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SAME-SEX MARRIAGES IN CANADA

Activities: 2006 January to June

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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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Status of SSM in Canada:

Same-sex couples in Canada became able to marry anywhere in Canada on 2005-JUL-20 when Bill C-38 was proclaimed. The first item that the leader of the Conservative Party discussed during the federal election campaign was his intention to initiate new Parliamentary legislation to ban SSM, while allowing existing same-sex marriages to continue. If the bill becomes law, then future same-sex couples would be offered some sort of civil union arrangement.

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2006-JAN-16: Law professors ask Harper for Supreme Court reference

104 law professors from universities across Canada wrote an open letter to Stephen Harper, the leader of the Conservative Party. It said, in part:

"It appears to be your intention to pass a law that you know is almost certainly unconstitutional and then leave it to the courts to clean up the mess. This would be untenable and irresponsible and we call on you to take a more responsible approach, namely to first refer your proposed legislation to the Supreme Court of Canada."

"You have insisted that the Supreme Court would defer to Parliament's decision to adopt a discriminatory definition of marriage, despite the overwhelming weight of legal jurisprudence to the contrary. If you truly believe that, then you should have no hesitation in agreeing to a Supreme Court reference."

"Passage of a law taking away the right to civil marriage from same-sex couples without first testing its constitutionality would be legally reckless."

"If your government proceeds to pass a law that is so clearly unconstitutional, the result will be legal confusion, a lack of uniformity, and unnecessary, protracted and costly litigation. Provinces won’t know whether to follow clear court rulings or a law they know to be unconstitutional. There will be lengthy legal battles as litigation proceeds in numerous provinces and through several levels of court before finally reaching the Supreme Court some years down the road."

"Undoubtedly, courts will order the government to pay the cost of this litigation. As your proposed law is declared to be constitutionally invalid province by province and territory by territory, the result will be a legal patchwork across the country. As noted by the Supreme Court in its December 2004 Same-Sex Marriage Reference decision at paragraph 69, 'uniformity of the law is essential.' We agree." 1

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2006-JAN-23: Results of the election:

A minority conservative government was elected. The Conservative Party conducted a flawless campaign. The Liberal Party continually formed circular firing squads.

The election will send the following numbers of MPs to Ottawa:

bulletConservative Party 124
bulletLiberal Party 103
bulletBlock Quebecois: 51
bulletNew Democratic Party 29
bulletIndependent 1

Historians in the future may point to a single event which swayed a sufficient number of voters away from the Liberal party to return a Conservative government: the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told the media that they were going to interview Finance minister Ralph Goodale about a suspected information leak from his office concerning income trusts. It is alleged that some stockbrokers found out about a change in regulations before they were formally announced by Goodale on 2005-NOV-23. This enabled them to make large profits. "Of the 10 most actively traded stocks on Nov. 23, eight were income trusts, trust candidates, or dividend-paying stocks. All eight went up between 5 and 7 per cent that day." 2 The announcement by the RCMP was interpreted by some Canadians as evidence of another case of corruption within the government. None of the staff at this web site can recall an instance in the past when the RCMP has announced that they were going to interview a cabinet minister. The RCMP announcement may have been politically motivated.

Prime-minister elect Stephen Harper reversed his earlier stance on holding a vote in Parliament whether to debate terminating same-sex marriage. On the first day of the election campaign, he said that it would be introduced as the first order of business. On 2006-JAN-27, he told reporters: "I've simply said we'll be doing it [sometime] in the life of the Parliament. I would prefer to do it sooner rather than later, but not immediately."

bulletFormer MP Pat O'Brien, who didn't run in this election, heads up an organization called Vote Marriage Canada which is opposed to SSM. He predicted that 45% of the new Parliament's MPs currently support terminating SSM. He said: "Now, we believe the number will be higher when we have an opportunity to try and converse with some of the other MPs."
bulletGilles Marchildon, executive director of EGALE, a gay and lesbian advocacy group which promotes equal rights in marriage said: "It's obviously close. We're not resting on our laurels."
bulletJoseph Ben-Ami, executive director of the Institute for Canadian Values, a conservative group, said: "We believe the vote would be closer this time than it was, though it’s really too early to tell where everybody stands on the issue. It’s not just a matter of who voted in favor before and who didn’t, because there are a lot of things that influence people’s votes."
bulletMarriagevote.ca, which supports gay marriage, estimates that 153 MPs – just two short of a majority – would certainly or likely vote to re-open the debate. 3

Reporter Andrew Mills of the Toronto Star wrote:

"Rolling back the legislation would mean circumventing several provincial court rulings that say limiting marriage to heterosexual couples violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A number of legal experts have warned that any statute to codify traditional marriage can only be done by using the 'notwithstanding' clause that allows legislatures to override Charter rights." 3

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2006-FEB-07: Bill to kill SSM further delayed:

Vic Toews, the new Justice minister said on 2006-FEB-07 that he will try to build a consensus on SSM where possible. This appears to be an impossibility because a substantial minority of Canadian adults, and an even larger minority of Members of Parliament currently oppose SSM. He said that a motion outlawing SSM will almost certainly be shelved until 2006-Fall. Some observers speculate the defeat of the government and a new federal election before the end of 2008. 4

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2006-MAR-25: Religious conservative and gay-positive groups organize:

Pat O'Brien, who was once a MP with a special interest in preventing SSM is now the Executive Director of Vote Marriage Canada -- an agency formerly known as Defend Marriage Canada. Vic Toews, who was once the Conservative Party's justice critic is now the Justice Minister.

Focus on the Family Canada has opened an office in Ottawa under the name Institute for Marriage and Family Canada.

Eagle Canada, a gay-positive group who was the main promoter of SSM when bill C-38 was being discussed is bringing back Canadians for Equal Marriage (CEM). 5

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2006-MAY-15: Bill to kill SSM further delayed:

According to Canadians for Equal Marriage, in an action alert mailing:

"The equal marriage issue is heating up on Parliament Hill, and we need your help. Although we’re ahead in the vote count, equal marriage opponents are asking Mr. Harper to delay the motion to re-open the debate. They want this delay so they have more time to mobilize against us."

"Stephen Harper has confirmed he’ll hold a vote on re-opening equal marriage. So the only issue is when. How long will he delay that vote? Until he thinks he has the votes to win? Until after the next election?"

"THE ONLY WAY TO PREVENT THIS DELAY IS TO CONTACT YOUR MP!! Do it now so they know we won’t tolerate a delay. Do it now so they know it’s not okay to pander to the religious right. Go to www.equal-marriage.ca/election.php to e-mail your MP in just a few clicks." 6

"According to Defend Marriage Coalition in a mass mailing to religious leaders:"

"We are writing on behalf of the inter-faith Defend Marriage Coalition to request your leadership in an important public debate affecting the welfare of Canadian children and families, and the future of religious freedom in Canada: the upcoming vote on same-sex marriage."

"Prime Minister Harper stated, during the recent election campaign, that if he were elected, he would re-visit the issue of same-sex marriage in Parliament. Subsequent to the election, he stated that he would raise this issue, not right away, but “sooner, rather than later”. Although we do not know exactly when Mr. Harper will call for a vote on a motion to re-open the same-sex marriage issue in Parliament, we do know from our analysis of the views of the MPs that the vote will be a very close one."

"The delay in calling for this vote in Parliament provides us with a window of opportunity to ensure a winning vote in support of traditional marriage. This will only occur if we are able to effectively marshall articulate voices in defense of children, families, and religious freedom. That means your voice in the public square."

Defend Marriage Coalition is a joint effort of REAL Women of Canada, the Catholic Civil Rights League, Campaign Life Coalition, Canadian Family Action Coalition, Enshrine Marriage Canada, Preserve Marriage-Protect Children's Rights, United Families Canada, United Mothers and Fathers, Marriage Canada, Equité-Famille, Equipping Christians for the Public-square Centre, Association des parents catholiques du Quebéc. 7

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2006-JUN-02: Prime minister confirms vote to be taken on reopening SSM:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that he will give members of parliament a chance to vote on reopening the same-sex marriage issue. He said:

"It will be a free vote,. We committed [to] that in our platform, and the vote will be in the fall...Haven't set the date, but the vote will be in the fall."

Jack Layton, leader of the NDP (Socialist) party commented:

"We don't really see why there needs to be a vote. After all, the courts have decided, the Parliament has decided, couples are getting married and the idea that we would go into the House of Commons and roll the clock back on an issue of human rights makes no sense to me."

Gilles Marchildon, executive director of Egale Canada, a group promoting equality in marriage, said:

"Why wait until the fall? People are left hanging this is really playing politics with people's lives."

Bill Siksay, an openly gay NDP member of parliament said:

The Conservatives are endlessly willing to debate our full participation in Canadian society. I think most Canadians have decided that we should be full participants and that the debate should be over."

James Moore, a Conservative member of parliament who supported SSM when C-38 was voted upon said:

Canadians elected us on a platform that said we were going to take this measure and have a free vote again in Parliament. That's what we're going to do.

Charles McVety, head of Defend Marriage Coalition -- a group opposed to marriage equity -- said"

"We were anticipating that it would be this fall, but we know there's a lot of work to be done....We're confident we can win this vote."

Laurie Arron, national director of Canadians for Equal Marriage, said that there would be "legal chaos" if the Conservatives succeed in repealing the law that allows SSM. Provincial courts have ruled that same-sex couples have a right to marry. She said:

"The provinces would be left scratching their heads as to whether or not they should be issuing marriage licenses, To pass legislation that you almost certainly know is unconstitutional is irresponsible."

Liberal member of parliament, Keith Martin said:

This is a very serious issue because where then will it go? What other issues of right will the prime minister pursue in terms ov overturning? Will they pursue the abortion inssue? Will he pursue other issues such as stem cell research which his party says that it wants to ban.

Some conservative religious groups have already mobilized to lobby members of parliament. Some are threatening to help defeat any member of parliament who supports SSM legislation, during the next election. 8,9

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2006-JUN-19: Environics Research Group issues poll results:

Their poll indicates that Canadians are increasingly accepting of same-sex marriage and are overwhelmingly opposed to reopening the matter in Parliament. The rate of change of public opinion is unusually rapid in this case:

bullet62% consider SSM to be a settled matter;
bullet27% want SSM reopened and debated once more in Parliament;
bulletOnly 38% of Conservative Party voters favored reopening the issue; 52% were opposed.
bullet59% agreed that same-sex couples should have the same right to civil marriage as opposite-sex couples; 32% are opposed.
bulletOf those adults who expressed an opinion, 64% favor the proposition that "same-sex couples should have the same right to civil marriage as opposite-sex couples." 36% disagreed.
bulletThose who strongly agree with equal marriage outnumber those who strongly disagree by 36% to 24%.
bulletFor the first time, most Conservative Party voters (48%) agreed with marriage equality; 47% disagreed.
bulletAmong Liberal Party voters, 67% agreed with marriage equality; 26% disagreed.

These are truly remarkably large and rapid changes since SSM became available across Canada in 2005-OCT. More details.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Open letter to the Hon. Stephen Harper...", University of Toronto Faculty of Law, 2006-JAN-17, at: http://www.law.utoronto.ca/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  2. "The Income Trusts Probe," CBC News, at: http://www.cbc.ca/canadavotes/
  3. Andrew Mills, "Same-sex marriage debate back on the table," The Toronto Star, 2006-JAN-27, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  4. Sean Gordon: "Toews pledges speedy gun-crime clampdown," Toronto Star, 2006-FEB-08, Pages A1 & A6.
  5. Gordon Youngman, "Lets everyone support Egale as well as organizing by writing letters to MPs, etc.," Egale Canada.
  6. "Action alert: Marriage vote delay," Canadians for Equal Marriage, 2006-MAY-15.
  7. Letter, Defend Marriage Coalition, 2006-APR-12, at: http://www.equal-marriage.ca/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  8. Kathleen Harris, "Gay marriage vote by fall," The Ottawa Saturday Sun, 2006-JUN-03, Page 3.
  9. Allan Woods, "Same-sex marriage debate reignited," Can West News Service, 2006-JUN-03, Whig Standard, Kingston, ON, Page 13 & 21.

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

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Copyright © 2005 & 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Essay first posted on 2005-DEC-03
Latest update: 2007-MAY-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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