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MARRIAGE DIGEST: Canadian P.M. opens ‘gay marriage’ debate; Ind. case dropped; amendments continue moving forward

Updated March 9, 2005

OTTAWA (BP)–Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin opened debate on a controversial same-sex “marriage” bill Feb. 16, saying the legislation is necessary to uphold equal rights.

“The people of Canada have worked hard to build a country that opens its doors to include all, regardless of their differences; a country that respects all, regardless of their differences; a country that demands equality for all, regardless of their differences,” Martin, a member of the governing Liberal Party, said on the floor of the House of Commons.

“If we do not step forward, then we step back. If we do not protect a right, then we deny it.”

But Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper criticized Martin and the legislation as dividing Canadians and ignoring religious freedom concerns.

“The greater message in his speech is that if we do not accept his particular views on this piece of legislation then we are not truly Canadian, and that, Mr. Speaker, is something that this party will never accept,” Harper said.

Although courts already have legalized same-sex “marriage” in seven provinces and one territory, the Liberal bill would legalize “gay marriage” coast to coast.

While most observers expect that it will pass, opponents still believe it can be defeated. It needs 154 votes in the House of Commons, and a Globe and Mail newspaper survey showed it already has 139 supporters. Another 118 MPs (members of Parliament) say they’ll vote against it, while 49 are undecided or refused to reply to the survey.

For the most part, the bill will receive a free vote — meaning that MPs will be able to vote their conscience and not be forced to follow the party line. The exception is Martin’s 39-member cabinet, all of whom must support the bill.

Harper asserts that the bill would fail if Martin’s cabinet were given a free vote choice. Harper and the Conservatives support a compromise position — banning same-sex “marriage” but legalizing civil unions, which would give homosexual couples the legal benefits of marriage.

“There are fundamental questions here,” Harper said on the floor Feb. 16. “Will this society be one which respects the longstanding basic social institution of marriage or will it be one that believes even our most basic structures can be reinvented overnight for the sake of political correctness?

“Will this society be one which respects and honors the religious and cultural minorities or one which gradually whittles away their freedoms and their ability to practice their beliefs?”

The bill, C-38, is expected to receive an initial vote within six weeks, according to Reuters news service. Martin hopes to see the bill pass in a final vote before the end of June.

The debate has highlighted the cultural differences between the United States and Canada. A Toronto Star poll Feb. 12 showed that 42 percent of Canadians support same-sex “marriage,” 40 percent oppose it. Polls in the U.S. consistently show that Americans oppose it by a margin of 2-to-1.

The legalization of same-sex “marriage” in Canada almost certainly will impact what is taught in schools about marriage and families. The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario supports the bill.

AMENDMENTS CONTINUE ADVANCING — Legislatures in three states advanced constitutional marriage amendments during the week of Feb. 13.

In Tennessee, an amendment passed a House committee 13-4 and a Senate committee 7-2. If it passes the full House and Senate by a two-thirds margin, it will go to voters in 2006.

In Virginia, an amendment passed a Senate committee by a vote of 11-3. The Virginia House and Senate previously passed varying versions of an amendment in early February and are in the process of working out the differences.

In Alabama, a marriage amendment passed overwhelmingly in separate House and Senate committees. Both chambers previously passed differing amendments and now are ironing out a compromise. The amendment could go before voters this year.

The only pro-family loss came in New Mexico, where a House committee tabled a bill banning same-sex “marriage” that some said was worded too strongly, The New Mexican newspaper reported. It would have fined clergy who performed “gay marriage” ceremonies. But the issue is far from over. A second bill that also bans same-sex “marriage” but does not include the clergy language has yet to be debated and is expected to be voted out of the committee, the newspaper reported. Neither bill, though, would amend the state constitution. Instead, it simply would change state statutes — something that is much easier to overturn in state court. Washington state has a similar law that was overturned by lower courts.

IND. LAWSUIT DROPPED — Three Indiana homosexual couples have decided not to appeal their same-sex “marriage” case to the state Supreme Court. In January the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled against the women and upheld the state’s ban on “gay marriage.”

“We are in no way admitting defeat,” one of the lesbian women, Dawn Egler, told The Indianapolis Star. “We are simply choosing to redirect our energy.”

Apparently, that energy will go toward defeating a marriage amendment to the Indiana constitution — an amendment the legislature is considering.

The news means that eight states now are involved in “gay marriage” lawsuits: California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington.

POLYGAMIST LOSES CASE — A federal judge Feb. 17 refused to strike down the state of Utah’s ban on polygamy, turning back an effort by a Utah man to have a second wife.

“Contrary to plaintiffs’ assertion, the laws in question here do not preclude their private sexual conduct,” U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart wrote, according The Salt Lake Tribune. “They do preclude the state of Utah from recognizing the marriage of plaintiff G. Lee Cook to plaintiff J. Bronson as a valid marriage under the laws of the state of Utah.”

The lawyer for the man argued that polygamy should be legalized in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning anti-sodomy laws. The polygamy case will be appealed, the lawyer said.

It is not the only polygamy lawsuit in Utah; a second lawsuit by another polygamist also seeks to overturn Utah’s ban.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust