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Reactions to the passage of
Bill C-38 in the House of Commons

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

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2005-JUN-15, 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. On JUN-23, SSMs were legalized in in New Brunswick. Fewer than 10% of the Canadian population then lived in areas of Canada where there was no access to SSM.

By 2005-JUN-15, Bill C-38 -- which would legalize SSM for all Canadians -- had been reviewed by a House committee, and was being returned to the House for the third reading and final vote. On JUN-28, during an extended spring session, the House passed the bill by a vote of 158 to 133. It now proceeds to the Senate.

Some of the press' reporting of C-38 has been of unusually low quality:

bullet A surprising number of news reports stated that SSM had become the law of the land as a result of the bill's passage in the House of Commons. In fact, it must be passed by the Senate and signed into law by the Governor General before the 10% of Canadians who live in provinces or territories where SSM is not currently available will be able to enter into a SSM.
bullet Some news reports implied that the all Conservative Party Members of Parliament and all religious leaders opposed the bill. In reality, some members of all political parties opposed C-38. Also, many liberal Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders supported the bill.

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Reaction to the passage of the Bill in the House:

bullet Curious errors seem to have crept into many media reports on the passage of C-38 in the House of Commons. Some information sources have claimed that SSM is now legal. The Canadian Press chose the heading: "Canada approves same-sex marriage." A picture caption reads: "Canada becomes the third country to legalize gay marriage." There are a number of errors here:
bullet Same-sex marriage is not the law in Canada. AS of the end of June, 2005, there are still two provinces and two territories in which same-sex couples cannot marry.
bullet Even if the Senate passed C-38, and it was signed into law, Canada would not be the third country to legalize SSM. Belgium, Holland, and Spain already have SSM.
bullet The term "gay marriage" is not accurate. Many same-sex couples have one or two spouses with a bisexual orientation. 17
bullet Prime Minister Paul Martin said in the House of Commons: "I rise in support of a Canada in which liberties are safeguarded, rights are protected and the people of this land are treated as equals under the law....The facts are plain: Religious leaders who preside over marriage ceremonies must and will be guided by what they believe. If they do not wish to celebrate marriages for same-sex couples, that is their right." 1
bullet Charles McVety, a spokesman for Defend Marriage Canada -- a SSM-negative group -- and president of Canada Christian College, said: "I fear radical social change thrust upon a nation that is not asking for it." 1 On another occasion, he said: "It's a sad day...The great institution of marriage that has built this civilization and the foundation of our society has been defiled by our Parliament. And that is sad. It's sad for our children. It's sad for our grandchildren. It's sad for the young people. I have a seven-year-old daughter. When she comes of age to be married, will we still have marriage as we know it?" 16
bullet Alex Munter, national coordinator of Canadians for Equal Marriage, a SSM-positive group, said: "I think this is going to be a proud and exciting day to be a Canadian because we are, once again, affirming to the world that we are a country that is open, inclusive and welcoming." 1
