The raucous referendum of 1995 in Quebec Province - which even entangled the Queen in a radio DJ's hoax - resulted in the closest of votes. The Queen spoke by telephone, partly in French, to one she thought was Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. She urged Canadians to remain united and within the Commonwealth. Actually, Her Majesty did a better job for Canadian unity than Chretien was doing. By a hair-thin vote of 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent, Quebec voters chose not to separate from "the rest of Canada." Commentators then said Quebec independence was "inevitable."
Why? Well, just look at those exit polls. The Quebec youth were strongly for separation from Canada. The future of La Belle Province was obviously with the Separatists - or Sovereigntists, as they preferred to call themselves. French-speaking Quebec had been appeased for a generation. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's rock star image propelled him into position as a charismatic leader for all of Canada. Trudeaumania fueled his drive for Biculturalism and Bilingualism. It was because of Trudeau that you can't buy a McDonald's quarter pounder without reading Hamburger quart de livre on the box throughout Canada's continental expanse.
I was in Ottawa in early 1996, just weeks after Canada stepped back from the cliff. Attending a Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast there, I saw political leaders of our closest ally intensely thanking God - as if they had been spared a national trauma.
Why such un-Canadian fervor? Canada's constitution allows a province to separate peacefully if the voters so decide. Nothing like the American Civil War would have been seen on our northern border if the Quebec voters had decided to separate. At least, that's what I had read. Keep calm and cheer the Maple Leafs, eh? Surely, there could be no violent break up there.
But at the Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast, I was quickly disabused of that soothing notion. A Major in the Canadian Forces told us in detail how some young Separatists were going about his Quebec base, marking tanks for seizure by the new Republic of Quebec as soon as the YES vote victory was announced. Tanks, armored personnel carriers, ships, aircraft - a portion of all of Canada's military arms were being claimed by hotheaded Separatists. The Major told us there was no way Canadian Forces would allow Separatists simply to walk off with what they deemed their share of the nation's arsenal. There would surely have been a violent confrontation at some point, the Major said.
Then, I turned to my right over eggs and, yes, Canadian bacon, and heard a UN official speak. Canada supplies many highly competent professionals for duty with the UN. This man was an international elections monitor. He informed the table that Ottawa would have no choice but to respect a legitimate election victory of the Quebec Separatists.
Still, this man went on to describe how he had witnessed massive voter fraud during the referendum - in Old Quebec City and, especially, in the rural areas. If a YES vote for Separation was marked anywhere near the box, it was counted. A NO vote to stay in Canada would be disqualified if the tick went even slightly outside the box. (They hadn't yet invented "pregnant chads.")
We would never consent to Quebec Separation based on a fraudulent election, this soft-spoken, even-tempered man said with quiet determination.
Then, as now, there is the issue of the tribes. Canadians refer to the Indian Tribes as "First Nations." "If Quebec ultimately chooses to separate, I would advise our Council and community to hold our own vote in order to determine whether we would stay within the borders of Quebec or separate ourselves," MCA Grand Chief Mike Kanentakeron Mitchell recently told Canada. Separatists could not count on leaving Canada with Quebec's borders as they have known them.
What seemed so inevitable in 1996 seems much less so today. In elections this week, Quebec voters "trounced" the Separatists. They gained their lowest Young people can change their minds, too. Back in 1995, 63 percent of French-speaking Quebeckers between the ages of 18 and 34 backed a Republic of Quebec. Support for the Separatists today is less than 40 percent among voters in that age group. Thus, the Republic of Quebec, once inevitable, is receding beyond the horizon.
Today, we Americans are told incessantly that the marriage redefiners, or marriagenders as I call them, will win, that their victory is "inevitable." Even some pro-marriage leaders are sending up white flags and begging the presumed victors for some accommodation of our quaint old-fashioned beliefs and practices. They are asking, in effect, the radicals' permission to let us be Amish.
We won't get it. The marriagenders cannot stop with simple tolerance. They demand subjection. They will conscript us into their parade.
Liberty - religious liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to petition the government for redress of grievances - all these have been put at risk by the marriagenders. Americans are threatened. Americans are shouted down. Americans are fired. We are threatened with loss of business and retirement. And, in the case of Family Research Council, an American was even shot.
What we need are leaders of vision and courage. We need leaders who understand that the marriagenders do not seek simply to expand the rights of marriage, but to end it. We have only to read their manifesto - co-signed by radical activist Chai Feldblum. The goals statement ofwww.beyondmarriage.org makes it clear the marriagenders want to abolish all recognizable forms of marriage.
Under their new order of law, any number of consenting adults will have legal custody of any number of children. Under this scheme, Motherhood and Fatherhood are effectively abolished in law. Such radicalism did not disqualify Feldblum in President Obama's eyes; it's why he chose her for a strategic post.
Once Americans understand the gravity of the issue and once leaders emerge who are not afraid to speak common sense, this whole question can turn around - just as Quebec Separatism turned around. Male and Female is the engine that makes fiction work, said Chekhov famously. Male and Female is also the engine that makes non-fiction work. Chief Justice Earl Warren spoke for a unanimous Supreme Court in 1967: "Marriage ... is essential to our existence and survival." He didn't say marriage between a man and a woman. He didn't have to.
Editor's Note: Robert Morrison is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.