OTTAWA (BP)–Canada’s senate July 19 cleared the way for the legalization of “gay marriage,” easily passing a bill that would make Canada the fourth country in the world to grant homosexuals marriage licenses.
The bill passed the senate 47-21, exactly three weeks after the same bill also passed the House of Commons. It now only needs the signature of the governor general — Queen Elizabeth’s representative in Canada — in a procedure called “royal assent.” Although royal assent generally is a mere formality, conservatives have lobbied Queen Elizabeth II to refuse it.
However, royal assent could come as early as Wednesday, making the bill law. Canada would join Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain as the only countries to legalize “gay marriage.”
Geographically, Canada is the largest country to legalize “gay marriage,” although Spain is the most populous. But Canada is the first country outside of Europe to legalize it.
Evangelicals bemoaned the bill’s passage.
“Today our government has chosen to redefine the foundational institution of our society,” Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said in a statement. “The consequences of this massive social experiment have not been fully examined or understood.
“With the passage of this legislation, the government has reconfigured marriage as a primarily adult-centered institution, and surrendered its ability to champion the rights of children to know and be raised by a mother and a father.”
“Gay marriage” already is legal in eight of 10 provinces and one of three territories. The bill legalizes it nationwide.
Although the governing Liberal Party says religious freedoms will be protected, Christians fear those protections won’t go far enough. In at least one province where “gay marriage” is legal, civil officials who oppose “marriage” between homosexual have been forced to quit.
“There is little doubt that religious freedom will be compromised by this change in the definition of marriage,” Janet Epp Buckingham, director of law and public policy at the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said. “The amendments to the bill will provide some measure of protection for religious freedom, but they are not sufficient and cannot address the consequences of this legislation in areas of provincial responsibility.”
Canada’s religious freedoms aren’t as expansive as those in the United States. In 2002 an Ontario court ruled that a Toronto printer violated the human rights code when he refused to print stationery for a homosexual activist group. He was fined $5,000. In another case, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission fined a man $4,500 for running a newspaper advertisement condemning homosexuality. The ad included biblical references.
Occasionally, Focus on the Family’s radio broadcasts concerning homosexuality must be edited so as not to run afoul of the law.
“Despite the very real threats to freedom of conscience and religion, we will not allow fear of recrimination or prosecution to dictate what our faith community believes and teaches in this regard,” Buckingham said. “Marriage was not created by the state but was recognized by the state for certain purposes. Therefore, it cannot be changed by the state.”
David Mainse, a prominent Canadian evangelical, wrote Queen Elizabeth II in early July, asking her to deny royal assent.
“Our beloved Queen Elizabeth II, I know that the refusal of the Governor General to give Royal Consent would precipitate a crisis,” he wrote. “Millions have nowhere else to turn but you.”
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage