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Same-sex marriages (SSM) in Canada

2006: With the defeat of the anti-SSM motion
in Parliament, is the matter settled? Part 2

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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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Reactions by organizations of religious and social conservatives (Cont'd):

bullet André Gaumond. Archbishop of Sherbrooke, QC and president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) wrote a letter to political leaders. It calls on Canadian Catholics:

bullet "To encourage the special relationship of man and woman in marriage ..." It is unclear whether this also includes the obligation to work against SSM.

bullet "To continue to look for ways to assist and support heterosexual couples who, as the Supreme Court of Canada noted in 1997, 'have the unique ability to procreate' and who are responsible for caring for and nurturing most of the children of Canada." Again, it is unclear whether working to support opposite-sex couples includes working against same-sex couples, many of whom are proving the Supreme Court's statement false by having their own children. Others are adopting children of others or arranging for surrogate parenthood.

bullet "To urge federal politicians to undertake research and further consultations on the long-term impact of the redefinition of civil marriage on society and future generations." The short term advantages, in terms of legal protection for same sex couples and their children are obvious. However, many religious and social conservatives are concerned about currently unseen disadvantages to SSM which they believe may take years to surface.

bullet "To monitor provincial and territorial legislation as well as policies to ensure full protection of freedom of religion and conscience and also freedom of expression for all citizens in the private and public spheres." This is apparently a reference to maintaining the freedom of Canadians to refuse to marry same-sex couples and to continue criticizing the widening of the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. A few marriage commissioners have been fired for refusal to carry out SSMs.

bullet "To collaborate with departments of education and school boards to ensure that classroom teaching and school resources respect the traditional understanding of marriage." It is unclear whether the Church wants schools to teach that opposite-sex marriage is the only true form of marriage. Religious and social conservatives often use terms like "respecting traditional marriage" to mean ridiculing or denigrating SSM. It would be a strange situation if schools were to teach that SSM, which are now allowed by law are not real marriages.

bullet "To respect the dignity of all persons, whatever their sexual orientation, by avoiding every sign of unjust discrimination toward men and women with same-sex tendencies (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2358)." This section of the Catechism implies that there are both just and unjust forms of discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation.

bullet "To guard against further changes to the definition of civil marriage, including polygamy." Polygamous marriage has been a fact of life among some fundamentalist Mormon families in Canada for many decades. Provincial governments have decided to not prosecute them.

bullet "To urge political parties to allow their members a free vote on basic ethical and moral questions that shape our society, particularly those issues that impact on the fundamental rights of freedom of religion and conscience, such as the definition of marriage."  This raises the thorny question of whether a political party has the moral right to instruct its MPs to vote against stripping fundamental human rights from groups of individuals and families by a simple majority vote in Parliament.

bullet "To urge the federal government to safeguard faith groups that do not accept the redefinition of marriage from being penalized with respect to their charitable status." This seems to be a red herring. Canadian churches have refused to marry couples on the basis of their religion, disability of one partner, intent to remain childless, attitudes toward the institution of marriage, race, gender, and probably other grounds that we have missed. It is unlikely that the government will suddenly start to deny churches charitable status because of their policies towards SSM. 9

bullet Pat O'Brien, as spokesperson for Vote Marriage Canada said:

"The battle's not over, there will be an election ... soon, and fortunately we live in a democratic society where people can make this an issue. The goal is to elect men and women who share our values." 11

As of early 2012, there have been federal elections in 2006, 2008 and 2011. The same-sex marriage issue did not play a significant role in any of them.

bullet William Gairdner of Enshrine Marriage Canada stated:

"Canadians have been lulled into acceptance of same-sex 'marriage' by interventionist courts, biased national media and unscrupulous politicians. ... Since the Trudeau era, ... Canada has wholly surrendered itself to the crassly materialistic and egalitarian mentality of the welfare state, where all public debate is reduced to a kind of internal civil war over equality and rights. ... We must realize that a 'right' to homosexual 'marriage' is not really aimed at elevating the status of homosexuality as much as it is aimed at dissolving the deep historical sense of privilege and status of true marriage and the heterosexuality that has always been one of its four conditions." 11

Gairdner is factually in error with his final sentence. Bisexuals have always married persons of the opposite gender.

bullet Phil Horgan, president of the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) said in a press release issued on 2006-DEC-07 that his group:

"...will continue to express its support for traditional marriage in our work with Parliament, the courts, and the media, and we will continue to help those who find themselves penalized for the peaceful expression of views on marriage." 11

He did not indicate whether the League would continue to oppose SSM.

bullet Gwen Landolt, spokesperson for REAL Women issued a press release saying:

"Since the Canadian public has been denied a voice on the issue of same-sex 'marriage,' a very persuasive argument can be made for a referendum on the same-sex marriage issue." 11

bullet Joseph Sinasac, editor of the Catholic Register suggested that the debate over SSM will not end, just as the defeat in 1991 of a restrictive abortion bill did not settle that matter. He said:

"Just because a particular vote has passed, the subject is not closed, the debate has not ended. It has just switched to a different battlefield." 11

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Other reactions:

bullet Letters to the editor on SSM: During the two weeks following the rejection of the motion, only one letter dealing with SSM was published in the Toronto Star -- one of the largest newspapers in Canada. It advocated SSM. Canadians seem to have accepted SSM as a permanent part of Canadian culture.

bulletAngus Reid Internet poll: Angus Reid conducted a poll of Canadian Internet surfers in the days following the vote on the motion. They were asked whether they approved of SSM. Results were 60% in favor and 40% opposed. Although this indicates strong support for SSM, the data should not be considered to be particularly accurate:
bullet The poll was taken among Internet users, who are probably not representative of all Canadians.

bullet If a referendum were ever held, the minority of Canadians who want to prevent SSM would be highly motivated to vote. Many of the majority who favor SSM might not be so highly motivated. It is hard to estimate whether a referendum would allow SSM.

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2007-MAY-07: Angus Reid Internet poll:

Angus Reid posted a poll on their website, asking Canadians "Should gay and lesbian couples be legally allowed to get married?"

Results were 67% yes; 33% no; over 2 to 1 in favor.

They warn their site visitors: "Please note that these survey results are of website visitors who voluntarily take the survey. These results are not necessarily representative of the larger population."

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2008-FEB-22: Gay civil rights worker receives Order of Canada:

Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes, pastor of the Toronto Metropolitan Community Church for over three decades, has been a leading promoter of equal rights for persons of all sexual orientations and identities. He has received Canada's highest civilian honor: the Order of Canada.

His main achievement was his contribution to the same-sex marriage fight. In early 2001, he read the "bans" for two same-sex couples: one gay and the other lesbian. He later married them, but the city refused to register the marriages. This led to Hawkes launching a court battle that eventually led to legalization of same-sex marriage in Ontario in 2003. That was instrumental in prodding the federal government to pass legislation to make same-sex marriage available across Canada. He said during a phone interview: "About 27 years ago, I was fasting to protest the police actions around the bathhouse raids. And to see how far we've come, that Canada is the first country in the world to give its highest award to a gay activist." 12

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Current status of SSM in Canada:

Same-sex marriage has become accepted by most Canadians as one aspect of the country's culture; they have become routine. By 2006-NOV, the "advocacy group Canadians For Equal Marriage studied municipal records and reported that 12,438 marriage licenses had been granted to same-sex couples in Canada. 13,14

However, social and religious conservatives remain opposed to SSM. Gairdner's statement (above) used a notation often found in conservative religious writings. So did Gwen Landolt. When referring to SSM, they often place the word marriage in quotation marks when referring to SSM. This seems to indicate that they still do not view it as a real and valid marriage.

When social and religious conservatives stop using the quotation marks, perhaps SSM in Canada will be reasonably secure. To get guidance on how long this might take, one would have to go back:

bullet About 15 decades to the time when marriage in the U.S. was first extended to all African Americans, or

bullet To 1958 when that country extended marriage to mixed-race couples in a court action ironically called "Loving v. Virginia."

Changes in such a fundamental institution as marriage can take generations to accept.

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Federal government renews attacks on same-sex marriage:

Six years after federal bill C-38 authorized same-sex marriage across the country, the federal Conservative Party obtained a majority of seats in Parliament. As expected, some 7 months later, the party under the leadership of Prime Minister Harper renewed its attack on SSM. They intervened in a divorce action and are attempting to nullify the marriages of about 5,000 same-sex couples who had come to Canada from other countries to get married between 2005 and 2012. If they are successful, future same-sex marriages by couples in which one or both spouses are from a country that has not yet legalized SSM will be prevented from marrying. More details.

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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. Don Martin, "Debate over, move along," National Post, 2006-DEC-07, at:
  2. John-Henry Westen, "BREAKING - Conservative Party Marriage Motion Wording Revealed,", 2006-DEC-01, at:
  3. From CPAC TV coverage of the House of Commons debate.
  4. "Canada [sic] Government Bid to Reopen debate on Homosexual "Marriage" Defeated 175 to 123,", 2006-DEC-07, at:
  5. "Harper's motion to re-open equal marriage defeated! Prime Minster says the issue is settled," Canadians for Equal Marriage, 2006-DEC-07, at:
  6. " 'The Marriage Battle Continues,' says Campaign Life Coalition,", 2006-DEC-07, at:
  7. Janice Tibbetts, "Same-sex marriage issue put to rest: PM," CanWest News Service, 2006-DEC-08, at:
  8. John-Henry Westen, "Bishop Wingle: Canada 'Sinking Ever Deeper Into the Morass of Moral Chaos.' Criticizes Politicians for Failing to Protect the 'Authentic' and 'Sane' Definition of Marriage,", 2006-DEC-11, at:
  9. André Gaumond. "Debate on the definition of marriage: Letter of the CCCB president to PM and leaders of the parties in the opposition," CCCB, 2006-DEC-14, at:
  10. Angus Reid poll on same-sex marriage, 2007-JAN-11 at: This is expected to be a temporary link.
  11. "Culture war to continue," Catholic Insight, 2007-MAR, Pages 21 & 22.
  12. Jenny Yuen, "Gay activist receives Order of Canada: T.O. cleric fought to legalize same-sex marriage," CNews, 2008-FEB-23, at:
  13. "Canada census to count same-sex couples for the first time," Associated Press, 2007-SEP-06, at:
  14. "Over 12,000 married same-sex couples," Canadians for Equal Marriage, 2007-NOV-20, at:

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Copyright © 2006 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Essay first posted on 2006-DEC-08
Latest update: 2012-JAN-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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