bullet   Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) and vice-president of International Right to Life -- two pro-life groups -- was asked what his reaction is to those MPs who voted in favor of C-38 responded: "I would say to those MPs, you have let down Canadian society. Youíve taken us further down the slippery slope and youíve opened up the possibilities of people marrying their siblings, their children. Youíve opened the doors to polygamy. Youíve now taken away from children in school their innocence by now forcing the teaching of anal and oral sex in the classrooms. You are an embarrassment to the country." Hughes criticized Canadian faith groups for their lack of leadership on SSM. He said: "...there has been very little and very weak spiritual leadership and very little spiritual formation on the major issues of the day. The churches and other faith institutions and places of worship have turned a blind eye and havenít addressed the major issues of the day and have been more concerned, just as the general electorate is, about the bottom line, making sure that the church financial situation is healthy. And, of course, itís a always a prudential thing to be concerned about expenditures, etc., but many times pastors have told me that their boards, their parish councils, etc. were not so much concerned about their outspokenness on these crucial issues when the church financial situation was very healthy. If the parish financial situation wasnít healthy, however, and the pastors were speaking out strongly, forcefully, in defense of life and family, they were quickly censored by their boards." 2
bullet Egale Canada stated in a news release: "In a generation, Canadians will look back on a time when lesbian and gay people were denied full citizenship, just as we look back on the days when women or Aboriginal people could not vote or times when Canadian citizens were interned because of ethnic origin. We will talk about these days and this battle. We will be proud, as Canadians, that we rejected rejection, that we ended exclusion, that we said to LGBT people: there are no second-class Canadians, lesbian and gay people are full members of the community, without caveat or exceptions. We will long remember this proud day. We can all be proud to be Canadian." 3
bullet  Roman Catholic bishop emeritus (retired) Pearce Lacey of Toronto said he was: "...deeply saddened....although many say 'Iíve given it my best shot and look what's happened', obviously we havenít given our best shot. We still have our work cut out for us."  He suggested that God is telling Christians to "be more intense in our prayer life, to be more sacrificial..." He suggests that  the intense prayer undertaken so far "has in all likelihood restrained the punishing hand of God [at a time] perhaps worse than any other time...How patient He (God) must be, how loving He must be and this is the God we trust....The one thing we shouldnít do is lose hope. I mean, time moves by very quickly. The Paul Martins of this world will die, and they will have to face the God who gave them life, the same as each one of us. And heís had his time in the sun, and he certainly hasnít done a very good job....some day the Paul Martins of this world will have to face up to a judgment that will be far, far more damaging and far more vigorous...I pity Paul Martin. I donít wish evil on anybody. But Paul Martin has got a great judgment ahead of him, a judgment that I wouldnít want to be in his shoes. Imagine, the leader of a country, who has the responsibility of really giving the kinds of strong direction and leadership to his people, and then to flunk, to literally fail is a very, very serious indictment on him." 4
bullet Roberta Sklar,  a spokesperson for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in the U.S. said: "We know that it has been somewhat contentious in Canada, but at the same time the Canadians have largely approached this issue in a rational and democratic way and are providing a very positive model for the rest of the world." 5
bullet  Douglas Farrow, associate professor of Christian thought at McGill University in Montreal, suggests that Bill C-38 is "illicit legislation, the binding nature of which must be contested." He recommends that the Canadian public not recognize same-sex marriage, even if it is the law of the land. He notes that "...the preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms recognizes that our system of law belongs to the classical tradition, by explicitly linking belief in the rule of law to belief in the sovereignty of God....And on the classical view the state has no authority or power, in either its legislative or its judicial arm, to alter the fundamental meaning of marriage or to make the family as such a creature of the state...No Canadian, then, is obliged to submit to the view that the meaning of marriage or the shape of morality is something that is, or may be, determined by a vote in the Commons."

