does not want to opt into the system of being able to offer same sex marriage”. However, as Timothy Radcliffe says, it is less that the Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage than that “it considers it to be impossible.”

If the Government’s response to its consultation tells us anything, it tells us that it wasn’t listening.

Religious freedom, however, is not the immediate issue here; more urgent, as our briefing paper In Defence of Conjugality: The Common-Good Case Against Same-Sex Marriage points out, are the questions of what marriage is, why the state has an interest in it, and whether the state has the power to redefine it.

The Government’s response states that “At its heart, marriage is about two people who love each other making a formal commitment to each other,” but it is difficult to see why such a private commitment should be a public concern: the state is not in the business of legitimating private relationships, and cares about marriage purely as a matter of public good.

British law has long recognised that marriage provides a uniquely stable and balancedenvironment in which children can be born and raised; protecting it as the one public institution that exists to uphold the principle that every child should – ideally – be raised with the love of a mother and a father.

It is telling, therefore, that the Government’s 47-page response devotes just three paragraphs to children, relegating them to the peripheral ‘wider issues’, and rejecting outright the view of 84pc of British people, as found by a ComRes poll for Catholic Voices this March, that children do best in life when raised by a mother and a father in a stable and loving relationship.

Regardless of governmental cynicism, it is indisputable that many support this project for the best of motives. Unfortunately, such support is misconceived: the introduction of same-sex marriage would not correct any injustices, couples in civil partnerships already having the same rights as married couples, and can only be brought about if British law decrees children to be at best peripheral to marriage and the state to have an interest in regulating people’s private lives.

Few people in modern Britain, it is safe to say, want either of these things.

(A version of this post appeared earlier today on the MercatorNet blog, Conjugality, where you will find more posts on the issue of marriage redefinition.)

The path Kenny, Gilmore, Martin and Adams are proposing

Well, Ireland. Are you really ready for this?  A study of the state of things in Canada after ten years of gay “marriage” shows among other things that in that country I might well be brought before the courts for daring to put the word marriage in inverted comas because by this I indicate that I don’t accept the redefinition of marriage which coupling it with the word “gay” implies.

And that would be the least of my problems.

Bradley W. Miller, an associate professor of law at the University of Western Ontario, writing g on Public Discourse looks at the Canadian experience of the impact of the change of the definition of marriage there and asks what that might signify for the US which is now seems to be heading relentlessly in the same direction.

The Irish, the French and the British are on the same track and his study – outlined on MercatorNet – can be applied to these societies just as easily. Would recognizing same-sex relationships as marriages be much of a game-changer? What impact, if any, would it have on the public conception of marriage or the state of a nation’s marriage culture, he asks?

The Impact on Human Rights? Once this kind of marriage is accepted as a human right, he says, a  corollary is that anyone who rejects the new orthodoxy must be acting on the basis of bigotry and animus toward gays and lesbians. Any statement of disagreement with same-sex civil marriage is thus considered a straightforward manifestation of hatred toward a minority sexual group. Any reasoned explanation (for example, those that were offered in legal arguments that same-sex marriage is incompatible with a conception of marriage that responds to the needs of the children of the marriage for stability, fidelity, and permanence—what is sometimes called the conjugal conception of marriage), is dismissed right away as mere pretext.

When one understands opposition to same-sex marriage as a manifestation of sheer bigotry and hatred, it becomes very hard to tolerate continued dissent. Thus it was in Canada that the terms of participation in public life changed very quickly. Civil marriage commissioners were the first to feel the hard edge of the new orthodoxy; several provinces refused to allow commissioners a right of conscience to refuse to preside over same-sex weddings, and demanded their resignations. At the same time, religious organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus, were fined for refusing to rent their facilities for post-wedding celebrations.

The Right to Freedom of Expression?  He shows that the new orthodoxy’s impact has not been limited to the relatively small number of persons at risk of being coerced into supporting or celebrating a same-sex marriage. The change has widely affected persons—including clergy—who wish to make public arguments about human sexuality.

