Skip to comments.For better or worse (Canada: same-sex 'marriage')
Posted on 06/29/2005 9:56:49 AM PDT by GMMAC
For better or worse
House of Commons approves same-sex marriage 158-133
Tim Naumetz; with files from Allan Woods
CanWest News Service; with files from National Post
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
OTTAWA - The historic same-sex marriage bill passed through the House of Commons yesterday, ending a four-month parliamentary debate that cost Paul Martin one of his closest friends in Cabinet and split MPs in a bitter clash between deeply held religious views and support for minorities under the Charter of Rights. The legislation will make Canada only the third nation in the world -- along with Belgium and the Netherlands -- to recognize marriage between adults of the same sex.
Shortly before the Civil Marriage Act passed final reading -- inevitable since early May, when it passed its first Commons test by a clear margin -- Northern Ontario Minister Joe Comuzzi resigned from Cabinet so he would be free to make good on a promise to constituents to oppose the legislation.
And though the bill cleared the Commons into the Senate, to become law later this month, opponents vowed "the fight is just beginning" and promised to take up their cause in the next federal election. Last night's Commons vote approved the legislation by a count of 158 to 133.
Charles McVety, one of the most prominent and outspoken leaders of a religious coalition against same-sex marriage, compared the measure to support for drugs and prostitution, describing gay marriage as "the slippery slope of the moral degradation of our society."
On Monday, MPs sent the Civil Marriage Act through report stage by a vote of 154-124, with 29 MPs absent or abstaining. Fully 14 of the 34 Liberals who two months ago voted against the legislation did not vote on Monday.
But with the majority of Bloc Quebecois, NDP and Liberal MPs supporting it, there was no question it would clear the House.
Mr. Comuzzi, who abstained from the Monday vote, said he could not sit out the final roll call with a clear conscience. Mr. Martin allowed backbench MPs to vote freely but ordered ministers to support the government position -- a compromise accommodating his own position that access to civil marriage is a minority right under the Charter of Rights against opposing Charter guarantees of religious freedom.
"In 2004 during the federal election, I promised faithfully to the people of Thunder Bay Superior North that I would defend the traditional definition of marriage," said Mr. Comuzzi, a 72-year-old veteran first elected to the Commons in 1988.
The Prime Minister said he regretted Mr. Comuzzi's decision.
"I feel badly, but I do understand why he has taken this decision," said Mr. Martin, assigning Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell to take over Mr. Comuzzi's Cabinet duties.
Thirty-two Liberal MPs challenged Mr. Martin's view on same-sex marriage and voted against the bill during the final vote, as did NDP MP Bev Desjarlais.
Party leader Jack Layton immediately stripped Ms. Desjarlais of her post as party critic for foreign aid and transport and sent her to the Commons backbenches. Mr. Layton had ruled his caucus was not free to oppose the bill because it involved minority rights.
Three Conservative MPs broke ranks to support the legislation, while a handful of Bloc Quebecois MPs opposed it, as did two former Liberals who left the party to become Independent MPs because of the initiative -- London MP Pat O'Brien and Edmonton MP David Kilgour.
The government introduced the bill following a series of court decisions, beginning in 2003, that has led to legal same-sex marriages in eight provinces and the Yukon territory. Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories and Nunavut remain the only jurisdictions where gays and lesbians cannot be legally married.
However, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein conceded yesterday that continued hardline opposition to same-sex marriage in Alberta would be merely for "optics."
He said using the notwithstanding clause against the legislation would be fruitless.
Since the first court ruling, in Ontario, roughly 3,000 same-sex couples have been legally married by churches and provincial marriage commissioners. A justice department official told the committee studying the marriage bill about 1,000 of those couples were from the United States.
The Commons amended the bill extensively in its final stages to strengthen religious freedom and protect charitable tax status of churches that do not solemnize gay marriages.
Supporters of the bill called the day "exciting". "We are affirming once again our worldwide reputation as a country that is open, inclusive and welcoming," said Alex Munter, national co-ordinator of Canadians for Equal Marriage.
Bitter Conservative MPs and extra-parliamentary opponents, who despise the bill on religious as well as personal grounds, accused the government and the other parties of ramming the measure through without heeding the wishes of Canadians who support the age-old common law definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman.
Rev. McVety called the legislation a "weapon" the government was using against citizens, while Conservative leader Stephen Harper promised to introduce legislation reverting marriage to the exclusive domain of opposite-sex couples and a free vote in Parliament. Such a move would undoubtedly place Parliament in a confrontation with the courts over the Charter of Rights.
Mr. Harper, meanwhile, attempted to backtrack from his statement the previous day that the law would lack legitimacy because it could only be passed with support from the Bloc Quebecois.
"I'm not going to question the legitimacy of the Bloc in the sense that they are elected people," he said. "But I don't think Canadians are going to accept as the final word a decision taken by only a minority of federalist MPs because the government made a deal."
LIBERAL MPS WHO VOTED AGAINST C-38
Thirty-two Liberals voted against C-38: Lawrence MacAulay, Dan McTeague, Joe Comuzzi, Derek Lee, Tom Wappel, Ray Bonin, Jim Karygiannis, John Mckay, Bryon Wilfert, John Cannis, Alan Tonks, Brenda Chamberlain, Roger Gallaway, Charles Hubbard, John Maloney, Paul Steckle, Paul Szabo, Gurbax Malhi, Judi Longfield, Raymond Simard, Walt Lastewka, Rose-Marie Ur, Bill Matthews, Rodger Cuzner, Andy Savoy, Paul Zed, Massimo Pacetti, Ken Boshcoff, Gary Carr, Wajid Khan, Francis Scarpaleggia and Scott Simms.
Three Conservatives supported the bill. They were Gerald Keddy, James Moore and Jim Prentice.
© National Post 2005
This will goose two birds with one.... er.... never mind
If Quebec separates, gay marriage is dead in Canada. Most of the gay marriage supporters are in La "Belle" Province. Only about a half-dozen Quebec MP's voted against C-38, and if the 75 Quebec MP's were not voting, the bill would be dead.
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