I wrote this (and an accompanying sermon entitled “Does Marriage Need Defending?” after I received a pamphlet through my door from then Prime Ministerial candidate Stephen Harper asking “religious” people to rise up and “defend” marriage. I ended up preaching more than a few sermons with his name in them over the years, but eventually, equality prevailed and equal marriage was made law. The letter was published in our local newspaper at the time.
I am glad that it’s hard for my children to imagine a time when people of the same gender couldn’t marry, but it wasn’t that long ago!
The Hamilton Spectator The Reverend Allison Barrett, Minister
Letter to the Editor The First Unitarian Church of Hamilton (1889)
Re: Equal Marriage
As Minister of The First Unitarian Church of Hamilton, I want to correct the impression created by those opposed to equal marriage that the “churches” are on their side. I and hundreds of my colleagues in congregations of many Faiths across the country stand in support of equal marriage. We are tired of seeing the “religious” view appropriated by a few strident voices that stand in opposition to everything we believe religion is about.
Every argument used against equal marriage stands on shaky ground. Those who want to defend “traditional” marriage are ignoring the fact that for much of human history, (and still in many places around the world), marriage traditions have had to do with money, lands, alliances, power and the oppression of women. Love, choice and equality between partners are very recent additions to the “tradition” of marriage.
Those who want to use the “biblical” definition of marriage are conveniently forgetting kings and prophets with many wives and stories of eunuchs, concubines, incest and adultery that also describe “biblical” marriages and relationships. They are also happy to ignore many ancient laws about food, clothing, cleanliness, building temples and hundreds of other specific biblical injunctions. Exactly how many cubits long is Stephen Harper’s church anyway?
Finally, those who would point to “nature” for their argument against same sex marriage or to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people need to do their homework. It’s a very diverse world out there. Most plants and many animals cannot even be classified accurately as definitively male and female.
As Stanford Biologist Joan Roughgarden points out in her book Evolution’s Rainbow, “The most common body plan among multicellular organisms, including plants, is for a single individual to make both male and female gametes at some time during their life.” In addition, over 300 higher-order vertebrates (and humanity since the beginning of time) exhibit same-sex behaviours on a regular basis. The argument from “nature” would be for far greater gender diversity and acceptance of same-sex relationships.
Similarly, those who would deny equal marriage out of “concern for the children” need to read further. Many studies have shown that love, stability and commitment have a far greater impact on children’s health and well-being than parental gender. For generations, children have been raised in all kinds of families – some with fathers and mothers, others with grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, neighbours or friends – in various combinations of women, men or both. Love is what makes a family a good place to raise children.
No, it is not tradition nor the bible nor nature nor concern for the children that wants to prevent equal marriage from becoming law in this country. It is fear, and fear is the enemy of Love. The sad and ironic part is that fear, discrimination and prejudice spiritually diminish the bearer even more than the recipient. My heterosexual marriage has nothing to fear from two women or two men who love each other wanting make a lifetime commitment. In fact, my life is enriched and my spirit deepened every time I affirm the greatest gift offered to all of us – the gift of Love.
I believe with all my heart that this is a fundamentally decent country, that its people are kind and caring and want justice and equity for everyone. Our society as a whole is strengthened by our commitment to equal treatment under the law for every one of our citizens. That’s what the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is about.
I believe that the silent majority of Canadians (religious as well as secular) affirm Love wherever it is found, hold Justice and Equity for all to be fundamental Canadian values and want the government out of the bedrooms of the nation.
It’s time for us to be much less silent.
Rev. Allison Barrett