Monday, March 05, 2007

Slow week politically speaking

Well this week the New Brunswick legislature and Canadian parliament are in recess for the March Break and I am battling a bad case of the flu. I may not post much this week but I am going to try to finish up a fairly comprehensive post about the U.S. presidential election I've been working on on-and-off since late January.

Also, some discussion has erupted over at Spink About It and To Be Announced (a good blog I've been reading more often lately and you should check out) about the New Brunswick Tory bill that would allow provincial officials to opt out of marrying same-sex couples. The Tories proposed the same bill in 2005, with Liberal support, and though it passed second reading, they allowed it to die on the order paper when House business was reset with the fall 2005 throne speech. The Tories did not bother to re-introduce the measure in the 2005-2006 session of the legislature.

I was going to reserve comment on this until after the second reading debate, which won't be until next Wednesday, March 14, and will comment with more detail then but for now, here are my preliminary thoughts.

1.) The optics of Tory MLA David Alward, a devoutly religious pastor's son, introducing this bill, whose Agriculture & Fisheries critic portfolio cannot be construed to have anything to do with gay marriage, instead of the Justice critic is bad.

2.) The Liberals supported this bill in 2005 when debate was still hot on this issue about the same time the federal parliament was voting on Bill C-38 to give national recognition to the court decisions in seven provinces legalizing gay marriage. I know for a fact that at least a few cabinet ministers are uncomfortable with this and with the topic being less controversial and a new election over 4 years from now, will they still back it? It would be hard for some members of that caucus to oppose it and a free vote would all but ensure it would pass (assuming all 25 Tories voted for it) which would be pretty embarassing if a majority of the government caucus/cabinet was opposed.

3.) This bill is bad policy. Like it or not, same-sex marriage is the law of the land and it is the job of government officials to implement the law of the land. Period. Full stop. Spinks suggests that this is a good thing because it protects ministers from having to perform marriages, however that is not what this bill is about, religious folk are already protected by federal statute.

4.) This bill has dangerous concequences. It just says, "a person who is authorized to solemnize marriage ... may refuse to solemnize a marriage that is not in accordance with that person's religious beliefs". What if that person's religious beliefs are that interracial couples cannot get married? They are free to turn them away under this law.


One thing I forgot to mention which certainly doesn't qualify as "slow" is the Moncton East by-election tonight. The results will appear at the Elections NB site once all polls are reporting. If I can find poll-by-poll results sooner, I will post them but encourage anyone reading that may have them to post them in the comments.


Spinks said...

It would also offer another layer of protection for clergy theoretically, nbpolitico (although what weight any of that will carry the first time a church gets sued for not performing an SSM is probably iffy). Given that the federal Liberals and those supporting SSM went to great lengths to tell anyone who opposed SSM that they shouldn't be concerned because it had no impact on their we are. Alward's bill strikes a balance in my mind of providing a service for SSM and religious freedom.

Anonymous said...

PED 21 Moncton East

Chris M. Collins; M; Liberal Party; 2628 E ; (58.28%)

Chad Peters; M; Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick; 1508 ; (33.44%)

Hélène Lapointe; F; New Democratic Party; 373 ; (8.27%)

Brian Cormier said...

This legislation is hateful and discriminatory. If this bill were aimed at protecting clerks who didn't want Natives to marry whites (for religious reasons), the Minister of Justice (a Native) would be having a conniption fit. If it were aimed at clerks who didn't want francophones to marry outside of their language group (for religious reasons), the Leader of the Opposition (a francophone) would be having a stroke. If it were aimed at protecting clerks who wanted to avoid "watering down" the genetics pool by not allowing the physically challenged to marry able-bodied people (for religious reasons), the Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour (who uses crutches to get around) would be screaming bloody murder. Look, folks, it's called discrimination. Just because it's cloaked in religion doesn't make it any prettier. It's ugly and it hurts people. The only reason why it's getting broad approval is so that either party can cater to the Angry Old White Guy vote. Does the future of New Brunswick rely on Angry Old White Guys or optimistic young people? Will this discriminatory law KEEP young people in New Brunswick? Or is it just one more example of how backwards New Brunswick can be and will it turn off young people? What kind of message does this send to young gay teens whose suicide rates are traditionally much higher than the rest of society? If you have any parental instincts at all, at least think of these poor kids who have to watch the news and see their elected representatives discriminate against them. It's truly sad. And remember, churches are empty for a reason... because they're turning people off. So why cater to their backward attitudes?

Anonymous said...

Careful Brian, you're sounding kind of aren't old and white are you?:)

Anonymous said...

This is more than discriminatory, it's the tippy-top of a very slippery slope. What happens when a gay couple wants to adopt but the case worker's religious beliefs are that gay people are sinners? Or what about a clerk who opposes the remarriage of divorced people, or who has a religious belief that polygamy is a ok?

If churches want to make decisions about SSM that's fine by me - but there's a seperation of church and state for a reason. I'd love to think that church is all about being fair and kind, but the reality is that for many members of the Christian and Muslim faiths loving your neighbour is only ok if your neighbour is straight. It's the role of government to give those people a space to believe what they want and to make sure that they can't impose that belief on the rest of the citizens. The clergy are protected enough. Government officials have to leave their prejudices at the door.

Brian Cormier said...

Well I guess in this case, I AM an angry old white guy. ha! ;-)

richard said...

I can't think of a better way to tell young entrepeneurs that NB is a backward place, one that will not welcome the 21st century. Hardly the route to self-sufficiency! The last thing we need in this world is more protection for the superstitious (please don't call it 'faith').