Much speech that was permitted before same-sex marriage now carries risks. Many of those who have persisted in voicing their dissent have been subjected to investigations by human rights commissions and (in some cases) proceedings before human rights tribunals. Those who are poor, poorly educated, and without institutional affiliation have been particularly easy targets—anti-discrimination laws are not always applied evenly.  Some have been ordered to pay fines, make apologies, and undertake never to speak publicly on such matters again. Targets have included individuals writing letters to the editors of local newspapers, and ministers of small congregations of Christians. A Catholic bishop faced two complaints—both eventually withdrawn—prompted by comments he made in a pastoral letter about marriage.

Teachers are particularly at risk for disciplinary action, for even if they only make public statements criticizing same-sex marriage outside the classroom, they are still deemed to create a hostile environment for gay and lesbian students. Other workplaces and voluntary associations have adopted similar policies as a result of their having internalized this new orthodoxy that disagreement with same-sex marriage is illegal discrimination that must not be tolerated.

Parental Rights in Public Education? Institutionalizing same-sex marriage has subtly but pervasively changed parental rights in public education, he argues. The debate over how to cast same-sex marriage in the classroom is much like the debate over the place of sex education in schools, and of governmental pretensions to exercise primary authority over children. But sex education has always been a discrete matter, in the sense that by its nature it cannot permeate the entirety of the curriculum. Same-sex marriage is on a different footing.

Since one of the tenets of the new orthodoxy is that same-sex relationships deserve the same respect that we give marriage, its proponents have been remarkably successful in demanding that same-sex marriage be depicted positively in the classroom. Curriculum reforms in jurisdictions such as British Columbia now prevent parents from exercising their long-held veto power over contentious educational practices.

It is a laudable goal to encourage acceptance of persons. But whatever can be said for the objective, the means chosen to achieve it is a gross violation of the family. It is nothing less than the deliberate indoctrination of children (over the objections of their parents) into a conception of marriage that is fundamentally hostile to what the parents understand to be in their children’s best interests. It frustrates the ability of parents to lead their children to an understanding of marriage that will be conducive to their flourishing as adults. At a very early age, it teaches children that the underlying rationale of marriage is nothing other than the satisfaction of changeable adult desires for companionship.

And what about changes to the Public Conception of Marriage? It has been argued that if same-sex marriage is institutionalized, new marital categories may be accepted, like polygamy. Once one abandons a conjugal conception of marriage, and replaces it with a conception of marriage that has adult companionship as its focus, there is no principled basis for resisting the extension of marriage licenses to polygamist and polyamorist unions.

In other words, if marriage is about satisfying adult desires for companionship, and if the desires of some adults extend to more novel arrangements, how can we deny them?

He cites the case of one prominent polygamist community in British Columbia which was greatly emboldened by the creation of same-sex marriage, and publicly proclaimed that there was now no principled basis for the state’s continued criminalization of polygamy.

Of all the Canadian courts, only a trial court in British Columbia has addressed whether prohibiting polygamy is constitutional, and provided an advisory opinion to the province’s government. The criminal prohibition of polygamy was upheld, but on a narrow basis that defined polygamy as multiple, concurrent civil marriages. The court did not address the phenomenon of multiple common-law marriages. So, thus far, the dominant forms of polygamy and polyamory practiced in Canada have not gained legal status, but neither have they faced practical impediments.

The lesson is this: a society that institutionalizes same-sex marriage needn’t necessarily institutionalize polygamy. But the example from British Columbia suggests that the only way to do so is to ignore principle. The polygamy case’s reasoning gave no convincing explanation why it would be discriminatory not to extend the marriage franchise to gays and lesbians, but not discriminatory to draw the line at polygamists and polyamorists. In fact, the judgment looks like it rests on animus toward polygamists and polyamorists, which is not a stable juridical foundation.

And the Impact on the Practice of Marriage? As for the practice of marriage, he says it is too soon to say much. But what we can gather from available data, is that same-sex marriage has not, contrary to arguments that it would, powered a resurgent marriage culture in Canada. Nor are there any census data (one way or the other) for empirical arguments tying the institutionalization of same-sex marriage to marriage stability.

One can only hope that when the debate on this issue get going in Ireland – and when the Constitutional Forum gets down to business – these realities will be looked at squarely and fairly so that we will all walk into our brave new world knowing exactly what is in store for us. Will Kenny, Gilmore, Martin and Adams, the leaders of Ireland’s main political parties who have committed themselves to going down this Canadian path, take note of all these questions and address then honestly before taking their country on the road to this new world.