McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–“It’s official,” intoned the radio announcer. “Gay marriage is now legal in Canada.”
The previously animated group I was talking with fell silent upon hearing the news. Smiles gave way to expressionless stares. Some hung their heads. One man slowly shook his head. For these Canadians, the sanctioning of “same-sex marriage” was just another incremental slide into the mire of secularism.
When Canada became the fourth nation in the world to legalize “gay marriage” on July 20, I just happened to be visiting our neighbor to the north. Some I spoke to were indifferent to the state sanction of homosexuality. However, many Canadians expressed concern about the possible, if not probable, long-term consequences the decision will have, especially for those who believe homosexuality is aberrant.
The legal climate in Canada toward those who oppose the legitimization of homosexuality has been chilly for some time now. In April 2004, Parliament passed legislation that added sexual orientation to Canada’s already existent hate crimes law. While the law has a provision exempting statements made in a religious context, many observers are not confident of the strength of the safeguard.
Even before the addition of sexual orientation to the hate crimes law, speaking out against homosexuality was not well received by Canadian officials. In 2002, Hugh Owens placed an ad in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix newspaper consisting of four Bible passages that denounce homosexuality. Both Owens and the newspaper were found to be in violation of Saskatchewan’s human rights code and were each fined $4,500.
More recently, a Canadian court upheld the British Columbia College of Teacher’s suspension of a teacher for “discrimination toward homosexuals.” In 2001, a local newspaper printed letters from Chris Kempling in which the teacher, according to LifeSiteNews.com, “defended the traditional Christian understanding of the social, physical, and moral evils of homosexual behavior.” In June, a Canadian court upheld the suspension.
Several individuals I spoke with believe now that “homosexual marriage” is the official policy of the Canadian government, the attitude toward those who believe it is immoral will only grow worse. One pastor told me that he is convinced that it is only a matter of time before conservative churches are targeted by the government.
“With the legalization of gay marriage the next step will be the tax status of churches,” he said. “The church that maintains homosexuality is a sin will be found to be unsupportive of the country’s national policy.”
In his opinion, that will be enough to justify government hostility toward a church.
According to Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon, the pastor’s opinion may well be prophetic. In February 2004 Glendon wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
“Religious freedom, too, is at stake. As much as one may wish to live and let live, the experience in other countries reveals that once these arrangements become law, there will be no live-and-let-live policy for those who differ. Gay-marriage proponents use the language of openness, tolerance and diversity, yet one foreseeable effect of their success will be to usher in an era of intolerance and discrimination the likes of which we have rarely seen before. Every person and every religion that disagrees will be labeled as bigoted and openly discriminated against. The ax will fall most heavily on religious persons and groups that don’t go along. Religious institutions will be hit with lawsuits if they refuse to compromise their principles.”
Stockwell Day, a leading conservative and a member of the Canadian Parliament, maintains the discrimination Glendon describes is already taking place. In a recent address to Canada’s lawmakers he stated, “Provincial governments in Canada have terminated the positions of marriage commissioners who have, for personal religious convictions, not performed same sex marriages. It has happened in Saskatchewan.”
Why should we care about what happens in Canada? Someone once said, “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.”
With our neighbor to the north joining the ranks of countries legalizing “gay marriage,” you can rest assured that homosexual activists and liberals will push even harder for America to follow the Canadian example. If ever we needed to renew the call for a marriage protection amendment, the time is now.
Kelly Boggs is pastor of the Portland-area Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore. His column appears each Friday in Baptist Press.