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Old 02-01-2005, 10:00 AM   #1
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Same sex marriage legislation tabled in Canada

Cotler introduces 'landmark' same-sex law
Last Updated Tue, 01 Feb 2005 13:39:44 EST
CBC News

OTTAWA - The Liberal government introduced its same-sex marriage bill in the House of Commons Tuesday, kicking off the next stage of a fierce debate that will spur some MPs to vote against party lines.

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler tabled what he called the "landmark legislation" shortly after 10 a.m. EST.

At a subsequent news conference, Cotler described the Civil Marriage Act as protecting both minority rights and freedom of religion, so "that no religious officials will be forced to perform marriages that are contrary to their beliefs."

"There is no compromise in terms of freedom of religion," Prime Minister Paul Martin said as he left a cabinet meeting later in the morning.

"No church, no temple, no synagogue, no mosque, no religious official will be asked or forced to perform a marriage that is contrary to their beliefs."

Vic Toews, the Conservative party's justice critic, said religious protections in the bill don't go far enough.

Religious officials are protected, but not individual Canadians who don't hold a church office but want the right to refuse to have anything to do with gay marriage, he said.

That's why his party will try to amend the bill, limiting marriage to one man and one woman while offering homosexual couples full rights under some other type of civil union.

Toews cited several examples of people and groups whom the bill wouldn't protect:

* Civil marriage commissioners in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, who have been told they must perform same-sex ceremonies or lose their jobs.
* A Knights of Columbus hall in British Columbia that is being brought before a human rights tribunal because the Catholic men's group won't rent space to a lesbian couple for their wedding reception.
* A person who offers a marriage preparation course for a Presbyterian congregation but is reluctant to advertise it in the community because he might have to open it up to gay couples.

Toews said his party is considering significant amendments to beef up the bill's protection for "conscientious objectors" to gay marriage, but doubted they would do much good in the event of a court challenge.

"What we are seeing is a consistent pattern," he said. "Whenever equality rights and religious rights collide, equality rights trump."

As well as extending the legal capacity to marry for civil purposes to same-sex couples, the package of legislation amends eight other federal acts to extend a variety of marital rights to gay couples, including income tax measures, business and investment benefits and the right to divorce.

It also prevents same-sex couples who are closely related from marrying, as federal legislation already does for opposite-sex couples.

Despite opposition from many Liberal backbenchers, the bill is expected to pass because most Bloc Québécois and New Democrat MPs support the right of homosexual couples to marry.

It comes after a series of provincial court decisions and a Supreme Court of Canada review of several questions posed by the Liberals leading up to the drafting of the new law.

Court decisions in several provinces and the Yukon territory have already struck down the traditional definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.
Paul Martin in the Commons, Monday.

Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples have married as a result of those rulings.

The new legislation will have the effect of making civil marriage legal for same-sex couples in Alberta, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, as it protects the right of individual religious congregations anywhere in Canada to refuse to perform or acknowledge gay marriages.

Church groups lining up to oppose bill

A loose alliance of church groups has vowed to fight the bill despite those protections, including Roman Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Orthodox Jewish congregations, as well as a variety of conservative Christian groups.

The United Church of Canada is among the smaller number of religious communities that have expressed support for gay marriage.

Both Liberal and Conservative MPs have been told they can vote freely, given how controversial the issue has proven over the past two years, but Liberal cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries must support the bill.

Only two members of the Bloc Québécois have indicated they won't support the bill, and only Manitoba New Democrat Bev Desjarlais has said she'll break party ranks to vote against it.

The issue has put the most strain on the Liberal party. Although a majority of Liberal MPs support the legislation, a number are opposed to the bill and are prepared to vote against it.

Martin, who is a Roman Catholic, has argued that the issue is about supporting minority rights. But he raised the ire of some who oppose the bill when he implied during his recent tour of Asia that he might take his party to the polls over the issue.

Martin has said Conservative Leader Stephen Harper would have to invoke the notwithstanding clause to override the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in order to limit marriage to one man and one woman.

If Harper manages to push such an amendment through, Martin says he will seek a general election.

Wow, talk about heading in different directions. Canada is trying to legalize it nationwide while the US is talking about constitutional amendments to ban it.

I could care less if we have same-sex marriage. It doesn't affect me, actually it may be a boost for the economy. Gay people have every right to be as miserable as other married couples.

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Old 02-01-2005, 10:50 AM   #2
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I don't believe in marriage period. However, if gays want to get married, let them.

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Old 02-01-2005, 12:42 PM   #3
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About freakin' time they tabled this. It's 2005 for chrissake. I admire Martin's leadership on this issue (even though it took him a while to overcome his Roman Catholic-based doubts about this issue).

We'll see how it proceeds through Parliament.

One thing for sure, my very-Moslem (and Alberta resident) mom is not happy!
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Old 02-01-2005, 12:48 PM   #4
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Old 02-01-2005, 01:02 PM   #5
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I have no opinion on gays getting married, I mean whats the harm in it?
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Old 02-01-2005, 01:17 PM   #6
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Originally posted by Judah
One thing for sure, my very-Moslem (and Alberta resident) mom is not happy!
Then she doesn't have to get a gay marriage if she doesn't want one.

If Canada or the U.S. passed a law banning Islam because it was unpopular, I'm sure they wouldn't be very happy.

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Old 02-01-2005, 01:26 PM   #7
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Originally posted by Sheltie
I don't believe in marriage period.
i feel exactly the same way. i'm not a fan of the institution of marriage due to its long history of exclusion and social control. the same sex marriage debate is less about the institution of marriage itself and more about same sex couples being treated as equal human beings with equal rights. a huge step in the right direction. looks like it's a got a good chance of passing, too.

as for the religious groups who are adamantly opposed to this, and want to uphold their right not to marry same sex couples--someone i know brought up the point that the church has never been forced to marry anyone it didn't *approve of*--people who have been divorced, unwed mothers, etc. my mother's church that she attended since she was a child refused to marry her and my father because he was divorced. same argument, different day.
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Old 02-01-2005, 02:10 PM   #8
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I echo the positive sentiment.

It's my position that societies founded on equality should not accept inequality in any form for any reason. Societies that legitimize themselves on the premises of freedom and liberty should grant those except in the most extreme circumstances and only a justifiable reason for taking those things away can be accepted. The secular state is necessarily separate from religious institutions, so I don't think religious belief is a justification for imposing one's will on others. What gives the church, state or any individual the right to deny other individuals a freedom?

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial 'outside agitator' idea. Anyone who lives in the United States can never be considered an outsider, anywhere within its bounds."

-Martin Luther King Jr., April 16th, 1963.

I'd imagine that could be extended to include all free, equal societies.

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Old 02-01-2005, 02:42 PM   #9
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A great day for freedom
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Old 02-02-2005, 12:34 PM   #10
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Originally posted by DaveC
A great day for freedom
Probably not the "freedom" George Bush is constantly talking about.

But yes, great day for us!
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Old 02-03-2005, 07:41 AM   #11
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*throws confetti*
It's about time!

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