SAME-SEX MARRIAGES IN CANADA
2005-FEB-03 to FEB-15
Bill C-38 "Civil Marriage Act" is introduced to Parliament
In this essay, "SSM" means "same-sex marriage." "MP" means
Member of Parliament.
||"There are two types of MPs:
||those who support the right, true and traditional definition of
marriage . To them, say thanks for doing what is right and honest and
good for Canada.
||Then there are those who are out to destroy marriage and family.
To them say goodbye, it is time for them to be replaced in Ottawa. There
is a political price to pay for being anti- marriage, anti- family."
Quotation from the Canada Family Action Coalition." (CFAC) 6
||"For some of these people, their wedding is
something they've been hoping to do for years and now, for the first time in
history, they're allowed to do it. It gives their life and their love and
their sexual orientation credibility, validity in the larger society that
they're part of. It's a great celebration of their love, their gayness,
their membership in a tolerant society." David Paperny, whose company
has produced the "My Fabulous Gay Wedding" TV show|
As of 2005-FEB-03, On 2005-FEB-01, 87% of Canadians lived in a province or
territory which has already made SSM available to same-sex couples as a result
of court rulings. Another court challenge is expected in Alberta. If this
authorizes SSM in that province, then only 3% of the Canadian population will be
without access to SSM in their province or territory.
On 2005-FEB-03, the federal Liberal party introduced amendments to various federal
laws, including the Marriage Act, to legalize same-sex marriage and divorce across the
country. This would make SSM available to everyone in their province or
territory of residence, thus facilitating SSM for 13% of the population (0r 3%
if the expected Alberta challenge legalizes SSM in that province) who must
travel some distance to get married.
The government expects to have a short debate on the bill, and hold a second
reading vote before passing it on to a committee. They hope that the bill will
become law by the end of 2005-JUN.
||2005-FEB-03: Theological professor supports SSM: Rev. Dr. Harold G
Wells, Professor of Theology at Emmanuel College wrote a letter to the
Toronto Star which indicates that the media is creating a false impression
that the battle is between organized religion and sexual minorities. "This
is far from the truth. The United Church of Canada, for example, the largest
Protestant denomination in the country, officially favours same-sex
marriage....Many homosexual people are themselves deeply devout and the
blessing of God, church and law is important to them....As Jesus sided with
outcast people in his day. so many Christians today stand on the side of all
who are marginalized in our society. Historically, and still today,
homosexual people are definitely among the most greviously oppressed and
persecuted. I believe that those who oppose same-sex marriage on Christian
or biblical grounds are not 'biblical' enough, and have not heard well
enough the command of Jesus to pursue the 'weightier matters of the law:
Justice, mercy and faith'." 1|
||2005-FEB-03: Committed support for the bill grows: A small number
of Liberal and Conservative MPs moved from the undecided to the supporting
camp during the previous week. Some MPs had their doubts dispelled when they
saw the legislation in print. Irwin Cotler said: "I believe that we have
now significant majority support for this legislation in our caucus and I
believe that those who are not supporting it or leaning against it are
nonetheless, in some instances, still open to be otherwise persuaded. There
is movement in support and growth for this legislation." |
Liberal MP Pat O'Brien has alleged that the Liberal whip has telling
Liberals who wish to vote against the bill to stay away from Parliament when
the vote is taken. He acknowledged that he was acting on hearsay. He
had not been told this by the whip. Karen Redman, the Liberal whip, put her
reputation on the line. She said that the accusation was untrue. "This is
an issue of such contentiousness that every member will want to be there and
have their vote counted. I have had no conversation asking anyone to do
anything but follow their conscience on the vote." No MP has come
forward to say that he or she has actually been pressured to abstain from
Conservative Party leader, Stephen Harper, waffled on the matter of a
national referendum. His party favors referenda in principle, but would not
hold one if he were in power until his government had placed suitable legislation was in place. Irwin Cotler
said that if women's rights had been put to a referendum, Canada would still
not allow women to vote. He concluded that this was no way to decide any rights for a
minority. Gilles Duceppe, head of the Parti Québécois,
said that his party would not support a referendum. He said that it would
submit "the right of a minority to the decision of the majority."
Jack Layton of the New Democratic Party agreed. Referring to events during
the Second World War, he said: "We've had times in our history...when
there was strong sentiments against Japanese, who were here in Canada. So we
put them in internment camps. I'm sure if referenda were held at those
times, they would have backed up those kinds of decisions." The concept
of a national referendum on same-sex marriage raises an interesting moral
and constitutional question: what percentage of the public would have to be
in favor of stripping human rights from a minority -- like the right to
marry -- before that action can ethically be taken?
The Conservatives are expected to introduce amendments to the bill
within weeks. Some would firm up the position of churches in federal law.
