What about the rights of children?

on Sunday, 31 December 2006. Posted in Same-sex marriage

In the same-sex marriage debate, the rights of children to be raised by a father and a mother were ignored

On December 7, 2006, the Conservative government in Canada made a motion to re-open the debate on same-sex marriage, which was defeated in the House of Commons by a vote of 175 to 123. One must remember that a year and a half before, on June 28, 2005 (under Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin), Canada’s controversial same-sex marriage legislation (Bill C-38) was passed by a vote of 158 for and 133 against in the House of Commons, and that Conservative leader Stephen Harper, Leader of the Opposition at that time, promised that he would hold a free vote to re-establish the traditional definition of marriage if he were to become prime minister in the next general election (which happened in January, 2006). Immediately after the vote, Prime Minister Harper said that he had fulfilled his promise (to hold a vote on the issue), and that "now the debate is over." However, Canadian Bishops say the debate is not over, and the Pope said that no human law can overturn that of the Creator.

The margin of defeat this time was wider than expected, with 13 Liberals voting for the motion to re-open the debate, compared to 36 Liberals who voted against Bill C-38 last year. Whereas only three Conservative Party MPs voted for same-sex marriage Bill C-38 last year, 13 Tory MPs (including 6 cabinet ministers) voted against the motion to re-open the debate. The Bloc Quebecois and NDP MPs were not given any freedom of choice by their leaders, and were forced to vote along party lines, against the motion. The pro-marriage Liberals were reportedly also subjected to political pressure from their party to vote against the motion, despite proclamations by new leader Stephane Dion that they were being allowed a free vote. Many Liberal MPs said in private that if they voted in favour of the Tory motion they would be "assassinating their own careers."

According to LifeSiteNews.com, it is widely acknowledged that the measure was not a serious attempt to re-open debate. CanWest News reporter Janice Tibbetts captured that message in two lines of her coverage. Tibbetts wrote: "Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the man who promised to bring the contentious same-sex marriage issue back to the Commons, was absent from the chamber and had no plans to defend traditional marriage as debate opened Wednesday (Dec. 6) on whether to revoke Canada’s same-sex marriage law. The Commons was virtually empty, with about 20 of 308 members showing up."

However, one must say that among those who showed up for debate, many took a solid and courageous stand in favor of traditional marriage. One speech that is especially worth mentionning is that of Conservative MP Pierre Lemieux, Member of Parliament for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, who stressed that the rights of children to be raised by a father and a mother was completely forgotten (or ignored) in this debate. Marriage concerns not only adults, but also children.

Here is the full speech of Mr. Lemieux delivered in the House of Commons on December 6, 2006, taken from the Hansard. Canada really needs more courageous men and women of principle like him:

Speech of Mr. Pierre Lemieux
(Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, CPC)

Pierre Lemieux MP for Glengarry-Prescott-RussellPierre Lemieux, MP for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today on behalf of the people of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell to speak on this important motion regarding marriage.

I highlight that since having become an MP, I have never received so much correspondence as I have on this extremely important issue. My constituents are overwhelmingly asking me to vote in support of the traditional definition of marriage.

When I say traditional marriage, I mean the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. It is important to note that marriage is an institution dating back to the dawn of humanity that has existed in all civilizations. This institution predates even the existence of the state, and this House’s efforts to change the traditional definition of marriage are damaging not only to Canadian society but to all societies, especially those for whom Canada is a role model.

As one of my colleagues noted, by changing the definition of marriage, the previous Liberal government undertook a radical social experiment whose consequences for children, for social stability, for freedom of religion and for civil society are completely unknown.

In June 1999, Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of the sanctity of marriage as being the union of one man and one women to the exclusion of all others. The then Liberal justice minister, Anne McLellan, stated:

"The definition of marriage is already clear in law. It is not found in statute, but then not all law exists in the statutes, and the law is no less binding and no less the law because it is found in the common law instead of in a statute.

"Marriage is unique in its essence; that is, its opposite sex nature. Through this essence, marriage embodies the complementarity of the two human sexes, playing a fundamental role in Canadian society.

"Let me state again for the record that the government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or of legislating same sex marriages."

Those were the exact words of the Liberal justice minister during the 1999 debate.

Canadians have now seen that the last Liberal prime minister and justice minister double-crossed them. In 2005 the Liberal justice minister tabled a bill to change the traditional definition of marriage against the will of Canadians. He, with the previous prime minister, rammed it through committee, were antagonistic toward committee witnesses favouring traditional marriage, cut short debate and then forced their cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries to vote in favour of their bill, with no regard to the personal consciences of these MPs or to the will of their constituents.

Only one cabinet minister broke ranks, resigned from cabinet and voted to defend traditional marriage, the member for Thunder Bay — Superior North. I salute him for his integrity, his courage and for the example he has given other MPs to always do what is right, no matter the consequences.

I also salute all the other MPs who stood to vote in defence of traditional marriage that day. May we work and vote together on this particular motion that is before us this week.

In my experience, Canadians from all walks of life know that marriage is fundamentally important and that it means the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. People from other countries know it too.

I also believe that people know that the institution of marriage exists to secure, protect and promote the union of a man and a woman, not just for the sake of the man and a woman themselves but also for any children born of this union.

Marriage concerns not only adults. Marriage concerns families, and families concern children. Children need a stable environment in which to grow and mature. A healthy family founded on the traditional definition of marriage provides just this environment. Marriage is the nucleus of the family, and the family is the main means by which society sustains itself, perpetuates itself and grows.

I will now speak on the impact of marriage on the most valuable and yet the most vulnerable members of our society, our children. I believe children thrive in families, and families are based on marriage. While the essence of this debate concerns adult relationships, we must recognize that the debate on marriage has a direct impact on the welfare of our children.

As it is the goal of the government to protect its citizens, particularly its most vulnerable citizens, it is, indeed, appalling that the previous government turned its back on the most important and fundamental component of our country, our children.

To be clear, defending the traditional definition of marriage is also about defending the rights of children and of defending their best interests. Our children are entitled to the best possible circumstances in which to be raised. Studies have demonstrated that this best possible circumstance is the family, consisting of a mother and a father in a continuous and stable relationship.

When the Canadian Parliament voted to change the definition of marriage, I believe it did so without giving any consideration whatsoever to the rights of children. There is no mention of children in the Liberal government’s reference to the Supreme Court and none in the reply. The rights of children and the impact of changing the definition of marriage on children were completely ignored.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Canada signed in 1991, states that every child has the right to know and be raised by his natural mother and father whenever possible.

Article 3 of the same UN Convention states: In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by... courts of law... or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. In addition, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifically states that the rights of children must take the priority over the rights of adults because children are more vulnerable and require the support of the state.

By failing to recognize the special nature of marriage as a union based on mutual commitment between a man and a woman, which is the only relationship that can produce a child and protect that child’s right to know its mother and father, Canada is putting the rights of adults ahead of the rights of children. That is unacceptable.

Children have been ignored within this debate. We have focused on adults to live as they so choose, but we have forgotten our children.

The children of same sex couples are deprived of the right to be raised by both a mother and a father. They do not have role models in the home to teach them and to show them how to be wives and mothers, husbands and fathers, and they do not have the opportunity to experience how a man and a woman live out their married life.

I believe that defending traditional marriage is about doing what is right, what is good and what is best for our children. Therefore, marriage between a male and a female must hold the priority of place for the raising of children and must be maintained in order to safeguard the rights of children.

It is interesting to note that France’s parliament recently undertook a thorough study of same-sex marriage, and published a report on the subject in January 2006.

A French commission studied the impact of same-sex marriage on children, and found that the best interest of the child must supersede the freedoms of the adult, including parents’ lifestyle choices. In order to protect the rights of children, France’s parliament chose to support the traditional definition of marriage.

As I mentioned, I am honoured to stand in the House today to defend and promote the traditional definition of marriage. I am also a Roman Catholic, and the Church in its wisdom teaches that:

The intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws... God himself is the author of marriage.

The Church also teaches unchangingly that marriage is a covenant in which husband and wife express their mutual love and join with God in the creation of a new human person destined for eternal life.

A major good of marriage between a man and a woman is procreation, that of bringing new life into the world. It is through marriage that the children of that union are best cared for and nurtured. Our children are our future, and they must be protected. This issue of marriage must be revisited.

I also remind my fellow MPs that our time as an MP is short, even when we think it is long, and when we cease to be MPs, sadly, we will likely be forgotten by our fellow man, but not by God, who knows each of us intimately.

If God himself is truly the author of marriage, then let us be able to give a good account of ourselves when we stand before Him, as we must all stand before Him.

I will be voting in favour of the traditional definition of marriage for us, for my children, and for the children of our country. I ask all MPs in the House to join me in voting to defend and promote the traditional definition of marriage.

I shall conclude my speech as follows, "Almighty God, protector of all families, guide us in our efforts to defend the holy sacrament of marriage as the union between a man and a woman. I ask You this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen".