OTTAWA (BP)–The move to legalize same-sex “marriage” in Canada officially began Feb. 1, when the governing Liberty Party introduced legislation that would redefine marriage coast-to-coast.
Although the bill is favored to pass, there are no guarantees. It needs 154 votes in the House of Commons, with a Globe and Mail newspaper survey showing 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.
The Liberals want to see it passed by the end of June, when Parliament breaks for the summer.
Although same-sex “marriage” already is legal in seven provinces and one territory — thanks to a series of court rulings — the bill would legalize it in the remainder of the country, including Alberta, where the bill is unpopular.
“Canada is a land built on a tradition of tolerance and respect, rooted in a Charter that protects the equality rights of all Canadians,” Liberal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said in a statement. “Extending civil marriage to same-sex couples does not take away the rights of any others, nor does it relate to religious marriage.”
The new definition of marriage would ignore references to sex and would read, “Marriage, for civil purposes, is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.”
The legislation is known as Bill C-38.
Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper, who opposes the bill, had hoped to add amendments that would protect the traditional of marriage while legalizing civil unions — a compromise of sorts. But that strategy appears to be in jeopardy.
“The bill is written in a way that will make it difficult to amend,” Harper said in a statement. “However, as I have committed in the past, my party and I will make every effort to amend the bill to retain the traditional definition of marriage, enshrine the legal rights and privileges for same-sex partnerships, and provide concrete assurances of protection of religious freedom.”
The Toronto Star reported that the House of Commons debate likely will begin in February, followed by an initial vote before it is referred to a committee for study. If the bill wins that initial vote, the committee will be restricted in what kind of amendments can be added, the Star reported. Once the committee completes its study, the House of Commons will have a final vote.
Christians in Canada fear that the bill will infringe on religious freedoms. Although Cotler has promised that churches will not be forced to perform same-sex “marriages,” religious leaders aren’t convinced that their freedoms will be protected.
“We have been given bland assertions by the Justice Minister that religious freedom will be protected with the redefinition of marriage but there is absolutely no evidence of this,” Janet Epp Buckingham of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada said in a statement. “Already we have seen marriage commissioners forced to resign in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba over this issue. Mayors have been forced to resign in Newfoundland. A human rights complaint has been heard against the Knights of Columbus for refusing to rent their hall for a lesbian wedding reception.
“This is just the beginning of the types of religious freedom violations we anticipate from the redefinition of the institution of marriage.”
Buckingham likely won’t win any support from the New Democratic Party’s Bill Siksay, an open homosexual who supports the bill. He says the bill does enough to protect religious freedoms and that religious organizations should be required to rent their facilities to same-sex couples.
“If you’re in the business of renting a hall for non-religious purposes, then I think gay and lesbian Canadians should have access to those facilities,” Siksay told the Toronto Star.
Christians, Buckingham said, are being marginalized.
“The Prime Minister has said that this is an issue of fundamental rights,” she said. “He has said that in redefining marriage, he is defending the Charter.
“If that is the case, there is no room for those of us who have a different vision of family life in Canada. We are already being pushed to the margins of Canadian life. We are being made to feel unwelcome.”
MARRIAGE AMENDMENTS ADVANCE — Constitutional marriage amendments advanced in three states but fell short in a fourth the week of Jan. 30.
In Kansas, an amendment passed the House 86-37, receiving the required two-thirds vote with three votes to spare. It now will appear on the April 5 ballot, making Kansas citizens the first to vote on a marriage amendment in 2005.
In South Dakota, a marriage amendment passed the House 55-14. It now goes to the Senate, which must approve it for it to go to voters in 2006.
In Alabama, a marriage amendment passed committees in both the House and Senate. The Senate version would place it before voters this year, the House version would put it on the ballot in 2006.
In Idaho, an amendment fell short of the required-two thirds majority. Needing 24 votes in the Senate, it received only 21. Fourteen senators voted against it.
Supporters of the amendment in Idaho say they’ll try again. The amendment bans both same-sex “marriage” and civil unions.
“You know my guess is the people of Idaho support this by a margin of 70-80 percent, and I really believe they are going to contact their elected representatives and let them know how they feel and suggest to them that they support this the next time around,” said Republican state Sen. Gerry Sweet, an amendment supporter, according to KTVB-TV.
Including the three aforementioned states, at least 16 states are considering amending their respective constitutions to ban same-sex “marriage.”
The amendments prevent state courts from legalizing same-sex “marriage” — which is what Massachusetts’ high court did. But because the amendments are vulnerable in federal court, pro-family leaders are pushing for a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
ALL ON BOARD IN ALA. — It’s safe to say that Republicans and Democrats in Alabama both support passing a state constitutional marriage amendment. The question is who supports it more.
Democrats say the amendment will be their first priority this year. Republicans say the Democrats are stealing a GOP issue.
The amendment died during the last session without receiving a vote. Democrats control both chambers.
“We’re going to get immediately into the ban on gay marriage,” House Speaker Seth Hammett, a Democrat, said Feb. 3, according to the Associated Press.
But Republicans say the amendment was on their agenda some two months before Democrats made it their priority.
“We will not allow the Democrats to co-op the conservative ideals we have fought for,” House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard, a Republican, said, according to the AP.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage