April 09, 2009

A Look To Canada: Same-Sex Marriage and the Slippery Slope

In discussing the right and wrong ways to enact same-sex marriage I said:
If you can extract yourself from the emotions of the debate, one can easily take the justification Franck provides for same-sex marriage and substitute "their brother or sister" or "multiple partners" for "members of their own sex" and come up with the same argument for incest or polygamy.
Because they can be interchanged the argument that one necessarily leads to the other (the slippery slope) comes into play.  This argument is hardly novel.  It is typically posed in debates between conservatives and liberals when the issue of same-sex marriage is discussed.  It is generally rebutted with an emotional plea or with some assurance that the buck stops with same-sex marriage.  In looking to Canada, the slope may be as slippery as thought.  In an article titled, "We're In The Fast Lane to Polygamy" Mark Steyn writes:

What’s my line on legalized polygamy? Oh, I pretty much said it all back in 2004, in a column for Ezra Levant’s Western Standard. Headline: “It’s Closer Than They Think.”

Well, a mere half-decade down the slippery slope and here we are, with the marrying kind of Bountiful, B.C., headed for the Supreme Court of Canada. Five years ago, proponents of same-sex marriage went into full you-cannot-be-serious eye-rolling mode when naysayers warned that polygamy would be next. As I wrote in that Western Standard piece:

“Gay marriage, they assure us, is the merest amendment to traditional marriage, and once we’ve done that we’ll pull up the drawbridge.”

Claire L’Heureux-Dubé, the former Supreme Court justice, remains confident the drawbridge is firmly up. “Marriage is a union of two people, period,” she said in Quebec the other day. But it used to be a union of one man and one woman, period. And, if that period got kicked down the page to accommodate a comma and a subordinate clause, why shouldn’t it get kicked again? If the sex of the participants is no longer relevant, why should the number be?

Update: I just want to add that this is the exact reason that same-sex marriage should be extended via the legislature.  The legislature can provide the necessary changes without worrying about the slippery slope.

Update II: Robert Stacy McCain sums up this dilemma and the basic dilemma of judicial activism very succinctly.

Back in the 1970s, William F. Buckley Jr. was invited to debate feminist author Germaine Greer at the Oxford Union, but found that he and Greer were unable to agree on the wording of the resolution to be debated. After a long exchange of trans-Atlantic telegrams, Buckley in exasperation cabled his final proposal: "Resolved: Give 'em an inch, they'll take a mile."

In that simple phrase, Buckley summed up a basic truth about the conservative instinct. Over and over, we find ourselves fighting what is essentially a defensive battle against the forces of organized radicalism who insist that "social justice" requires that we grant their latest demand.

We know, however, that their latest demand is never their lastdemand. Grant the radicals everything they demand today, and tomorrow they will return with new demands that they insist are urgently necessary to satisfy the requirements of social justice.

When they refer to themselves as "progressives," radicals express their own basic truth: Their method of operation is always to move steadily forward, seeking a progressive series of victories, each new gain exploited to lay the groundwork for the next advance, as the opposition progressively yields terrain. Such is the remorseless aggression of radicalism that conservatives forever find themselves contemplating the latest "progressive" demand and asking, "Is this a hill worth dying on?"

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