Others would create a parallel system of civil unions for gays and lesbians
with the same rights and obligations as marriage. 2,3
||2005-FEB-04: PM urges "respect:" Prime
Minister Paul Martin asked two Liberal MPs, Pat O'Brien and Tom Wappel, to
stop attacks on cabinet ministers and Liberal MPs who support SSM. O'Brien
repeated the rumor that MPs who oppose the bill are being told to stay away
from the vote. He did not receive such pressure himself, but had heard that
other MPs were ordered to abstain.|
||2005-FEB-04: Money floods into Canada from
U.S. religious conservatives: CanWest reported that "some U.S.
[religious] groups say they will spend whatever it takes to ensure same-sex
marriage doesn't become legal north of the [U.S.-Canadian] border." That
is a confusing statement, because 87% of the population of Canada live in a
province or territory where same-sex marriage is already legal. And an
anticipated lawsuit in Alberta is expected to raise this to 97%. Patrick
Korten spokesperson for the Knights of Columbus' head office in New
Haven CT said that no limit has been set on the financial help his
organizations is prepared to offer. He said: "Whatever it takes. The
family is too important." He said that the U.S. headquarters of his
group had paid $80,782 CDN (about $67,000 US) to print two million postcards
which are now being distributed to parishioners through Roman Catholic
churches in Canada. He said: "It has been extremely enthusiastically
received in Catholic parishes all over Canada. As a matter of fact, we may
have to print some more -- there was a great deal of interest in it. It
offers a quick, simple but effective way for Catholics...to make their
feelings about the same-sex marriage bill known to their MPs." Focus
on the Family Canada, an affiliate of the fundamentalist group Focus
on the Family in Colorado Springs, CO, has has received $304,125 CDN
(about $253,000 US) in services from the Colorado group. Under Canadian law,
registered charities can spend unlimited amounts of money on political
lobbying as long as it is not at the time of an election or referendum. |
Alex Munter, spokesperson for Canadians for Equal Marriage -- a
group that promotes equal marriage for all, including both same-sex and
opposite-sex couples -- said that the support that Focus on the Family
Canada received is several times more than the $46,000 (about $38,000
US) that his group has received in donations from Canadians since the
Supreme Court reference on same-sex marriage. He said: "In terms of
scale, we're dealing with an enormous operation that has charitable status
and is funded by deep pockets, including deep pockets from the United
States....We simply have no way to protect ourselves against an American
invasion by the religious right. In terms of resources, we're just not equal
to on that basis. Do we want the American far right engaged in that debate?
I would say no, and I would think most Canadians would say no."
James Dobson, founder and head of Focus on the Family devoted an
episode of his radio program in late January to the same-sex debate in
Canada. It was transmitted to 130 radio stations in Canada. He said: "It
is clear here in the United States that the American people do not want
same-sex marriage. I would hope that Canadians who also do not want same-sex
marriage would be encouraged by what has happened down here." It is
unclear why Dobson believes that most Canadians are opposed to same-sex
marriage. Polls have consistently shown that a majority supports equal
marriage for all couples.
||2005-FEB-07: Justice minister investigates
U.S. anti SSM funding: Irwin Cotler announced that he would look into
the restriction of foreign funding of political debate. He was reacting to
the large amounts of money from social and religious conservatives in
America which is funding an anti-SSM campaign in Canada. He said: "Clearly,
we have free speech [in Canada.] But at the same time we want to protect the
political equities in terms of the marketplace of ideas. In other words, we
don't want the public opinion to get mortgaged to the highest bidder."|
||2005-FEB-06: Justice minister admits
defeat: Irwin Cotler admitted that he cannot do anything to limit the
American funding of campaigns to alter Canadian public opinion. He said: "Ideas
can cross borders, and it's a free speech issue and that I appreciate. I
just would like to maintain the integrity of the Canadian political culture
and the Canadian political debate and not see it skewered by the kinds of
lobbying that comes from the States that is not appreciative or
understanding that we've got court decisions in this county on this issue
that are different from the United States. From a legal point of view,
there's nothing we can do about it." He suggested that Canadians
become aware of what "the source of the lobbying is." |
Stephen Harper said: "I would hardly be surprised on an issue like this
to see groups from other sides of the border, frankly, on both sides of the
issue." Canadians for Equal Marriage, a pro-SSM group,
states that all its funding comes from individual Canadian donations.
Focus on the Family Canada, a British Columbia-based fundamentalist
Christian group, denies that they get substantial American funding from
Focus on the Family in Colorado. Vice-president Derek Rogusky said: "We're
funded by Canadians." But the Toronto Star reported that the U.S.
group's 2003 financial report stated that "Focus provides, without
charge, the cost of certain services necessary for the operation of the
Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. The value of these services for
the years ending Sept. 30, 2003 and 2002 was approximately $217,000 (U.S.)
and $239,000 (U.S.) respectively."
