Marriage Now Just a Sexual Relationship

FR. RAYMOND DE SOUZA

All in all, it is an impressive bit of work for a mere 38 years.

The same-sex marriage bill that passed the House of Commons yesterday was the final chapter in a story that began in 1967, when then-justice minister Pierre Trudeau introduced his Omnibus Bill. Famous for its decriminalizing of homosexual acts (" the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation"), it was the liberalization of divorce laws that led more directly to where we are today. 

And where we are is that civil marriage in Canada is simply the conferring of legal recognition and benefits upon a conjugal relationship, with no reference in principle to permanence, progeny or public benefit.  We have achieved, with the redefinition of marriage to include homosexual partners, the reduction of marriage to a mere sexual relationship. 

That is an astonishing accomplishment in less than four decades. Mobilizing the resources of the state behind sex seems rather superfluous; there has never been a lack of interest. An older wisdom sought to mobilize the state behind marriage, which at its core was about bridling unruly passions for the purposes of social stability and the upbringing of children. 

What happened back in 1967? Trudeau's Omnibus Bill made divorce easier, which would in due course flower into full no-fault divorce, which renders marriage the only contract unilaterally breakable by either party, at any time, for any reason.

It was from there a short step to the conferring of spousal benefits on those who weren't married, but in conjugal relationship. Common-law "spouses" get the benefits without the commitment.

When civil marriage is thus stripped of its permanence and its commitment, what is left to distinguish a married relationship from any friendship?  Sex.  Hetero or homo, it doesn't matter.  Ergo, same-sex marriage.

So we have arrived at the curious position that the state doesn't much care about what goes on in the rest of the house, but is mightily interested in what goes on in the bedroom. Civil marriage is now not about anything else.

One of the incongruities of debate over homosexual marriage is that advocates argued that it would encourage monogamy and stability. As my colleague, Andrew Coyne, has put it: "The conservative case for gay marriage expresses itself in the hope that marriage may have the same civilizing effect on homosexuals that it does on heterosexuals, encouraging stable, monogamous relationships and the social values that go with them."


It was an incongruous argument because we have been, post-1967, busily undermining all that makes marriage stable and monogamous.

Now, barring a reversal in a future Parliament, we have same-sex marriage. How about we start shoring up those civilizing effects in law, on the principle that what is good for two ganders might be good for the goose and gander too?

A good place to start might be the treatment of common-law spouses. The research data show that cohabiting couples split up more often than married ones do, and married couples who were cohabiting before marriage have a higher divorce rate than those who were not.  Cohabitation is a recipe for social instability, exposing women and children in particular to the insecurity of sequential polygamy.

What public good is served by encouraging cohabitation?  The principle that state benefits should be available wherever there is regular sex is not conducive to social stability. Now that homosexuals have the ability to contract civil marriage, and no vestige of "discrimination" holds, why shouldn't the government insist that marital benefits require marital promises?

And while we're at it, why shouldn't those marital promises mean what they say?  Namely, that the bond of permanence cannot be broken unless the terms of the (civil) marriage contract have themselves been broken, or that the parties mutually agree to break the contract?  Why shouldn't marital contracts be at least as strong as, say, the contract to renovate the kitchen, where one party cannot unilaterally break it?

Such reforms are hardly on the political agenda, but they should have the support of those who argued so passionately that marriage needed to be radically changed to accommodate homosexuals.  If that support is not there, it will be clear that the same-sex marriage debate had little to do with marriage, and everything to do with state-sanctioned homosexual sex.  Indeed, a long road has been traveled since 1967.

But the burden of carrying this debate forward does not lie principally with the advocates of same-sex marriage.  It was not they who dismantled marriage these past four decades.  That was done long beforehand, and now we will see if there is any constituency for reversing that trend. If not, yesterday definitively marked the consummation of the decline of marriage.

 

 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Father Raymond J. de Souza, "Marriage Now Just a Sexual Relationship." National Post, (Canada) June 29, 2005.

Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.

THE AUTHOR

Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Convivium and a Cardus senior fellow, in addition to writing for the National Post and The Catholic Register. Father de Souza's web site is here. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.

Copyright © 2005 National Post




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