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Rhetorical Analysis on Same-Sex Marriage, Research Paper Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1662

Research Paper

Abstract

In examining Laura Reidel’s  Religious Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage in Canada: Limits to Multiculturalism, the author’s choice to adopt a strictly scholarly point of view and present only legal and statistical data undermines the impact of the article. Treating with a country long noted for egalitarian and democratic principles in the manner in which its citizens are encouraged to behave, Reidel takes no specific stand on how she feels these principles might play into same-sex marriage legislation. Moreover, as Canada’s multicultural doctrine and the religious elements of the nation are explored by the author, the scope becomes too wide to permit any valid, linear tracing of just how Canadian opposition to same-sex marriage arises, or even why. Ultimately, however, the author is able to connect the dots in regard to their impact on same-sex marriage, although still a dispassionate and non-partisan manner.

Introduction

In her article, Ms Reidel presents an expansive and carefully researched work on the state of same-sex marriage in Canada, focusing on the two key elements of Canadian multiculturalism and how religious belief and activity in the nation serve to both support and oppose same-sex marriage. Ultimately, she concludes that Canada’s adherence to the principles manifested in its Multiculturalism Act wins the day for same-sex marriage, as she believes it must.

Nonetheless, and in spite of meticulous attention to documented movements within Canadian society on all levels, the author continually runs into stumbling blocks, chiefly in regard to defining the multiculturalism Canada itself finds difficult to define, and consequently applying it to the issue of same-sex marriage. Then, Canada’s shifting religious picture presents further complications for the author in assessing how this factor plays into opposition and/or support of same-sex marriage. The article is cogently written and articulately done, yet Ms Reidel is unable to truly navigate through such vast and hazy territories.

Later in the study, noticeable rhetorical appeals are made to strong effect. Reidel takes a course of rigid reporting and documentation, and her own assessments of the conditions and developments she notes are conspicuously underplayed. She continually alludes to the controversial aspect of the same-sex marriage issue in Canada, yet withholds a committed viewpoint regarding it until the last sections of the article.

The Multicultural Issues

While initially and seemingly on the side of Canada’s multicultural position, and even after quoting the body of the Multicultural Act of 1988 itself, Reidel is then confronted by the abstracts inherent in, not merely multiculturalism, but culture itself. As she takes pains to represent, these fundamental factors are crucial in how Canada has reacted as a nation to demands for same-sex marriage legalization.

Upon declaring how definitions of culture and multiculturalism vary, Reidel determines that “For the purposes of this study, multiculturalism will be defined as the willingness of a society to tolerate and encourage ethnocultural diversity within its population” (Reidel, 2008, p.264). It is of course essential that the author establish a definition of some kind, yet Reidel’s definition is as ambiguous, or certainly at least as open to interpretation, as the larger issue she seeks to define. For example, ‘toleration’ and ‘encouragement’ are not synonymous by any means, yet that is their alignment within the definition.

Furthermore, the language employed by Reidel is uniformly academic, frequently punctuated by distracting and often unnecessary citations, and generally not conducive to drawing the reader in to delve more deeply into her findings. In writing, “Unfortunately, the interaction between cultures within particular societies has historically resulted in clashes, not transcendentalism” (265), the author reaches her limit in presenting an identity and viewpoint of her own.

These weaknesses in the study aside, however, Reidel truly does undertake to properly examine how varied cultural belief systems within Canada have reacted to same-sex marriage legislation. She loses very little time, in fact, in diverting the multicultural aspect into the channel of religious practices. While this is an understandable and valid process, given how enormous an impact religion plays in cultural behavior and development, it is nonetheless a factor with specific issues of its own. Reidel puts up a valiant and intelligent struggle with how culturalism is perceived by individuals, groups and the state itself, yet she is unable to specifically address non-religious cultural elements within this Canadian framework that would impact on same-sex legislation. The logic of her approach is diffused by the ambiguities she admits to, and she is content to leave it at that.

In fairness to the author, the task is virtually insurmountable. A nation as large and as imbued with a lengthy history of individual, if not pioneer, rights and freedoms does not easily conform to breakdowns of educational and political agendas. The fact of the matter, as Reidel affirms, is that cultural diversity in Canada is extreme. The citizens of Montreal, long held to be a gay-friendly city, will of necessity have widely differing viewpoints about most cultural matters than will ranchers in Alberta. In a very real sense, Canada’s legal bow to multiculturalism is an authorized redundancy; it is a nation composed of such disparate elements that multiculturalism must be acknowledged as a way of life.

Canadian Church and State

In moving into how religion in Canada affects same-sex marriage rights, the author tangibly relaxes, for here she may document percentages and faiths. We learn of the historically predominant Judeo-Christian religions, and we are given statistics regarding the influx and rise of new religions. The information is solid and clearly presented.

However, Reidel becomes far more compelling when she examines how the separation of church and state in Canada has long remained an obfuscatory thing. Still a predominantly Christian country and, despite governmental restrictions on religious influence and, more tellingly, the ceasing of government funding for churches, these institutions nonetheless yield vast political power. This is, while perhaps not praiseworthy, logical; a nation covering as much ground as Canada, and with a populace occupying enormous areas of virtual wilderness, often finds that religion will unite people where political concerns do not. Equally not surprising, then, is that this potent Christian influence would have a profound and vocal force in opposing same-sex marriage. Reidel touches upon this but nonetheless makes no attempt to actually assess the morality of this impact. Again, she presents material and walks away from it.

On the other hand, Reidel does seem to believe that the emergence of new faiths in Canada is demonstrating a greater tolerance, as well as a harder push for a true separation of church and state. The tides appear to go hand in hand, as adherents of religions recently introduced to the nation are consequently more concerned with protecting all fundamental human rights, and in a manner not dependent upon a single church. The argument is sound  and carries an indisputable appeal to the ethos of the readers; no religion or religious viewpoint can be substantiated if it does not have within it a clear interest in the welfare of all. Here Reidel unequivocally relies on common assumptions of a universally applied commitment to an essential good character as that which seeks fairness for all.

Political Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage in Canada

After extensively citing the trajectory of advancement within the gay rights movement in Canadian politics, Reidel moves on to demonstrate an aspect of pathos as firm as her ethical stance regarding the clerical issues. Conservative opposition to same-sex marriage was most vocal in the recent 2006 election campaigns, during which candidate Stephan Harper sought to generate votes by promising to re-open the same-sex debates and thus rekindle all gay rights controversies. However, the ensuing Conservative victory found the party unwilling to pursue its promise in this regard, chiefly because it was now seen to be far more divisive, and not nearly as valuable as expected, an issue.

This surprise to the Conservatives, along with that party’s own resistance to pressure from more strident evangelical opposition to same-sex marriage, enables Reidel to speak most emphatically in an appeal to pathos. In a single concluding paragraph, she unwaveringly asserts that Canada’s history in gay rights has been an exemplary instance of a human rights progression. Her appeal is further cemented by the implied tribute to Canadian wisdom and foresight, and the pathos of her stance is doubly effective, in that it both accomplishes the former as it assumes a shared aspiration to equality from her readers.

Conclusion

Devoting more than half her study to the history and current state of gay rights in Canada, gay history, from a legislative standpoint, is cleanly and comprehensively documented. From there Reidel has occasion to remark upon the culmination of the movement in Canada’s 2005 legalization of same-sex unions, and most notably in how the enormous Evangelical Protestant and Catholic opposition groups were far less effective in blocking it than anyone had anticipated. As Reidel sets it out, Canada’s leading political campaigns learned in short order that their constituencies were not nearly as completely under church sway as had been supposed.

Reidel’s study accomplishes a great deal, although it must be said that her approach, while thoroughly responsible and intellectually correct, is not as strong as one would hope. There is little sense of where the study is going until long into it and, while dispassionate recording is a hallmark of professionalism, a general awareness of the real intent of the study – which is, in essence, a validation of Canadian multiculturalism in securing same-sex marriage – would not be amiss. The reader finishes it educated about the history of same-sex legislation in Canada, and with a real sense of the background to it, but with no idea at all of the author’s stance is until the conclusion. Here, Reidel finally affirms a conviction that legalizing same-sex marriage in Canada was an ethical imperative in a nation determined to secure civil liberties. She has moreover established her position through clean logical progression, and by means of expressions amply substantiated to touch the core sensibilities of her readership in regard to decency and equality.

Reference

Reidel, L. (June, 2008.) Religious Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage in Canada: Limits to Multiculturalism. Springer Science and Business Media B.V., pages 261-281.

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