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2005-JUN-29 to JUL-17

Bill C-38 "Civil Marriage Act" is debated in the Senate and committee

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Sponsored link.

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Earlier developments are described in another essay

In this essay, "SSM" means "same-sex marriage." "MP" means Member of Parliament.

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Background (up to 2005-JUL-17):

By 2005-JUN-29, about 90% of Canadians lived in a province or territory which has already made SSM available to same-sex couples as a result of court rulings. Thus, if C-38 is passed, it would only affect about 10% of the population.

On 2005-JUN-29, the bill was passed by a comfortable majority in the House of Commons: 158 to 133. It was sent to the Senate for two readings, a referral to committee and the third and final vote.

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bullet2005-JUN-29: U.S. reaction to the passage of C-38 in the House: Yahoo! commented:
"The vote in the House of Commons in Ottawa underscored sharp social differences between the United States, home to a campaign to amend the constitution to outlaw gay marriage, and its vast northern neighbor....Canada's move is expected to swell the large numbers of lesbian and gay couples who head north to get married, as same sex unions are already permitted by most Canadian provinces and outlawed in most American states.

Joe Solmonese, President of Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay-positive advocacy group said: "Americans should look at the fair way in which Canada is treating its citizens and know that no harm is coming to anybody as a result...Canada is a beacon to the world on making sure that all families are protected by the same rights and responsibilities." 1

bullet2005-JUL-03: MP denied communion by Roman Catholic Church: Charles Angus, a New Democratic Party MP for Timmins-James Bay in Ontario was faced with a difficult decision in Parliament over bill C-38. His oath of office required him to support the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which meant that he had to vote in favor of the bill. But he is a Roman Catholic and his church expected him to vote against the bill. He followed his obligation as an MP and voted for the bill. He was denied communion by Father John Lemire, pastor of St. Patrick's parish in Cobalt, ON. Angus told an Ottawa radio station: "I feel that we are starting to move into some very uncomfortable waters when the priest is telling me how to vote in the House of Commons....I felt no matter what else was at stake I can't allow the Eucharist to be a political pressure point.More information. 2
bullet2005-JUL-04: Senators debates bill C-38: The Senate started three days of debate on same-sex marriage. The 64 Liberal members are pressing for an early vote and submission of the intact bill, as passed by the House of Commons, to be signed into law. The 22 Conservative members are expected to propose a series of amendments in the hope that at least one will be accepted. In that case, C-38 would be dead until the Fall when the House of Commons reconvenes.
bulletSenator Serge Joyal moved second reading of Bill C-38. He said:

"By making civil marriage accessible to persons of the same sex, Bill C-38 recognizes that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of social exclusion that is degrading to the persons involved and unacceptable in a free and democratic society, based on the constitutional equality of everyone before the law and with equal access to all its benefits. That recognition, as the Supreme Court noted last December, flows from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Bill C-38 is about restoring full human dignity to a minority that has long been the object of persecution, marginalization and outrage. It is an issue of minority rights."

He drew a parallel between objections to SSM and arguments during the 1930's against allowing women to vote. In both cases, there were appeals to "natural law." He said: "It was against natural law to pit the wife against the husband by giving the wife the right to vote. That would bring discord and disagreement within the family unit." He is here referring to allowing women to vote in federal elections. Quebec did not grant voting rights to women until the 1940s. The Roman Catholic bishops in Quebec apologized to the women of that province for the major role that they played in preventing equal rights for women.
bulletSenator Gerry St. Germain noted that C-38 "...has created undoubtedly one of the most polarized debates in our history." He suggested that the Senate work through the entire summer, if needed, to study the bill in depth. He said: "...by introducing Bill C-38, the government is attempting to link Charter rights and human rights to the sacrament of marriage. Marriage has nothing to do with Charter rights or human rights, in the view of many of us." He cited many recent human rights decisions in which there was a conflict between:
bulletThe desire by religious conservatives, because of their religious beliefs, to discriminate against gays and lesbians, and
bulletThe desire by homosexuals to be free of such discrimination.

In each case, the persons desiring to discriminate lost in human rights commission hearings and elsewhere.

He continued: "I believe that Bill C-38 will produce these real effects: the erosion of the family unit as we know it. It also presents a threat of erosion of the freedom to worship and teach religious beliefs, something being challenged in the courts now, as with Bishop Henry."

bulletSenator Jack Austin, the leader of the Government in the Senate supports C-38. He said:

"There are those, such as Senator St. Germain, whose religious beliefs, deeply held I know, cause them to proclaim that same-sex marriage is contrary to God's law and even — not Senator St. Germain but others — that it is an abomination. I have heard that from religious sources. They argue that religious law forbids same-sex marriage, and civil law should have the same position."

"While I totally accept the right of any person to hold such belief and conviction for their own behavior, what is their basis of demanding the same behavior of all others? Canada is a constitutional democracy with a Parliament whose lower house, the House of Commons, is popularly elected by the free choice of all eligible citizens. The government of the day is responsible to the House of Commons and must maintain its confidence. The popularly elected House of Commons has passed this bill and has presented it to us for review and approval. We must look to the bill on our own judgment as to whether it is good public policy and is supported by the Constitution and by the Charter of Rights."

"As I see it, apart from the religious connection, at the core of opposition to equal rights to marriage, whether opposite sex or same sex, is the belief that same-sex marriage is wrong because it will cause harmful results to society. Senator St. Germain also made that argument. However, what is lacking is any evidence to make that case. For example, the U.S. state of Massachusetts has permitted same-sex marriage for a few years now. The search by opponents of same-sex marriage has produced no statistics that there has been any effect on the lives of opposite-sex marriage persons or their children. Opposite-sex marriages have continued and they raise families at the same statistical rate as before. Nor has the divorce rate shown any change. As one commentator noted, the only negative to be found by the study as a result of same sex-marriage being legalized was the added cost of buying a few more wedding gifts."

"Admittedly, society is bringing on itself some discomfort to provide all our adult citizens with equality rights under the Charter of Rights. Is it not the case, as the courts in eight provinces and one territory have said, of equal protection and justice for every citizen no matter the sexual orientation and gender identity?....Bill C-38 is designed simply to provide uniformity of rights across Canada. These rights are established under the Charter by the courts of the lands. It is a cardinal principle of good public policy that rights be equal among all members of our society and nation." 9

bullet2005-JUL-05: Senators continue debate:
bulletSenator Shirley Maheu congratulated the Congress of Deputies in Spain. On JUN-29, they passed a bill to become the third nation to legalize SSM. She said:

"A majority of lawmakers in Belgium, Netherlands and Spain have been joined by a majority of members in our own House of Commons to proclaim that cherry-picking in the field of human rights will no longer be tolerated."

"On Tuesday last week, the other place 4 passed Bill C-38, respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes. The proposals in this legislation have been debated, demeaned, demonized and delayed for many months, ad nauseam. In fact, I believe that this proposal has had as thorough an examination as any piece of legislation that I can remember in my 17 years of service in both Houses of Parliament."

"Honorable senators, it is time to move on. There is nothing about this proposal that has not yet been said in both our official languages by anyone, anywhere in Canada. Clearly, this is absolutely nothing new, or there is absolutely nothing new that could possibly be said."

"Let us move on. Let us provide and enshrine dignity and inclusiveness for all Canadians, and let us do it now!"

bulletSenator Madeleine Plamondon is opposed to C-38 for religious reasons. She said: "...as a Catholic, I feel part of an endangered minority. Being politically correct means that we have to be open, not only to ideas but to the point where we have to deny our faith in order not to be labelled homophobic."

"The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is important and, as its preamble states, it recognizes the supremacy of God and the role of the family in a free society. This freedom is based on respect for moral and spiritual values. As long as the Charter is in harmony with my spiritual beliefs, I will defend it, but if, as today, I am forced to choose between my conscience and the Charter, I will not hesitate: I will vote according to my conscience and, therefore, against Bill C-38.

