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Reflections on Ethics 56
Slippery slope family values

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Bishop Fred Henry of the Catholic Diocese of Calgary has a regular column in the Calgary Sunday Sun which I like to read because on occasion he provides me with inspiration to write. The man tends to be outspoken and controversial.

Today, he opened with describing a traditional Hindu wedding in India attended by 2000 guests, the bride an adult woman, and the groom, a cobra.

Having given that pretty picture, he went on to his message on... no, not on the mortal sin of sex with barnyard animals, but on same sex-marriage. The wedding between the woman and the snake received no further mention in his column.

What did Bishop Harvey have to say about same-sex marriage?

To summarize his argument (which is nothing more than so-called family values):

  1. [Marriage] "is a framework that... is designed for the care and harmonious development of the child."
  2. A report presented to the parliament of France "accepted the fundamental principles of the law of filiation, which are based on the tripartite unit of a 'father, a mother and a child' citing the principle of caution."
  3. Therefore the Government of Canada should reverse its approval of same-sex marriage.

As a logical argument, it just does not hold together; questionable assumptions which do not lead the the conclusion.

But what about the woman marrying the cobra? Why did he open with that?

It's just a sleight-of-hand trick to suggest without explicitly stating the old slippery slope argument. Allow same-sex marriages, and next thing you know people will be demanding to marry their pet goats, or pigs, or sheep. Or even a cobra.

The trouble with this is that marriage to animals has been a Hindu tradition for thousands of years.[1] And yet same-sex marriage between humans is still not permitted in India. And most likely, a human marrying a snake of the same sex would be officially frowned upon.

Slippery slope or family values - neither argument is more than smoke and mirrors to get in the way of people's legitimate happiness.


  1. This possibly exaggerated claim has been challenged.