By the Rev. Martha Daniels
Canada and the United States have contrasting attitudes toward diversity. It’s best summed up, I think, in the different images they use for their ethnic diversity. In the U.S., the term used is “melting pot” and in Canada, they talk about a “mosaic.”
A melting pot implies that everyone becomes like everyone else – there is a blending, an assimilation. Children of immigrants, for example, are not encouraged to continue speaking the language of their parents. A mosaic, on the other hand, is an image of each person maintaining their individuality while contributing to a larger whole. Ethnic clubs abound, and yet there is a real sense that everyone is a Canadian equally. Of course there are exceptions, but this is, in general, true.
The other factor is that, in part because of the ethnic diversity, the
Canadians have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms (http://220.127.116.11/en/Charter/index.html). This act, which came into force in 1982, guarantees the rights of every Canadian, regardless of race,
ethnicity, aboriginal or First Nations status, sex, age, disability, and so on. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that this includes sexual orientation or gender identity (although the latter is under some debate, unfortunately).
Because of the Charter, Canadians have a clear sense that no one can be discriminated against. That said, the resistance to same-sex marriage in Canada came primarily from the religious right and the Catholic Church. Their claim was that same-sex marriage would damage Canadian society, specifically marriage and the family. I have never read or heard a satisfactory explanation of how marriage would be hurt by more people getting married; and the tired old arguments about child-raising were trotted for the claim about families (never mind that many children are being raised in common-law partnerships, which are also recognized in Canada, whether same-sex or different-sex). There were also (spurious) claims that clergy or government officials would be forced to perform marriages they thought were immoral.
Of course that’s ridiculous – no marriage official is required to perform a marriage just because someone requests it. And, as I pointed out, if it’s a limitation on their religious freedom to have to accept same-sex marriage, it’s a limitation on mine and others’ religious freedom to have it denied.
All that said – I think that the usual U.S. voter is easily swayed by inflammatory rhetoric and takes
the position of “better safe than sorry” because they don’t know what the results might be and they’re concerned. Over nothing of course. Canada has not imploded, nor has Massachusetts slid into the Atlantic Ocean. South Africa is surviving, as is Spain – all of which have legal same-sex marriage.
The sun is still rising in the East, and nothing much has changed for most people in different-sex marriages. I have seen a wonderful attitude in the younger crowd – they see the injustice, and are willing to argue about it. My son and his friends and my nieces – they can’t understand what the fuss is about. The U.S. will catch up with Canada, but it’s going to take a few more years.