Landmark U.S. marriage ruling.
In Canada, same-sex marriage has become wonderfully ordinary
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfilment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in Friday’s historic same-sex marriage ruling.
Within moments of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 5-4 ruling on same-sex marriage Friday morning, there was a flurry of reaction on Twitter from conservative Americans, expressing their disgust with the decision in a most perplexing way. In their anger, they vowed to move to Canada.
Alas, they clearly had neglected to notice that Canada legalized same-sex marriage, 10 years ago this summer.
But as we watch our American neighbours react, with joy, with relief, with fury, with confusion, to Friday’s news, it’s worth remembering just how far we in Canada come in a decade, and just how profound our social evolution has been.
The legalization of gay marriage in 2005 provoked plenty of outrage, and plenty of resistance, especially here in Alberta.
Ralph Klein’s provincial government shamefully sought all kinds of political or legislative end-runs around the federal government’s authority. Senior cabinet ministers whipped up homophobic bigotry, stoking fears that gay marriage would somehow diminish the value of family itself.
Eventually, even the Klein Tories ran out of loopy legal gambits to circumvent the will of parliament.
Grudgingly, they began to hand out marriage licences to gay and lesbian couples.
Those first same-sex marriage ceremonies here in Edmonton were acts of defiance and celebration. Each was a statement that made the personal political in the most elemental way.
Even as guests we knew we were witnesses and making history. When you went to a same-sex wedding you weren’t just bringing a CrockPot. You too could feel that in a some small way, you were standing up for civil rights and social justice.
A decade later, same-sex weddings in Alberta no longer feel quite so novel or courageous. They’ve become almost like everybody else’s marriages. And that’s a sweet and wonderful thing to say.
It’s worth remembering that at the outset, many LBGQT activists were ambivalent about the cause of marriage equality. Some argued the queer community was misguided for seeking to embrace a heteronormative, patriarchal institution. Many couldn’t quite see the point of fighting for the right to conform with conservative middle-class suburban values.
Yet in fighting so publicly for the right to be married, for the right to be dull and domestic, LBGQT activists in Canada achieved a kind of political alchemy. Once enough aunties and uncles and cousins and neighbours had attended enough samesex weddings, once enough Crock-Pots had been given and received, the mystery and fear and prejudice a round homosexuality gradually started to evaporate. What had seemed scary and perverse to some started to look ordinary.
Ten years ago, Ralph Klein thought he could win votes by pandering to homophobia. Last month, Jim Prentice and Gordon Dirks learned there were no votes to be had in trying to ban high school gay-straight alliances. Two years before same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada, Edmonton’s then-mayor Bill Smith refused to proclaim Gay Pride Week, saying it would violate his religious principles. These days, Edmonton’s mayor and family are proud to join the parade. Gay marriage has paved the way for much broader social acceptance.
Yet by fighting so hard for the right to wed, first in Canada, then in the U.S., samesex couples haven’t just won equality. They’ve reminded us all of the meaning of marriage. As I’ve watched my gay friends and relations get married, I haven’t felt my own relationship with my husband diminished. I’ve found it revitalized, as I’ve remembered why we got married in the first place. Not for the Crock-Pots, but to embody those ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, of sacrifice and family.
Welcome, America, to marriage, Canadian-style. Let the confetti rain.