SAME-SEX MARRIAGES IN CANADA
2005-JUN-29 to JUL-17
Bill C-38 "Civil Marriage Act" is debated in the Senate and committee
In this essay, "SSM" means "same-sex marriage." "MP" means
Member of Parliament.
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.
|2005-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."
|2005-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.
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.|
|Senator 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.
|Senator 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:|
|The desire by religious conservatives, because of their
religious beliefs, to discriminate against gays and lesbians, and|
|The 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
|Senator 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
|2005-JUL-05: Senators continue debate:|
|Senator 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
"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
"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!"
|Senator 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'?"
|Senator Bill Rompkey, Deputy Leader of the Government in the
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.
"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."
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
|2005-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
"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
|2005-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.
|2005-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 |
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
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.
|2005-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
Later developments: C-38 is
debated in the full Senate
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Canada a 'beacon' for after same-sex marriage vote : US gay rights
group," Yahoo!, 2005-JUN-29, at:
- "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:
- "Debates of the Senate (Hansard)," Volume 142, Issue 80, 2005-JUL-04,
- The term "other place" is commonly used in the Senate to refer to the House
- "Debates of the Senate (Hansard)," Volume 142, Issue 81, 2005-JUL-05,
- "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:
- Alexander Panetta, "Senate can't stop same-sex marriage, committee told,"
The Toronto Star, 2005-JUL-12, Page A13.
- "Senate Committee Sends Gay 'Marriage' Bill Back to Senate with No
Amendments - Pray," LifeSiteNews, 2005-JUL-15.
- "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:
Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-JUL-22
Author: B.A. Robinson