Gay Marriage in Canada

On February 1, 2005 the Federal Government of Canada introduced legislation into the house of commons that would make gay marriage legal across the country. Courts in most provinces have already ruled that stopping gay marriages is unconstitutional so it should not be surprising that the federal government has taken this measure. Not only is it the right thing to do, any attempt to make gay marriage illegal would almost certainly be struck down by the supreme court based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms anyway. Nothing but the lining of lawyers pockets and the wasting of tax payers money would be served by such an attempt.

None of this has stopped the usual bantering and idiotic arguments put forward by the “anti-gay marriage” people.

First of all, I think I am pretty unbiased on this issue. I’m not gay; I don’t know any gay people. No matter how this ends it will not change my day-to-day life one bit. What bothers me about this issue is the abuse of the principles involved and the complete lack of logic.

Most of the quotes below come from a CBC story called Cotler unveils ‘landmark’ same-sex law.

“If you’re going to throw open the definition of marriage so you destroy it in essence, how do you know you can ever draw the line any place? If I want two or three wives and want that considered legal marriage, who are you to tell me I can’t do that?” – Ontario MP Pat O’Brien, May 10, 2003.

This is nothing but fear mongering. Society can, and does, set limits all the time. Did lowering the drinking age from twenty-one to nineteen “throw open” the possibility of further lowering the drinking age to sixteen? Of course not.

“The Conservative party will fight to give a greater voice to Parliament. We will ensure that issues like marriage are decided by Parliament, not the courts.” – Party website.

Great plan. Lets have societies dominant elements decide for everyone else what is OK and what is not. That is a sure way to make sure everyone is treated fairly. Wake up! The Charter was created for exactly this reason. The elected representatives who, in a large part, represent the dominant groups of society cannot be trusted to enact legislation that protects minorities.

. . . no religious officials will be forced to perform marriages that are contrary to their beliefs.
– Justice Minister Irwin Cotler

Vic Toews, the Conservative party’s justice critic, disputed the Liberals‘ insistence that the law protects religious officials from having to perform gay-marriage ceremonies.
He also said there’s no protection for individual Canadians who don’t hold a church office but want the right to refuse to have anything to do with gay marriage.
. . .
Toews cited several examples of people and groups whom the bill wouldn’t protect:

  • Civil marriage commissioners in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, who have been told they must perform same-sex ceremonies or lose their jobs.
  • . . .

How is this any different than if a civil marriage commissioner refused to marry an inter-racial couple because of his or her beliefs? The answer? It’s not. The idea that an agent of the state should have discretionary privileges is absurd. Why even have laws if the people implementing them have the option to ignore the laws they do not agree with?

That’s why his party [Conservatives] will try to amend the bill, limiting marriage to one man and one woman while offering homosexual couples full rights under some other type of civil union.

Notice the word “full”. At least in this case they have not used the word equal. I always find people who say things like “We believe in equal rights . . . gays can have civil unions with the same privileges as marriage just not marriage proper” hilarious. You either believe in equal rights or you do not. Adding a qualification to any statement about equal rights means that you do not believe in equal rights, period.

“What we are seeing is a consistent pattern,” he said. “Whenever equality rights and religious rights collide, equality rights trump.” — Vic Toews

Again, I am dumbfounded by this person. Of course equality rights trump religion. Think about how absurd it would be if it were the other way around. Which religions views would would society take as ‘right’? What about religions whose views directly contradict each other?

The people fighting against gay marriage need to seriously think through their views. They should think about how the world remembers the active and vocal racists of not so long ago. For this is exactly how the world will remember the anti-gay marriage people in twenty years.


Here is an interesting argument against DRM that is worth reading.

Canadian copyright update

More bad copyright news in this article from the Globe and Mail.

Intellectual Property a misnomer?

Richard Stallman the man behind the FSF and the GPL has written a short piece on why the term intellectual property should not be used. Personally, I think it shouldn’t be used just because when I see the acronym IP, I think network protocol, not intellectual property.

Canadian murder statistics

Despite what the “always bad news first” nightly news programs may make you think murder rates were at a 30 year low in 2003.

It’s too bad that the CBC decided it was necessary to feature the bad news predominately. CTV also managed to put in their own little bit of fear mongering on the eleven o’clock news.

More Canadian copyright stuff

Michael Geist has written another great piece encouraging balanced copyright reform.

I still find it surprising that the Liberal led Heritage committee is so biased towards the content creators. Content creation groups have apparently out numbered content user groups at these hearings by a wide margin. How can this be right? Surely, there are more people using copyrighted material than there are creators. It’s odd how governments can forget who they actually represent.

I think the biggest obstacle to reasonable discussions on intellectual property issues is that it is very easy to quantify what more restrictive laws will do for the content creators; it’s all money. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to quantify the loss that is incurred throughout our culture by these same laws. What is the cost of works not entering the public domain? What interesting new industries could be formed by freed content? What is the cost when a school teacher cannot adequately teach her students? These are all next to impossible to quantify.

People like simple things. I believe our governmental representatives are no exception. Perhaps they are just leaning towards what they actually can get a mental grip on.

Left and Right political views via Amazon

Valdis Krebs has found a really interesting use of some Amazon book data. Amazon suggests books based on “People who bought this book also bought X”. Valdis uses this information to graph the left and right of the American political spectrum. You can find the graph and some background here.

How can there ever be a productive political debate when the two sides don’t take the time to understand the other sides arguments?

This graph was built with social network mapping software called InFlow. It’s interesting to see computers being used to study the relationships between people.

Copyright in the digital world

In Copyright vs. The Laws of Physics the author discusses copying in the digital world. In reality, every action on digital information involves copying. This is the fundamental reason why copy protection on computers is so hard. Lawrence Lessig touches on this in Free Culture too.

Digital files cannot be made uncopyable, any more than water can be made not wet.
— Bruce Schneier

US Broadcast flag

Bad news. It looks like the Canadian government may be considering the broadcast flag that the MPAA successfully pushed in the US. Can we still head this off?

Michael Geist wrote an article about this for the Toronto Star. Michael Geist’s blog is one to watch if you care about Canadian copyright issues.

The Future of Ideas

I have decided to dedicate some of my new found leisure time to educating myself about intellectual property. Anyone who has read any of my other blog entries knows this is an area of interest to me. The goal is to have an informed opinion on what I think may be the most important debate of the 21st century.

As any other geek would I am starting with Lawrence Lessig‘s books. I bought The Future of Ideas back in May but have not had time to read it until now. At the moment I am about half way through. So far, it has been an enjoyable read. This book is surprisingly fair to the companies and individuals who wish for stronger intellectual property controls though the argument goes against them. Since I did most of this reading in the local Chapters/Starbucks yesterday I picked up Lessig’s latest book, Free Culture while I was there.

Last night I wrote a little summary of the European history course I recently completed. In this summary I talked about the parallels I see between the Enlightenment and the current intellectual property debate. It turns out I was about five pages away from a point in The Future of Ideas where Lessig briefly writes about the Enlightenment. The point Lessig makes is different than mine but it is still strangely exciting to see someone as knowledgeable as Lessig see some of the same relationships I do.

The only problem with reading Lessig’s books is that he is a known opponent of stronger intellectual property laws and he sees the world through the eyes of the Internet much like I do. As interesting as the reading has been so far there has been nothing earth shattering for me. It’s basically a great presentation of ideas I already believe in. What I would like is to find some works that argue the opposite point of view. That will be the ultimate challenge to my opinions on this issue. At the present time I don’t know of any such works. If anyone reading this does please let me know.