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Battle over homosexual marriage expands in Canada to 3rd front


MONTREAL, Canada (BP)–Canada’s seemingly inexorable slide toward redefining marriage and accepting homosexuality has gained momentum as a result of Quebec becoming the first province to give homosexuals who live together the same legal status as heterosexual “common law” marriages.
The June 11 action taken by the Quebec General Assembly came just three days after the Canadian House of Commons (the equivalent of the U.S. House of Representatives) dealt homosexual activists a blow by affirming marriage as a union only between one man and one woman. The House of Commons’ vote was regarded as a reaction to a May 20 Canadian Supreme Court decision that ruled the definition of “spouse” in the Ontario Family Law Act was unconstitutional.
“This [change in Quebec law] is being hailed as a great victory for Canadian gay rights groups,” said Bill Duncan, assistant director of the Marriage Law Project, a legal policy organization based in Washington, D.C.
“There is a broad range of people, mostly universities professors and gay activists, who feel their goal is not to have same-sex marriages legalized, but to abolish all marriage,” Duncan said. “They want to make sure heterosexual couples cannot have any more rights than anyone else. The law in Quebec fits right into this thinking. Same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples now have the same rights.”
Canadian Southern Baptists have been outspoken in their criticism of Canada’s growing tolerance of homosexual unions.
“The recognition [of same-sex partners as spouses] is just one more cog in the machine that seems bent on destroying the definition of the traditional family,” Gerry Taillon, executive director of the 8,700-member Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists, told Baptist Press in May.
“At every avenue, tolerance has increased at a cost of the fundamental values that society needs,” he added. “The attitude in Canada is that we will tolerate anything. At this point, the attack is on the foundational unit of society — the family.”
The Quebec bill includes homosexual partners in the definition of “defacto couples,” who are couples who have cohabited for three years. The bill gives homosexual partners spousal benefits from public pension plans and insurance policies, while stopping short of giving them the same status as a marriage in Quebec. For example, spurned homosexuals are unable to collect alimony from their live-in partners (though women’s groups are mounting an effort to change the definition of civil union that would allow for the collection of alimony — even by homosexuals, thus creating a coupling-like marriage without calling it marriage.)
While there is no immediate legal impact on the United States, the Quebec law has two implications for America and its judicial system, Duncan said. First, it sets an example for U.S. courts and government.
“It shows that more and more governments are accepting same-sex unions,” he said.
No country in the world yet allows same-sex couples the freedom to marry, and none provides homosexual couples the range of protections, responsibilities and benefits that come with civil marriage, according to the pro-homosexual Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a cadre of 14 attorneys and 38 support staffers which has budgeted $5.5 million next year to fight for homosexual rights in America’s court system. However, Denmark, Norway, Greenland, Sweden, Iceland, Finland and The Netherlands have established a new category called “registered partnership.” While short of full equality, registered partnership recognizes the marital nature of homosexual committed relationships and offers most, but not all, of the benefits and protections of marriage.
The second implication of the Quebec law for the United States, Duncan said, is that it moves Canada one step closer to recognizing same-sex unions.
“As soon as that happens,” he said, “and because of Canada’s proximity to the U.S., there likely will be numerous homosexual couples who will go to Canada, get married and then return to the U.S. to challenge the marriage laws in their own states.”
There are eight states in which marriage recognition bills or court rulings are being considered. Bills are pending in Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York and Texas. Similar bills died in committee in Colorado, Maryland and New Mexico.
Some legal experts believe a breakthrough for homosexuals could soon come shortly from a Vermont Supreme Court ruling that would recognize homosexual unions.
“If there’s any place it could stick in the country, I think it’s Vermont,” Vermont Law School professor Greg Johnson told the Associated Press recently. “It strikes some deep chords here which has a tradition of independence, letting people do what they want to do in their private lives.”
Until now, all legislative attempts to obtain legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriages in the United States have failed miserably. Likewise, until 1993, state and federal courts uniformly rejected the claim of a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
In Hawaii and Alaska, the only two states in which courts have held that same-sex couples have a right to “marry,” voters in both states in November overwhelmingly passed state constitutional amendments to reserve the legal status of marriage to unions between one man and one woman. American courts have historically guarded the traditional definition of marriage consisting of one man and one woman. As early as 1888, the Supreme Court described marriage as “creating the most important relation in life” and “as having more to do with the morals and civilization of a people than any other institution.” More recently the high court has called traditional marriage “the foundation of the family and of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.”
Because marriages performed in one state are generally recognized in other states, the Hawaii court ruling set off some furious legislative efforts by states to protect the traditional definition of marriage. Congress even passed the Defense Marriage Act, which denied federal recognition of homosexual marriages and allowed states to ignore same-sex unions licensed elsewhere.
Meanwhile, legislative efforts and court battles continue at the state and even city levels.
For example, a proposed constitutional amendment that would make homosexual marriages illegal won Oregon House approval June 28. The bill, which defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman, was approved on a 32-26 vote after supporters said the state must take a stand to preserve the traditional family. The measure now moves to the state Senate. If passed, it could go to Oregon voters in November. Another developing major battleground is California where an April 1 Field Poll showed that 55 percent of voters in the state favor an initiative on the March 2000 ballot that would prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex unions.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, in a July ruling, declared Boston’s domestic partnership ordinance illegal. It would have allowed benefits to same-sex partners employed by the city of Boston. Pro-family organizations, like the American Center For Law and Justice, are challenging similar ordinances in several other cities, including New York, San Francisco and Santa Barbara, Calif.

    About the Author

  • Don Hinkle