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SAME-SEX MARRIAGES IN CANADA

2005-MAR-30 to JUN-14

Conservative amendment defeated
Parliamentary debate of Bill C-38 "Civil Marriage Act"
Bill C-38 passes on second reading (approval in principle)
Bill C-38 reviewed by committee

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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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Background:

As of 2005-MAY-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. A court challenge is underway in New Brunswick. Another is expected in Alberta. If this authorizes SSM in those province, then fewer than 1% of the Canadian population will be without access to SSM in their province or territory.

On 2005-FEB-16, debate on the C-38 bill began in Parliament. If passed, then the remaining 13% or 3% of the Canadian population will gain direct access to same-sex marriage

The bill passed its second reading on MAY-04, and went to a multi-party committee for study. The government had hoped that the bill would become law by the end of 2005-JUN. The Liberal party only held onto control by a thread; a new election might have been called at any time. If that happened, then all progress to date on C-38 would have been nullified.

The bill returned from committee on JUN-16 for its third and final reading.

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Events:

bullet2005-MAR-30: Vote in Parliament on SSM bill C-38: The Conservative Party proposed an amendment to bill C-38 which would restrict marriage in Canada to to one man and one woman. It would also create a "separate but equal" system of civil unions which would give to same-sex couples the same rights, privileges, and obligations as married couples traditionally receive. A vote on the amendment was scheduled for 2005-APR-12. A vote on bill C-38 was scheduled to follow shortly thereafter. Conservative House leader Jay Hill and justice critic Vic Toews want the committee to hear testimony from a very wide range of individuals and groups. They also want the committee to hold hearings across Canada. Previous hearings across Canada by the Justice Committee were known for expressions of raw hatred and homophobia expressed by some of the individuals and groups who addressed the Committee. 1
bullet2005-APR-9: March in Ottawa, ON to end same-sex marriage: A rally occurred in front of the Parliament Buildings on Saturday. March for Marriage, the rally sponsors, estimated that 20 thousand attended. The RCMP estimated 15,000. However, CanWest and Canadian Press reporters estimated only 4,000 attendees. Many media outlets went with the 4,000 estimate. 11 Featured speakers included: Stephen Harper, Stockwell Day, about another dozen Conservative MPs, Liberal MP Pat O'Brien and Conservative Senator Anne Cools. March for Marriage estimated that two or three thousand representatives from the Chinese Christian community and about 500 Sikhs attended. Hajeed Singarewal, of Sikh Humanity, said that they were there to "oppose this bill, because it is against nature, against society, against humanity, it is very dangerous to the future generations." Sammy Caoud of the Coalition of Muslim Organizations expected that two to five thousand Muslims would be present. He said: "We are against bill C-38 because it tries to redefine 2000 years of the definition of the marriage. We object to that based on our religion and on the common moral sense." Presbyterian Minister Tristan Emmanuel of Equipping Christians for the Public Square criticized the media, saying: "I have a message for you...I challenge you to be the media of the people!!!! Be the media of the people, not the media who seeks to impose its liberal agenda. I challenge you to report that thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands showed up on this historic day to defend marriage!" He commented on a recent statement by the Prime Minister: 2"You've said some very wonderful things about the late great Pope John Paul II. And you are very right he was a great leader for freedom, but also for the family. If you really, truly, respect Pope John Paul II, then I can think of no better way for you to pay your last respects then to listen to his instructions on the nature of marriage and forsake Bill C-38. ....Canadians have already endured more than a decade of arrogance and scandal under your predecessor, Jean Chrétien. If you continue down this road, when over 67% of Canadians oppose your anti-marriage bill, your legacy will be that of unnecessarily dividing your party, pitting Canadian against Canadian, and thereby damaging civic life, distorting political liberalism, undermining constitutional consensus and placing communities and churches in permanent tension with the law." 3 Monsignor Terence D'Souza of St. Francis Xavier [Roman Catholic] Parish, said that after the federal government allowed abortions, same-sex marriage was a logical sequel. Marcel Gervais, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Ottawa said "Our government wants sodomy to be accepted as part of the norm and we refuse that." 4
bullet2005-APR-12: Parliament defeats Conservative amendment to C-38: The Conservative Party amendment to Bill C-38 was defeated. It would have scrapped marriage for same-sex couples by substituting a "separate but equal" system of civil unions. The vote was 132 for the amendment and 164 against. The margin is somewhat greater than most observers expected. Thirty-four Liberals broke ranks and voted for the amendment; three Conservatives voted against the amendment.

Bill C-38 will now proceed to the second reading stage. If passed, it will be transferred to a committee for study. According to Focus on the Family, Canada, The Conservatives plan to filibuster C-38 in order to delay second reading as long as possible. The intent is to prevent passage of the bill before the summer recess. They are protesting the government's refusal to hold cross-country public hearings. Conservative justice critic Vic Toews said: "I'm very troubled by the fact that this legislative committee appears to be very restrictive in its scope, both in its ability to hear evidence and to travel across this country. I will speak out strenuously with members in my own party and others that it's not acceptable that we have a truncated version of a committee." 5
bullet2005-APR-14: MP confirms that committee will hold public hearings: Pat O'Brien (Liberal, London-Fanshawe) was considering breaking his allegiance with the Liberal party and sitting as an independent or Conservative because of the position that his party is taking on same-sex marriage. He was persuaded to remain a Liberal after hearing that the government will urge the Commons committee who would review C-38 to hold public hearings. 6
bullet2005-APR-29: Constitutional expert issues opinion on same-sex marriage: During 2005-JAN, 134 law professors from Canadian universities issued an opinion that the federal government could not ban SSM unless they used the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.' This allows a government to violate the Constitution knowingly.

Eugene Meehan has issued a personal opinion that the federal government is under no obligation to alter the marriage act to allow same-sex couples to marry. He was an executive legal officer of the Supreme Court of Canada, a national president of the Canadian Bar Association, and a former professor at the University of Ottawa and University of Alberta. He wrote: "There is no reason to believe that the Supreme Court of Canada decision should lead a parliamentarian to conclude that they have no option...but to vote for the legislation." Meehan and 29 additional lawyers signed an open letter published in the National Post in which they said that if Parliament passed legislation denying same-sex couples the right to marry "on the basis that it would serve the best interests of children," that it would not be out of line with past Supreme Court rulings. 7
bullet2005-MAY-04: Parliament votes in favor of same-sex marriage: Bill C-38 goes to committee: Parliament gave approval in principle to Bill C-38. It  passed its second reading by a vote of 163 to 138. It now goes to a committee for review. However, there was a danger that the present parliament might end before the bill has a chance to be approved in its third reading. This would kill the legislation. Alex Munter, spokesperson for Canadians for Equal Marriage said that this vote marks "the first time in history that Parliament has affirmatively voted in favor of equal marriage. This shows that as far as Parliament is concerned, this issue is resolved." Paul Macklin, the justice minister's parliamentary secretary said that the committee studying the bill need not revisit the whole issue of marriage and civil unions. "We're just going to look at the bill itself and receive commentary on the bill because it's approved in principle, so the principle is there." LifeSite, a conservative Christian group which opposes SSM wrote: "The Defend Marriage Coalition, a coalition of pro-family advocacy groups across Canada, today vowed to defeat MPs who voted for Bill C-38. In fact, pro-family groups are pleased the second reading vote clearly identifies those MPs who are out to destroy marriage so that they may be targeted for defeat....Dr. Charles McVety, senior director of the Defend Marriage Coalition said 'The Defend Marriage Coalition is determined to take this fight to the people, and to ensure the defeat of as many anti-marriage MPs as possible in the next federal election, regardless of party affiliation'." 9
bullet2005-MAY-19: Government survives confidence vote: Parliament reached a tie vote on a budget bill unrelated to SSM: 152 to 152. Liberals and New Democratic Party MPs voted for the bill. The Conservative party joined with the Parti Québécois -- a separatist party devoted to the dismantling of Canada -- voted against. The Speaker followed tradition; he broke the tie by voting in favor of the bill. If the bill had not been passed, the government would have had to call a federal election. All existing bills, like C-38, would then have died.
bullet2005-MAY-24: Federal government has a really good day: The Liberal Party of Canada received four items of good news:
bulletAn auditors' report tabled at the Gomery commission inquiry into government financial corruption found no proof that politicians were involved in the scandal. This may defuse anger by the public against the Liberals.
bulletCarolyn Parrish, who is currently sitting as an independent MP is considering returning to the Liberal party. This would tip the balance of power in Parliament towards the liberal side.
bulletTod Russell, a liberal, won a by-election in Labrador. This will increase the Liberal's grip on power.
bulletGurmant Grewal, a Conservative MP who claimed that the Liberals offered him a job in exchange for his vote on the budget bill is reported as having "...a history of similar accusations dating back to 1995." His credibility in the eyes of the public suffered.

The Government hoped to hold third and final reading on C-38 before the end of June. If passed by the House and Senate, same-sex marriage would be available in the remaining three provinces and two territories. Together, they constitute about 13% of the population of Canada. This would facilitate marriage for same-sex couples. No longer would some couples have to travel to another province to be married. 10

bullet 2005-MAY-23: Rally in Toronto, ON to promote restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples: The Toronto Marriage Rally was held in front of the Ontario Legislature in Toronto ON. It was sponsored by a number of predominately conservative Christian groups: the Defend Marriage Coalition, Jubilee Center for Christian Social Action, ECP Center, the Knights of Columbus, March for Marriage & Freedom, United Front of the Pakistani-Canadians, and Concerned Christians Canada, Inc. Rally organizer, Rev. Tristan Emmanuel, addressed the crowd: "The Giant is awake! I’m so proud of you all. So thankful to our Creator God! We are in the midst of a national crisis and yet, a divine opportunity has been given, to stand together, to work together and we owe it in part to Paul Martin. Thanks Paul. Your actions have emboldened us....We are bound and determined, more than before, to move on, no matter the cost. No matter what the forces of anti-marriage say; no matter what this liberal regime schemes; conspiracies in parliamentary high places will not deter us ever again. We have heard the call, we will make the stand and we will resolve to elect a pro-marriage parliament in the next election!" Estimates of the size of the crowd varied from "hundreds" according to Sun newspaper to 20,000 by Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life Coalition. One wonders why the organizers don't spend the few hundred dollars to rent a helicopter and take an aerial photograph of these rallies, so that an accurate count could be made 12,13
bullet2005-JUN-02: Bill C-38 is to be fast-tracked: The Liberal government wanted the committee that is studying C-38 to complete its work by JUN-09. But Vic Toews, a Conservative Party MP wanted the committee to listen to the testimony of 22 additional witnesses. He had promised to engage in a filibuster if this was not done. The Liberal, Bloc Québécois and New Democratic Party members of the committee struck an agreement with Toews: all 22 witnesses will be heard, and the committee would report back to Parliament on JUN-17 for the final vote. Meanwhile, a MP has  reported that Liberal senators have agreed to have the Senate continue working into the summer recess, if this proves necessary to pass the bill. 14
bullet2005-JUN-06: MP Pat O'Brien quits Liberal Party over C-38: MP Pat O'Brien (London-Fanshawe)  has decided to leave the Liberal Party, sit as an Independent, and do anything that he can to oppose what he refers to as the government's "breakneck, headlong rush" to enlarge the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. He said: "I have to do everything and will do everything I can think of democratically to stall and ultimately defeat this legislation." There are suggestions that he and some other Liberal MPs who are against same-sex marriage may try to defeat the government on a budget vote in order to induce a federal election and stall passage of C-38.  O'Brien has complained that Prime Minister Paul Martin promised that C-38 would get "full, fair, meaningful hearings." But he believes that Martin has broken his word because the committee studying the bill has berated and insulted witnesses. Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said: "At the end of the day, there's nothing that the committee can do that can satisfy Mr. O'Brien because he simply does not want any same-sex legislation." 15
bullet2005-JUN-08: Amendments to C-38: Rumors of three possible amendments to Bill C-38 have surfaced. All relate to the protection of individuals and religious institutions who wish to discriminate, or teach discrimination, against same-sex couples. These amendments would:
bulletRestate that churches can refuse to marry same-sex couples without fear of prosecution under Canada's hate propaganda and human rights legislation. This type of amendment would appear to be redundant because the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled that: "State compulsion on religious officials to perform same-sex marriages contrary to their religious beliefs would violate the guarantee of freedom of religion under s. 2(a) of the Charter" of Rights and Freedoms. 17
bulletPreserve justices of the peace from prosecution under human rights legislation if they refuse to marry same-sex couples because of their religious beliefs. There have been numerous cases where marriage commissioners have refused to marry a same-sex couple in recent years. Most instances have been resolved by having another person officiate at the wedding. However, we know of at least two cases where commissioners have either resigned or been fired because they violated their oath of office by refusing to perform a marriage. An amendment of this type would allow them to safely refuse to marry a same-sex couple.
bulletPreserve religious schools and charities from prosecution under Canada's hate propaganda and human rights legislation if they denounce, ridicule or denigrate same-sex couples or their marriages. Their actions would probably be covered under the same section of the Charter as is mentioned above -- the one which protects religious freedom. Religious schools and charities have an additional level of protection from prosecution. Bill C-250, which became law in 2004-APR, does provide for prosecution of cases involving propaganda directing hatred against persons of any sexual orientation,  "color, race, religion or ethnic origin." But the law contains an exclusion clause which protects religious organizations from prosecution for bigotry of any type. An amendment of this type may be redundant. However it may give religious groups a feeling of security.

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler has said that "We have indicated we are open to consideration of amendments if they are consistent with the principles of the bill." 16

bullet2005-JUN-13: Focus on the Family distributes appeal: The Fundamentalist Christian group, Focus on the Family of Colorado Springs, CO issued a news release on bill C-38. It seems to have a number of errors:
bulletThey report that "...the stakes are high." Actually, the bill would only impact the people of Alberta, and an additional 3% of Canadians who live in two other provinces and two other territories. 87% of Canadians live in provinces or a territory where SSM has already been legalized. (This increased to 90% on JUN-23 when a court in New Brunswick legalized SSM.)
bulletThey say that the bill could become law this summer. Actually, it is scheduled to be debated on JUN-17 and to be voted upon shortly thereafter.
bulletThey imply that the government has not given sufficient time for the public to inform the lawmakers. In reality, the bill was introduced at the beginning of February; the public has had over four and a half months to react. Also, the committee studying C-38 was extended at the request of the Conservative Party so that 22 additional submissions could be heard.
bulletThey imply that defections from the Liberal party are responsible for the Government's precarious position. Actually, it is the coalition formed by the Conservative Party and the separatist party, the Bloc Québécois, opposed by the coalition of the Liberal and New Democratic (socialist) parties.
bulletThey quote Derek Rogusky, vice president of research and policy at Focus on the Family Canada, who said: "Every time we've had a vote on this in the house [sic] of Commons, it has started to go more and more in our favor, so if we can delay it long enough, we'll continue to get more votes on our side." Actually, there has only been one vote so far in the House of Commons. So, it is difficult to determine a trend.
bullet2005-JUN-13: Allegations of Focus on the Family Canada disabling communications: Derek Rogusky, vice president of research and policy at Focus on the Family Canada, is quoted as saying: "We've generated in the millions either in faxes or e-mails combined [to Members of Parliament]. That's caused a little bit of grief for those who may be opposed on Parliament Hill. They've been kind of upset about the number of messages they've been receiving. But the reality is that Canadians are speaking out on this issue, and it's clearly not what they want. They don't want the definition of marriage changed." Religious and social conservatives certainly do not want the definition of marriage to be enlarged to include loving, committed same-sex couples. But polls show that most Canadian adults support same-sex marriage, and that this support is increasing across Canada.

Encouraging their supporters to phone, fax and E-mail elected officials is practiced quite often by religiously conservative groups in the U.S. Their effort has led to the paralysis of the Capital switchboard. It appears that the same thing happened in Ottawa. Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, CO reports that: "In fact, some angry members of Parliament recently proposed making it a crime to shut down a parliamentary office's phones or fax machines — but that motion was ruled out of order."
bullet2005-JUN-14: Submission to the C-38 committee by the Centre for Cultural Renewal: Iain Bensen, executive director of the Centre for Cultural Renewal will deliver a paper on same-sex marriage. In a note to the Centre's supporters, he writes: "There are two perfectly valid approaches to same sex marriage. One is to completely disregard the validity of same-sex marriage because one quite legitimately believes it wrong. The second is to accept same-sex marriage. Both are valid viewpoints. Should one be the constitutional norm or should the State be neutral as between the two?....The State should stay out of the question of sexual dogma just as it stays out of the question of religious dogma. We cannot agree about sexual conduct and its acceptability. Therefore, to determine that one side of the debate on marriage should prevail is to make a mistake. As many of the witnesses before the Committee have indicated, it is to make a very big mistake, one that threatens the beliefs and place of belief of many religious Canadians." He suggests that the state abandon marriage, and leave it up to the religious organizations of Canada. Presumably, he will recommend that the government merely register relationships, whether they be same-sex or opposite-sex. Then, it would be up to the churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, circles and other religious groups to marry any couple who wants to be married and who meets the criteria of their religion. 18
bullet2005-JUN-14: Government survives critical votes in Parliament: A series of 15 confidence votes were taken on various budget bills. If any had not been passed, then the government would have had to call an immediate election. Bill C-38 would then have be dead in the water until at least the fall of 2005. However, the government narrowly survived all 16 votes. The Canadian Broadcasting Commission reported that: "Former Liberal MP Pat O'Brien, who now sits as an independent, was in negotiations with Liberals all day, hoping to delay the same-sex marriage legislation until the fall. He said he wanted 'something in writing, just a simple statement that this legislation is not going to come to final debate and vote before summer.' Otherwise, he said he was going to vote against the Liberals." Three Conservative party members of parliament were absent for medical reasons. One Bloc Quebecois member was absent because of a death of a parent. 19

The Conservative Party has proposed a number of amendments to C-38. The wording has not been published at this time. However, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has suggested a number of amendments including statements:
bulletTo make same-sex marriage unavailable to non-residents of Canada unless they can prove that their marriage will be recognized in their country of residence.
bulletSaying that it is not contrary to the public interest to hold and express diverse public views on marriage.
bulletGiving religious organizations and other charities the right to unlimited political action against same-sex marriage without endangering their tax exempt status.
bulletThat expression of religious views on marriage will not be considered discriminatory speech.
bulletThat government employees will not be discriminated against because of their beliefs about marriage. (This seems like a redundant amendment, because the government cannot discriminate against a person's beliefs, only against speech and other actions.) 20

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Later developments

Possible paths forward to legalize same-sex marriage

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References used:

  1. Tim Naumetz, "Parties poised to vote on same-sex bill," Can West News, 2005-MAR-31, Kingston Whig Standard, Page 16.
  2. "15-20,000 Attend March for Traditional Marriage on Parliament Hill - Media Claim Only 4,000," LifeSiteNews, 2005-APR-11, at: http://www.lifesite.net/
  3. "Canadian Presbyterian Pastor Urges Catholic PM to Forsake Gay Marriage in Honor of Pope," LifeSiteNews, 2005-APR-11, at: http://www.lifesite.net/
  4. "Ottawa Archbishop: Government Wants to Normalize Sodomy and We Say No," LifeSiteNews, 2005-APR-11, at: http://www.lifesite.net/
  5. "Same-sex marriage bill survives amendment vote," Today's Family News, 2005-APR-13.
  6. Les Wittington, "Liberals take pounding as vote looms," The Toronto Star, 2005-APR-15, Page A1.
  7. "No legal necessity to re-define marriage: Expert," Today's Family News, Focus on the Family, Canada, 2005-MAY-04.
  8. Tonda MacCharles, "Same-sex bill clears another hurdle," The Toronto Star, 2005-MAY-05, Page A6.
  9. "Gay marriage vote does nothing more than provide targets for next election," LifeSite, 2005-MAY-05, at: http://www.lifesite.net/
  10. Susam Delacourt, "Liberals finally catch breaks," The Toronto Star, 2005-MAY-25, Page A1.
  11. "National Post Corrects Erroneous Reporting of Crowd Size at Marriage Rally," LifeSiteNews, 2005-MAY-02,at: http://www.march4marriage.ca/
  12. "Draw the Line. Stand for marriage," ECP Center, at: http://www.ecpcenter.org/
  13. "Canadian Media Up to Usual Tricks Following Toronto Marriage Rally," LifeSiteNews.com, 2005-MAY-25, at: http://www.ecpcenter.org/
  14. "Bill C-38 fast-tracked despite intense opposition," Today's Family News, 2005-JUN-03.
  15. "Liberal MP quits party," The Toronto Star, 2005-JUN-07, Page A6.
  16. "Grits won't topple own government," Kingston Whig Standard, 2005-JUN-08, Page 12.
  17. Ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Marriage Reference sent to it by the Liberal government. Issued 2004-DEC-09.
  18. "A personal note from Iain Benson at this critical time," Centre for Cultural Renewal, 2005-JUN-10.
  19. "Liberals survive confidence votes," Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2005-JUN-15, at: http://www.cbc.ca/
  20. "Defending Marriage," Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, at: http://www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/

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Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-JUN-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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