Jack Layton, head of the New Democratic Party, said "There
shouldn't be any interference by foreign organizations in a Canadian
political debate." 5
||2005-FEB-08: Conservative Christian group
organizes theatre boycott: Famous Players, one of the two major
chains of Canadian movie theatres, accepted a paid advertisement to be shown
in their theatres prior to movies. The ten second commercial discusses SSM
from a human rights perspective. The Defend Marriage Coalition, a
group that promotes the restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples , "is
urging its members and all Canadians to refuse to attend Famous Players
Theatres and to contact its president via phone or fax." The Coalition
consists of the Canada Family Action Coalition, Catholic Civil Rights
League, Campaign Life Coalition, and Real Women of Canada. 7 |
Canada Family Action Coalition is asking its members to threaten
boycotts of Loblaws, Canada's largest grocery store chain, and Canadian
Tire, Canada's largest automobile parts retailer, who are sponsoring a TV
program "My Fabulous Gay Wedding." 8
||2005-FEB-12: Poll results announced:
Results of an EKOS Research/Toronto Star poll conducted between FEB-07 and
FEB-09 were released. They indicated a remarkable shift in support for SSM:
||59% of Canadian adults either favor
allowing SSM or don't care.
||40% are opposed to SSM
||1% gave no answer.
Another fascinating result is that:
50% felt that "Endorsing
same-sex marriages rights would be a positive signal to the world
about Canada's values and beliefs."
42% felt that "Endorsing
same-sex marriage rights would be a negative signal to the world
about Canada's values and beliefs."
||8% did not express an opinion.
There are very strong regional, sex, and age
differences among Canadian adults. More details
||2004-FEB-14: On Valentine's Day, three
openly gay MPs appealed for a respectful debate on SSM. They sent a letter
to the four party leaders, personally appealing for support for the bill.
They wrote: "for us, this discussion is about love and commitment."
As the time for debate in Parliament approaches, some infighting has begun.
As expected, reality and truth are the first fatalities:|
||Tonda MacCharles, reporter for the
Toronto Star wrote that debate will begin on FEB-16 "on Bill
C-38, the controversial Civil Marriage Act that would extend the legal
right to civil marriage to gay and lesbian couples." Actually,
same-sex couples already have the legal right to marry in 7 provinces
and one territory, comprising 87% of the Canadian population. Also, she
is ignoring bisexuals. Some same-sex couples are composed of one gay and
one bisexual spouses, or two bisexual spouses.
||MP Jason Kenney (Conservative, Calgary SE)
addressed the Punjabi Press Club in January, stating "The fact
is that homosexuals aren't barred from marrying under Canadian
law...Marriage is open to everybody, as long as they're a man and a
woman. It doesn't say you can't marry if you're a homosexual. The fact
is that homosexuals have been married and do marry." He referred to
Libby Davies (NDP-Vancouver E) as a homosexual who was once married to a
man. He is wrong on a number of counts. Couples of all combinations of
sexual orientation and genders can legally marry throughout most of
Canada. Also, Davies has never married.
||Réal Ménard (Bloc Quebecois-Hochelaga)
said at a news conference: "Gays and lesbians don't want to re-define
marriage, we want access to marriage." In reality, they want to
accomplish both. 9
Stephen Harper, head of the far-right
Conservative party appears to be concerned about hate speech among his MPs
when they debate C-38 in Parliament. He has take the unprecedented step of
requiring any MPs who plan to debate the bill to first submit the text of
their speech to him for approval and editing.
||2005-FEB-16: Debate in Parliament is to
begin: Debate on Bill C-38 is to begin on Wednesday. Some expect a vote
between FEB-23 and MAR-02. It will then be referred to committee. The final
vote is expected before June.|Site navigation:
Rev. Dr. Harold G Wells, "Same Sex Marriage: United Church
agrees," The Toronto Star, 2005-FEB-03, Page A25/
Susan Delacourt & Sean Gordon, "Liberals confident same-sex bill to
pass," The Toronto Star, 2005-FEB-03, Page A6.
Anne Dawson, "Liberals nix referendum on same-sex marriage," The
Kingston Whig-Standard, 2005-FEB-3, Page 9 & 12.
Elizabeth Thompson, "U.S. groups fight against gay marriage in Canada,"
CanWest News Service, 2005-FEB-05.
- Tonda MacCharles, "Cotler: 'Ideas cross borders'," The Toronto Star,
2005-FEB-10, Page A8.
"What does Your MP Say about Marriage?," Canada Family Action
"Boycott Announced against Famous Players Theatres for Promoting
Anti-Marriage Message," Canada Family Action Coalition, 2005-FEB-08.htm,
Siri Agrell, "Producer is hoping TV show will tip balance -- My
Fabulous Gay Wedding," National Post, 2005-FEB-02. Online at:
Tonda MacCharles, "Keep debate respectful, gay MPs ask," Toronto
Star, 2005-FEB-15, Page A6.
Copyright © 2005 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-FEB-12
Author: B.A. Robinson