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SAME-SEX MARRIAGES IN CANADA

2005-FEB-03 to FEB-15

Bill C-38 "Civil Marriage Act" is introduced to Parliament

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Sponsored link.


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Earlier developments are described in another essay

In this essay, "SSM" means "same-sex marriage." "MP" means Member of Parliament.

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Quotation:

bullet"There are two types of MPs:
bulletthose who support the right, true and traditional definition of marriage . To them, say thanks for doing what is right and honest and good for Canada.
bulletThen there are those who are out to destroy marriage and family. To them say goodbye, it is time for them to be replaced in Ottawa. There is a political price to pay for being anti- marriage, anti- family." Quotation from the Canada Family Action Coalition." (CFAC) 6
bullet"For some of these people, their wedding is something they've been hoping to do for years and now, for the first time in history, they're allowed to do it. It gives their life and their love and their sexual orientation credibility, validity in the larger society that they're part of. It's a great celebration of their love, their gayness, their membership in a tolerant society." David Paperny, whose company has produced the "My Fabulous Gay Wedding" TV show

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Background:

As of 2005-FEB-03, On 2005-FEB-01, 87% of Canadians lived in a province or territory which has already made SSM available to same-sex couples as a result of court rulings. Another court challenge is expected in Alberta. If this authorizes SSM in that province, then only 3% of the Canadian population will be without access to SSM in their province or territory.

On 2005-FEB-03, the federal Liberal party introduced amendments to various federal laws, including the Marriage Act, to legalize same-sex marriage and divorce across the country. This would make SSM available to everyone in their province or territory of residence, thus facilitating SSM for 13% of the population (0r 3% if the expected Alberta challenge legalizes SSM in that province) who must travel some distance to get married.

The government expects to have a short debate on the bill, and hold a second reading vote before passing it on to a committee. They hope that the bill will become law by the end of 2005-JUN.

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Events:

bullet2005-FEB-03: Theological professor supports SSM: Rev. Dr. Harold G Wells, Professor of Theology at Emmanuel College wrote a letter to the Toronto Star which indicates that the media is creating a false impression that the battle is between organized religion and sexual minorities. "This is far from the truth. The United Church of Canada, for example, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, officially favours same-sex marriage....Many homosexual people are themselves deeply devout and the blessing of God, church and law is important to them....As Jesus sided with outcast people in his day. so many Christians today stand on the side of all who are marginalized in our society. Historically, and still today, homosexual people are definitely among the most greviously oppressed and persecuted. I believe that those who oppose same-sex marriage on Christian or biblical grounds are not 'biblical' enough, and have not heard well enough the command of Jesus to pursue the 'weightier matters of the law: Justice, mercy and faith'." 1
bullet2005-FEB-03: Committed support for the bill grows: A small number of Liberal and Conservative MPs moved from the undecided to the supporting camp during the previous week. Some MPs had their doubts dispelled when they saw the legislation in print. Irwin Cotler said: "I believe that we have now significant majority support for this legislation in our caucus and I believe that those who are not supporting it or leaning against it are nonetheless, in some instances, still open to be otherwise persuaded. There is movement in support and growth for this legislation."

Liberal MP Pat O'Brien has alleged that the Liberal whip has telling Liberals who wish to vote against the bill to stay away from Parliament when the vote is taken. He acknowledged that he was acting on hearsay. He  had not been told this by the whip. Karen Redman, the Liberal whip, put her reputation on the line. She said that the accusation was untrue. "This is an issue of such contentiousness that every member will want to be there and have their vote counted. I have had no conversation asking anyone to do anything but follow their conscience on the vote." No MP has come forward to say that he or she has actually been pressured to abstain from vote.

Conservative Party leader, Stephen Harper, waffled on the matter of a national referendum. His party favors referenda in principle, but would not hold one if he were in power until his government had placed suitable legislation was in place. Irwin Cotler said that if women's rights had been put to a referendum, Canada would still not allow women to vote. He concluded that this was no way to decide any rights for a minority. Gilles Duceppe, head of the Parti Québécois, said that his party would not support a referendum. He said that it would submit "the right of a minority to the decision of the majority." Jack Layton of the New Democratic Party agreed. Referring to events during the Second World War, he said: "We've had times in our history...when there was strong sentiments against Japanese, who were here in Canada. So we put them in internment camps. I'm sure if referenda were held at those times, they would have backed up those kinds of decisions." The concept of a national referendum on same-sex marriage raises an interesting moral and constitutional question: what percentage of the public would have to be in favor of stripping human rights from a minority -- like the right to marry -- before that action can ethically be taken?

The Conservatives are expected to introduce amendments to the bill within weeks. Some would firm up the position of churches in federal law. Others would create a parallel system of civil unions for gays and lesbians with the same rights and obligations as marriage. 2,3
bullet2005-FEB-04: PM urges "respect:" Prime Minister Paul Martin asked two Liberal MPs, Pat O'Brien and Tom Wappel, to stop attacks on cabinet ministers and Liberal MPs who support SSM. O'Brien repeated the rumor that MPs who oppose the bill are being told to stay away from the vote. He did not receive such pressure himself, but had heard that other MPs were ordered to abstain.
bullet2005-FEB-04: Money floods into Canada from U.S. religious conservatives: CanWest reported that "some U.S. [religious] groups say they will spend whatever it takes to ensure same-sex marriage doesn't become legal north of the [U.S.-Canadian] border." That is a confusing statement, because 87% of the population of Canada live in a province or territory where same-sex marriage is already legal. And an anticipated lawsuit in Alberta is expected to raise this to 97%. Patrick Korten spokesperson for the Knights of Columbus' head office in New Haven CT said that no limit has been set on the financial help his organizations is prepared to offer. He said: "Whatever it takes. The family is too important." He said that the U.S. headquarters of his group had paid $80,782 CDN (about $67,000 US) to print two million postcards which are now being distributed to parishioners through Roman Catholic churches in Canada. He said: "It has been extremely enthusiastically received in Catholic parishes all over Canada. As a matter of fact, we may have to print some more -- there was a great deal of interest in it. It offers a quick, simple but effective way for Catholics...to make their feelings about the same-sex marriage bill known to their MPs."  Focus on the Family Canada, an affiliate of the fundamentalist group Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, CO, has has received $304,125 CDN (about $253,000 US) in services from the Colorado group. Under Canadian law, registered charities can spend unlimited amounts of money on political lobbying as long as it is not at the time of an election or referendum.

Alex Munter, spokesperson for Canadians for Equal Marriage --  a group that promotes equal marriage for all, including both same-sex and opposite-sex couples -- said that the support that Focus on the Family Canada received is several times more than the $46,000 (about $38,000 US) that his group has received in donations from Canadians since the Supreme Court reference on same-sex marriage. He said: "In terms of scale, we're dealing with an enormous operation that has charitable status and is funded by deep pockets, including deep pockets from the United States....We simply have no way to protect ourselves against an American invasion by the religious right. In terms of resources, we're just not equal to on that basis. Do we want the American far right engaged in that debate? I would say no, and I would think most Canadians would say no."

James Dobson, founder and head of Focus on the Family devoted an episode of his radio program in late January to the same-sex debate in Canada. It was transmitted to 130 radio stations in Canada. He said: "It is clear here in the United States that the American people do not want same-sex marriage. I would hope that Canadians who also do not want same-sex marriage would be encouraged by what has happened down here." It is unclear why Dobson believes that most Canadians are opposed to same-sex marriage. Polls have consistently shown that a majority supports equal marriage for all couples.
bullet2005-FEB-07: Justice minister investigates U.S. anti SSM funding: Irwin Cotler announced that he would look into the restriction of foreign funding of political debate. He was reacting to the large amounts of money from social and religious conservatives in America which is funding an anti-SSM campaign in Canada. He said: "Clearly, we have free speech [in Canada.] But at the same time we want to protect the political equities in terms of the marketplace of ideas. In other words, we don't want the public opinion to get mortgaged to the highest bidder."
bullet2005-FEB-06: Justice minister admits defeat: Irwin Cotler admitted that he cannot do anything to limit the American funding of campaigns to alter Canadian public opinion. He said: "Ideas can cross borders, and it's a free speech issue and that I appreciate. I just would like to maintain the integrity of the Canadian political culture and the Canadian political debate and not see it skewered by the kinds of lobbying that comes from the States that is not appreciative or understanding that we've got court decisions in this county on this issue that are different from the United States. From a legal point of view, there's nothing we can do about it."  He suggested that Canadians become aware of what "the source of the lobbying is."

Stephen Harper said: "I would hardly be surprised on an issue like this to see groups from other sides of the border, frankly, on both sides of the issue.Canadians for Equal Marriage, a pro-SSM group, states that all its funding comes from individual Canadian donations.

Focus on the Family Canada, a British Columbia-based fundamentalist Christian group, denies that they get substantial American funding from Focus on the Family in Colorado. Vice-president Derek Rogusky said: "We're funded by Canadians." But the Toronto Star reported that the U.S. group's 2003 financial report stated that "Focus provides, without charge, the cost of certain services necessary for the operation of the Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. The value of these services for the years ending Sept. 30, 2003 and 2002 was approximately $217,000 (U.S.) and $239,000 (U.S.) respectively."

Jack Layton, head of the New Democratic Party, said "There shouldn't be any interference by foreign organizations in a Canadian political debate." 5
bullet2005-FEB-08: Conservative Christian group organizes theatre boycott: Famous Players, one of the two major chains of Canadian movie theatres, accepted a paid advertisement to be shown in their theatres prior to movies. The ten second commercial discusses SSM from a human rights perspective. The Defend Marriage Coalition, a group that promotes the restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples , "is urging its members and all Canadians to refuse to attend Famous Players Theatres and to contact its president via phone or fax." The Coalition consists of the Canada Family Action Coalition, Catholic Civil Rights League, Campaign Life Coalition, and Real Women of Canada. 7

Canada Family Action Coalition is asking its members to threaten boycotts of Loblaws, Canada's largest grocery store chain, and Canadian Tire, Canada's largest automobile parts retailer, who are sponsoring a TV program "My Fabulous Gay Wedding." 8
bullet2005-FEB-12: Poll results announced: Results of an EKOS Research/Toronto Star poll conducted between FEB-07 and FEB-09 were released. They indicated a remarkable shift in support for SSM:
bullet59% of Canadian adults either favor allowing SSM or don't care.
bullet40% are opposed to SSM
bullet1% gave no answer.

Another fascinating result is that:
bullet

50% felt that "Endorsing same-sex marriages rights would be a positive signal to the world about Canada's values and beliefs."

bullet

42% felt that "Endorsing same-sex marriage rights would be a negative signal to the world about Canada's values and beliefs."

bullet8% did not express an opinion.

There are very strong regional, sex, and age differences among Canadian adults. More details

bullet2004-FEB-14: On Valentine's Day, three openly gay MPs appealed for a respectful debate on SSM. They sent a letter to the four party leaders, personally appealing for support for the bill. They wrote: "for us, this discussion is about love and commitment." As the time for debate in Parliament approaches, some infighting has begun. As expected, reality and truth are the first fatalities:
bulletTonda MacCharles, reporter for the Toronto Star wrote that debate will begin on FEB-16 "on Bill C-38, the controversial Civil Marriage Act that would extend the legal right to civil marriage to gay and lesbian couples." Actually, same-sex couples already have the legal right to marry in 7 provinces and one territory, comprising 87% of the Canadian population. Also, she is ignoring bisexuals. Some same-sex couples are composed of one gay and one bisexual spouses, or two bisexual spouses.
bulletMP Jason Kenney (Conservative, Calgary SE) addressed the Punjabi Press Club in January, stating "The fact is that homosexuals aren't barred from marrying under Canadian law...Marriage is open to everybody, as long as they're a man and a woman. It doesn't say you can't marry if you're a homosexual. The fact is that homosexuals have been married and do marry." He referred to Libby Davies (NDP-Vancouver E) as a homosexual who was once married to a man. He is wrong on a number of counts. Couples of all combinations of sexual orientation and genders can legally marry throughout most of Canada. Also, Davies has never married.
bulletRéal Ménard (Bloc Quebecois-Hochelaga) said at a news conference: "Gays and lesbians don't want to re-define marriage, we want access to marriage." In reality, they want to accomplish both. 9

Stephen Harper, head of the far-right Conservative party appears to be concerned about hate speech among his MPs when they debate C-38 in Parliament. He has take the unprecedented step of requiring any MPs who plan to debate the bill to first submit the text of their speech to him for approval and editing.

bullet2005-FEB-16: Debate in Parliament is to begin: Debate on Bill C-38 is to begin on Wednesday. Some expect a vote between FEB-23 and MAR-02. It will then be referred to committee. The final vote is expected before June.

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Later developments

Possible paths forward to legalize same-sex marriage

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References used:

  1. Rev. Dr. Harold G Wells, "Same Sex Marriage: United Church agrees," The Toronto Star, 2005-FEB-03, Page A25/
  2. Susan Delacourt & Sean Gordon, "Liberals confident same-sex bill to pass," The Toronto Star, 2005-FEB-03, Page A6.
  3. Anne Dawson, "Liberals nix referendum on same-sex marriage," The Kingston Whig-Standard, 2005-FEB-3, Page 9 & 12.
  4. Elizabeth Thompson, "U.S. groups fight against gay marriage in Canada," CanWest News Service, 2005-FEB-05.
  5. Tonda MacCharles, "Cotler: 'Ideas cross borders'," The Toronto Star, 2005-FEB-10, Page A8.
  6. "What does Your MP Say about Marriage?," Canada Family Action Coalition, at: http://www.familyaction.org/
  7. "Boycott Announced against Famous Players Theatres for Promoting Anti-Marriage Message," Canada Family Action Coalition, 2005-FEB-08.htm, at: http://www.familyaction.org/
  8. Siri Agrell, "Producer is hoping TV show will tip balance -- My Fabulous Gay Wedding," National Post, 2005-FEB-02. Online at: http://www.familyaction.org/
  9. Tonda MacCharles, "Keep debate respectful, gay MPs ask," Toronto Star, 2005-FEB-15, Page A6.

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Site navigation:

 Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Canada > here

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Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-FEB-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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