My Testimony to the Dover Human Relations Commission
Mr. Chairman and Commissioners,
Thank you, for the opportunity to address this body since I was mentioned by name in a letter to the editor by a member, I decided to personally make my case.
I am concerned that the resolution before you though well intentioned is based upon a flawed premise. It is based upon the belief that love is something to be legislated and in the absence of legislation there is some sort of injury. I am sympathetic to the historic proscriptions often found in law against homosexual couples. However the recognition of marriage as a mixed sex institution which ensures the stable continuation of humanity, is not one such proscription. We did not recognize marriage even before written history because it was the only way people could love one another. We did it because a married family takes on a unique responsibility for all of us by committing to form a stable family. That family unit continues to be the basis of civilization in societies of all different religions, ethnic groups, and geographic locations. Marriage unites humanity. In spite of some differences, it is a mixed gender institution recognizable around the world.
The reason certain “benefits” are given is not to reward one group of people over all others. It is not to idealize love. It is to compensate for the high cost and sacrifice realized by families. Since society benefits to the degree of its very survival in its current form based upon the family, recognizing the contribution of people who make a lifelong commitment to children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren is not unreasonable. Since humanity is dependent upon the procreation celebrated by marriage, enshrining its unique and noble status into law is only natural.
People should be free to choose their relationships, and they are. I believe there is a difference between demanding legal recognition of a relationship and allowing people to choose with whom they have relationships. Recognizing a person’s right to choose does not mandate a right to recognition. The Supreme Court of the United States already addressed this issue in Lawrence v, Texas.
“The statutes do seek to control a personal relationship that,
whether or not entitled to formal recognition in the law, is
within the liberty of persons to choose without being punished
This, as a general rule, should counsel against attempts
by the State, or a court, to define the meaning of the relationship
or to set its boundaries absent injury to a person
or abuse of an institution the law protects. It suffices for
us to acknowledge that adults may choose to enter upon
this relationship in the confines of their homes and their
own private lives and still retain their dignity as free
Another issue is does homophobia enter into a person’s position on marriage? It can. If someone has an intense distrust of homosexuals, then obviously that person would not favor same sex marriage. My personal view is that the mere holding of that view does not make a person “homophobic”.
Margaret Sommerville who is known to be for laws favoring gay rights, wrote the following in a court brief in Canada:”Recognizing that a fundamental purpose of marriage is to engender respect for the transmission of human life provides a corollary insight: Excluding same-sex couples from marriage is not related to those people’s homosexual orientation, or to them as individuals, or to the worth of their relationships. Rather, the exclusion of their relationship is related to the fact that it is not inherently procreative, and, therefore, if it is encompassed within marriage, marriage cannot institutionalize and symbolize respect for the transmission of life. To recognize same-sex marriage (which is to be distinguished from same-sex partnerships that do not raise this problem) would unavoidably change and eliminate this function of marriage. ”
She further stated:”Being against same-sex marriage is frequently alleged by proponents of same-sex marriage to be proof of homophobia (See “Same-sex hearings rife with ‘gay- bashing,’ critic says”, Globe and Mail, 11 March, 2003, A6). A useful comparison can be made with people who take the view that being against infant male circumcision (IMC) is proof of anti-Semitism. (I, personally, have been subject to both sets of allegations in the public square.)
The strategy adopted in both cases is to shame those who are against same-sex marriage or IMC into silence. The choice of language and framing of the issues is carefully crafted to achieve this result. (See William Eskridge, who has articulated important insights in this respect, through his analysis of the techniques used by identity-based social movements to place courts in the position that they see their only alternatives in reaching a decision as being either to find discrimination or to believe that in not doing so they would be approving of discrimination and themselves engaging in it. In the same vein, see Halpern et al v. Canada and arguments considered by the judges.) “