I know that everyone has a different path to follow. I respect all the opinions that have been and that will be voiced, because I know that they are being made in good faith. But, as a Christian, I want to leave you with these words, which could apply equally to the Charter and the gospel, 'If the world sings my praises when you blame me, will it save me when you judge me'?"

bulletSenator Bill Rompkey, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, moved that debate on C-38 be terminated after an additional six hours. He justified this on the basis that "...much debate has already taken place in parts of the country and indeed in Parliament itself. " He noted that between 2002-NOV and 2003-APR, a Justice committee held 27 public hearings and heard from 467 witnesses. Second reading debate in the House of Commons lasted for 11 days with 164 MPs speaking for about 30˝ hours. The House of Commons' committee held 19 meetings and heard from 75 witnesses. 33 MPs debated for 9˝ hours at the report stage. Over 9˝ hours was spent by 26 MPs at third reading. He said:

"This is a debate that did not start this week, this month or this year. It has been going on in Canada for quite some time. It appears to me that Canadians have thought about the issue and have made up their minds about it. Parliamentarians on both sides of this chamber have made up their minds about it and want an opportunity to stand and to be counted. However, they do not want interminable debate and simply talking out the motion. It is important to pass this measure with a period of debate, but expeditiously and in a reasonable amount of time." 5

This set off an impassioned debate about the principle of terminating debate, and on the definition of 'guillotine' motions and closure. They finally voted 40 to 17 with two abstentions to limit debate.
bullet2005-JUL-06: Senate members decide to limit debate: After two days debate during extended sessions on JUL-04 and 05, and further debate on JUL-06, members of the senate ended debate on what one Conservative Senator called the most destructive bill in Canadian history. Senator Kinsella said: "They are obviously under orders to ram this thing through." Kinsella is attempting to amend the bill by including some sort of recognition of the historical status of opposite-sex marriage. Senator Gerry St. Germain shouted: "So much for democracy, when after one day, we invoke closure. You're out to lunch."

The bill's second reading concluded during the evening of JUL-06. The bill survived second reading with a vote of 43 in favor, 12 against, and 6 abstentions. Ten Conservatives and two liberals voted against the bill. Senator Sharon Carstairs and Senator Joan Fraser spoke in favor of the bill; Senator Anne Cools spoke against it.

A number of conservative Christian web sites stated that the Senate's debate of C-38 was limited to two hours. This appears to be an misunderstanding. It is true that debate only lasted for two hours on JUL-06. However, it was preceded by extensive debate during JUL-04 and 05.

C-38 was passed to the Senate's Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for review. The Committee is scheduled to hold three days of hearings on JUL-12 to 14 inclusive. 3

The Christian Post reported:

"The debate has been heated, with sharp statements from both sides of the issue. Those in opposition to the bill proposed an amendment supporting heterosexual marriage only. The amendment was quickly shot down by supporters of the bill, who likened the struggle for same-sex marriage to the struggle for civil rights for all races.

"Senator Anne Cools, who is black, argued that the debate over same-sex marriage is not comparable to the fight for human rights. Cools, who left the Liberal party over the bill, responded that 'marriage… has never been a right'."

"At one point, a senator posed the question, 'What would Jesus do?' One of the Liberal Senators responded that she believed Jesus would approve the bill." 6

bullet2005-JUL-11: Cotler addresses Senate committee: Justice Minister Irwin Cotler addressed the Senate's Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee concerning bill C-38. He said that if the Senate rejects the bill, or returns it to the House of Commons with one or more amendments, then court rulings in eight provinces and one territory would still stand; same-sex couples would still be allowed to marry almost everywhere in Canada. He said

"Same-sex marriage would still be the law of the land....Where a law has been found to be unconstitutional, the only options open to Parliament are to either remedy the unconstitutionality -- which is what we are doing with bill C-38 -- or to overrule that court decision by invoking the notwithstanding clause."

Conservative Senator Anne Cools responded: "You seem to worship the altar of the Charter. I do not."

Conservative Senator Gerry St. Germain said that the legislation could lead to "religious persecution" of public officials who refuse to marry same-sex couples. Cotler reminded the Senate that the Charter and the law would prohibit sanctions against any official who opposes same-sex marriage. 7

bullet2005-JUL-13: Marriage Canada takes unprecedented step: David Mainse was perhaps Canada's most famous Evangelical spokesperson for years, due to his TV program 100 Huntley Street. He was appointed "Minister of Evangelism and Social Action, for the Crossroads Family of Ministries." In this capacity, he has been working full time to try to continue the current restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples. He has written: "Marriage predates government. It is a religious covenant. Marriage is a union of 'one man and one woman.' The traditional definition of the word marriage is not to be confused with or used as a source of debate on the lifestyle choices of any group or individual, but rather it is a description for a time-honored institution -- 'Holy Matrimony'." Since C-38 passed second reading in the Senate with a vote of 43 to 12, and since few MPs in the House of Commons ever changed their vote on the bill, many observers predicted that the bill will be passed in the third and final reading during the week of JUL-18. The next step would be to have the bill signed into law by the Governor General, who acts on behalf of the Queen. This last step has always been automatic. But Mainse has taken an unusual step. On his web site, www.marriagecanada.ca , he is asking everyone who is opposed to marriage equality to write the Queen asking

"...her to withhold royal consent for Bill C-38. Urge her to influence her Governor Generals worldwide (but urgently in Canada) to refrain from signing any bills on her behalf that would change the definition of Marriage. Make it only 1 page please. Your own words, one message - 'Please do not allow your signature to be represented on Bill C-38'." He has written a letter to the Queen on JUL-04 asking her: "....to consider stepping in to withhold Royal Consent by instructing our Governor General, your representative to do the same. This is a non-partisan issue because some Members of Parliament of all four parties in the House voted against C-38."

He overlooks the fact that most Members of the House voted for the bill, and that apparently most members of the Senate, will also pass the bill.

bullet2005-JUL-15: Committee recommends C-38 as is: The Senate's Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee has decided to return bill C-38 to the Senate without amendments. LifeSiteNews reported that:

"A myriad of proposed amendments by witnesses seeking to protect religious freedom and lessen the negative impact of the legislation were rejected.  A clause-by-clause approval of the bill was completed Thursday night. Jim Hughes of Campaign Life Coalition has urged that supporters of real marriage continue their prayers for a return to sanity in Canada. 'Keep up the prayers, its not over till its over,' he said." 8

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Later developments: C-38 is debated in the full Senate

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Canada a 'beacon' for after same-sex marriage vote : US gay rights group," Yahoo!, 2005-JUN-29, at: http://news.yahoo.com/
  2. "Ontario Catholic MP Denied Communion for Voting in Favour of Homosexual 'Marriage'. Outraged Canadian Media Reveal Ignorance of Basic Catholic Teaching," LifeSiteNews, 2005-JUL-06, at: http://www.lifesite.net/
  3. "Debates of the Senate (Hansard)," Volume 142, Issue 80, 2005-JUL-04, at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/
  4. The term "other place" is commonly used in the Senate to refer to the House of Commons.
  5. "Debates of the Senate (Hansard)," Volume 142, Issue 81, 2005-JUL-05, at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/
  6. "Canada's Senate Debates Same-sex Marriage Bill. The debate on legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in Canada continues in the Senate this week, bringing up sensitive issues such as religion, race, and civil rights," The Christian Post, 2005-JUL-07, at: http://www.christianpost.com/.
  7. Alexander Panetta, "Senate can't stop same-sex marriage, committee told," The Toronto Star, 2005-JUL-12, Page A13.
  8. "Senate Committee Sends Gay 'Marriage' Bill Back to Senate with No Amendments - Pray," LifeSiteNews, 2005-JUL-15.
  9. "Liberals Turning Parliament Into a 'dictatorship'; Senators Stop Debate On Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ After Two Hours. Insiders Say Bill Could Pass As Early As Friday," LifeSiteNews, 2005-JUL-06, at: http://www.lifesite.net/

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Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-JUL-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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