He recommends that:
bullet Clergy refuse to marry same-sex couples. When they marry opposite-sex couples, they should use the old bride/groom forms, even if the province or territory rejects them and the couples being married end up in legal limbo.
bullet People should freely speak out against same-sex marriage, their view of the nature of homosexuality, etc.
bullet "Parents and communities should refuse to submit to orders and decrees respecting the care and education of children, if those orders are explicitly based on C-38 or otherwise infringe on natural parental rights." We are not certain what this means.
bullet Oppose attempts by the public schools to teach that same-sex marriages are normal.
bullet Promote a constitutional amendment to restrict marriage to one man and one woman. 6
bullet A rather sarcastic political cartoon appeared in the Whig Standard, a Kingston ON newspaper. It showed a young child with a finger up his nose, wearing a T-shirt whose top two lines said "NO GAY..." Beside him were a number of sad looking adults carrying signs like "No Same-Sex Marriage" and "Keep gays out of marriage." The Parliament buildings were in the background. A man dressed in a suit said: "The debate is over. Go home" A woman with a megaphone told the small crowd: "Be sure to come back when we target the next group of marginalized people seeking greater civil rights." 9
bullet   David Krayden, spokesperson for the Defend Marriage Coalition said: "Things might look dark to some people today, but we do have the beginnings of a new broader-based political coalition in Canada. The social conservatives really have been a sleeping giant for years in this country. Paul Martin's woken them up." 7
bullet The Right Rev. Dr. Peter Short, Moderator of the United Church of Canada wrote: "In the Gospel According to Mark, Jesus says, 'The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath.' If Jesus could say this of the deeply moral Sabbath, how much more might it be said of marriage? 'Marriage was made for humankind, and not humankind for marriage.' Said that way, the truly moral dimension of the question emerges into the light. The question is not, 'Which sexual orientations have the right to marriage?' The question is, 'Who is a human being?' Who is the real, full, true human being for whom marriage is made? The moral issue here is not sex but love. Love is judged not by its object but by its own inner qualities; that is, love's faithfulness, kindness, patience, goodness, sacrifice, compassion, courtesy, and perseverance. The moral issue is our will to love one another. Beneath that moral issue lies the foundational demand to recognize the humanity of one another. The great enemy of truly moral love is not sex but fear. As Canadians live into the surprising new world this legislation has opened to us, we may begin to see that our civic morality has not been cast aside; rather, it is deepening and maturing." 11
bullet   Joseph Ben-Ami, executive-director of the Institute for Canadian Values said that religious conservatives will continue to fight against same-sex marriage, abortion access, choosing assisted suicide, and the new national child care plan. He said: "We're frustrated, but the battle is going to go on." 8
bullet Marie Clarke Walker, executive vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress wrote: "For over two years, Canadian workers and their unions have been urging Parliament to get on with it because one after another, courts across Canada have been affirming equal marriage. Canadian unionized workers long ago recognized the equality questions raised by this issue and have a proud history of standing up for same-sex relationships.... Two weeks ago in Montreal, at the Canadian Labour Congress' triennial convention, the 2,000 delegates had, once again, called on the federal government to immediately pass this law to recognize equal marriage. We urge the Senate to move quickly because any further delay becomes an unacceptable weakening of equality rights." 12
bullet Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition (CFAC) wrote: "One year ago yesterday, Canadians elected what they thought was a predominantly pro-marriage parliament. The fact is, if all those MPs who campaigned on a pro-marriage platform would be voting in accordance to their promise Ė this Bill would be defeated. People like Joseph Volpe and many others made very specific promises to the people who elected them, and yesterday these MPs not only voted to destroy marriage, they voted in violation of the trust given to them by their own constituents. If you canít trust an MP to deliver on a promise as specific and important as marriage, what promise can you ever trust him with? These MPs in particular are deserving of defeat in the next election." 8
bullet R. Douglas Elliott, a Toronto lawyer and president of the International Lesbian and Gay Law Association said: "We are the only jurisdiction in the world that allows marriage without a residency requirement. Equal marriage is going to become Canada's leading export in the next couple of years." 13
bullet Brian Rushfeldt Executive Director of CFAC said: "CFAC is also concerned about the deceptive promises of Mr. Martin and Mr. Cotler, who know perfectly well that this bill will provide NO protection for any religious person, leader or layperson. The Supreme Court has already stated that the federal government has no jurisdiction over religious freedoms with this law. Will it now be illegal for parents to teach their children that marriage is between one man and one woman? Will schools be forced to teach children that homosexual behavior and same-sex marriages are normal and healthy? Will individuals who express an opinion in support of traditional marriage, especially outside the doors of a church, be hauled before human rights tribunals?....Social norms do not automatically change just because some new law is enacted. A huge majority of Canadians will not teach nor allow their children to be deceived by false ideologies about marriage. The man /woman definition of marriage will continue to prevail in Canada IF the majority of citizens continue to defend it. And I believe that all MPs who voted to re-define marriage will pay a heavy penalty in the next election."  8
bullet Liberal MP Michael Savage said: "I have not compromised my faith in supporting this legislation. I have embraced it. The fact that we (in Canada) are among the first is not something we should hide. It's something we should celebrate...[We are] a nation of equality. A nation of strength. A nation of compassion. A nation that believes we're stronger together than we are apart. And a nation where we celebrate equality...We will send a statement to the world that in Canada gays and lesbians will not be considered second-class citizens." 14
bullet The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) the pro-life and anti-SSM arm of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a public statement expressing its disappointment in the House Legislative Committee which reviewed the bill. They noted that the committee issued its final report less than 48 hours after hearing the last witness. They suggest that the committee was not particularly interested "in the words of those individuals and groups who came in good faith to express their differing views and propose valuable amendments to Bill C-38." They also expressed concern for the children of same-sex couples. They wrote: "We are also very troubled by the lack of consideration of this bill for the needs of Canadian children, who are best nurtured by a mother and a father. Children have the right to know their biological parents and to be educated by them. We know the suffering of many who are deprived of this possibility. Mother and father play different and complementary roles with their children. This complementarity and educational interaction between mother and father are crucial to the childrenís growth, and to the formation of their personality." They ask the Senate to gut the bill: "COLF insists with the members of the Senate that they propose amendments to Bill C-38 to counter the dramatic erosion of the matrimonial institution in Canada by preserving its historical definition as the societal norm." 10
bullet Perhaps the best support for SSM is seen in the over 6,000 same-sex spouses who have already married in one of eight provinces or the Yukon where courts have made SSM available. 15

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Related essay in this section:


Possible paths forward to legalize same-sex marriage

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References used:

  1. "Canada Likely to Legalize Gay Marriage," Associated Press, 2005-JUN-27, at:
  2. "Canadian National Pro-Life Leaders Says 'lack of spiritual leadership' Has Been Major Obstacle to Achieving Success in Life And Family Issue Battles," LifeSiteNews, 2005-JUN-28, at:
  3. "Canadiansn [sic] for Equal Marriage Press Release," Egale Canada, 2005-JUN-28, at:
  4. "Canadian Bill C-38 Final Passage Eerily Coincides With Sodom and Gomorrah Readings at Catholic Masses," LifeSiteNews, 2005-JUN-28, at:
  5. Beth Duff-Brown, "Canada lawmakers approve gay marriage bill," Associated Press, 2005-JUN-29, at:
  6. Douglas Farrow, "Why and How Canadians Should Refuse to Recognize C-38," LifeSiteNews, 2005-JUN-26, at: This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  7. Peter O'Neil and Tim Naumetz, "MPs will pay for supporting same-sex bill. Religious right: Conservative Christians concede the battle is lost, but say the war will go on," 2005-JUN-25, at:
  8. "CFAC Vows to Continue Defending Traditional Marriage," Canada Family Action Coalition, 2005-JUN-28, at:
  9. Editorial page, Kingston Whig Standard, Kingston ON, 2005-JUL-02, Page 6.
  10. "Reaction of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family To the Adoption of Bill C-38," COLF, 2005-JUN=30, at:
  11. Peter Short, "Take a Deep BreathóTrue Marriage Will Still Be the Same," Globe and Mail newspaper, 2005-JUN-29. Online at:
  12. "Equal Marriage: the House of Commons Did the Right Thing!," Canadian Labour Congress, 2005-JUN-29, at:
  13. Doug Struck, "Same-Sex Marriage Advances In Canada. House of Commons Approves Measure," Washington Post, 2005-JUN-29, at:
  14. Alexander Panetta, "We will send a statement to the world that in Canada gays and lesbians will not be considered second-class citizens," Canadian Press, 2005-JUN-28, at:
  15. "Canadian Commons Passes Gay Marriage Bill,", 2005-JUN-28, at:
  16. Alexander Panetta, "Historic Commons vote paves way for same-sex marriage across Canada," Yahoo! News Canada, 2005-JUN-29, at:
  17. Alexander Panetta, "Canada approves same-sex marriage," Canadian Press, 2005-JUN-28, at:

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Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-JUL-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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