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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriages in Canada

2005-JUL-19 & 20: Debate on Bill C-38 concludes.
Bill is passed by the Senate and signed into law.
A look back eight years later.

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

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This topic is continued from an earlier essay.

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By 2005-JUN-19, about 90% of Canadians lived in a province or territory which courts have already ordered the government to made SSM available. Thus, with the passage of C-38, only about 10% of the population were affected.

On 2005-JUN-19, 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.

The Senate passed the bill on 2005-JUL-19 at 11:25 PM with an expected lopsided vote 47 to 21, and with three abstentions. This reflects the party affiliations of the Senators. The Senate is mainly Liberal.

C-38 was signed into law on JUL-20 at 4:56 PM. Because of Canada's political system, creation of this law made SSM available in every province and territory in Canada.

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Third reading debate in the Senate concludes:

bullet 2005-JUL-19: Debate resumed on the motion for third reading of C-38 (Cont'd).
bulletSenator Lorna Milne has supported C-38 and found that many witnesses at the Standing Senate Committee hearings reinforced her decision:

bulletMs. Gwendolyn Landolt, President of REAL Women Canada claimed that
bulletMental health problems are higher than normal among gays and lesbians.

bulletHomosexuals have a reduced life expectancy.

bulletChildren of same-sex parents become homosexuals later in life at a higher than normal rate.

bulletSexual orientation is really a behavior characteristic.

bulletIf Bill C-38 becomes law, the birth rate will drop.

bulletFewer than 2% of homosexuals are monogamous.

Senator Milne drew an analogy between such statements and those of a misogynist.

bullet Dr. John Patrick of Augustine College said that C-38 would allow "...ways of living which do gratuitous harm to others." He listed physical problems that he associates with homosexuality. He also said that Canada is currently governed by barbarians. Senator Milne said that "Canadian, European and American journals of medicine and psychiatry stopped believing that homosexual activity was an illness or would lead to great disease a long time ago."

bulletDr. Patrick also said that supporters of SSM "...base their assertion of a right of homosexuals to change the meaning of the word 'marriage' on no visible intellectual foundations. They just invoked the Charter. The Charter is merely a piece of paper. Where is the argument?" Senator Milne said that the Charter is more than a piece of paper. It is "..infused with values that Canadian and, indeed, western societies have been developing for hundreds of years."

bulletSenator Terry Stratton, the deputy leader of the opposition, opposes C-38. He feels that the bill is not needed, because 90% of the Canadian population already has access to SSM. Meanwhile, the federal government cannot guarantee that clergy will retain the freedom to discriminate against same-sex couples, because that is a provincial responsibility. Meanwhile the right to discriminate is under attack:
bulletSome marriage commissioners have had their jobs threatened.

bullet A lesbian couple has laid a charge against the Knights of Columbus in British Columbia because the latter unilaterally cancelled a rental contract for their hall when they found that the couple getting married were of the same gender.

bulletTwo complaints have been brought before the Alberta Human Rights Commission against Bishop Henry of the Roman Catholic Church for his call on governments to use "...its coercive power to proscribe or curtail" homosexual activity.

He concluded: "We do not need Bill C-38. I would go so far as to say that this legislation has had a disastrous impact."

He also noted that:
bulletThe debate on C-38 has been very divisive and acrimonious.

bulletThere is every likelihood that the Supreme Court would find a separate but equal system of civil unions to be constitutional.

bulletTwo of the three countries that legalized SSM have also legalized euthanasia.

bullet Many countries have instituted civil unions, registered partnerships or similar arrangements short of marriage, for same-sex couples.

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bulletSenator Marcel Prud'homme supports C-38:

He explained:
bulletHe would have preferred for the Senate committee to hold hearings across Canada. He said: "There are people like me who would have loved to travel around Canada with Senator St. Germain and a number of other friends from the Conservative party to listen to Canadians spew out their nastiness to us, to talk with them very wisely and patiently with the understanding that there are people with things to say, that people for years have been wanting to tell us of their despair. It is by listening that we achieve a dialogue and comfort people saying, 'Do not be afraid, Canada is in good hands, and the institution of marriage is not in danger'."

bulletRoman Catholic Cardinal Ouellet's comment that he would deny baptism to children of same-sex parents broke Senator Prud'homme's heart and troubled his mind. He said: "I asked myself, how can anyone turn away a child? A child is a gift from God. How can anyone deny a child baptism because his parents are not what we would like them to be?"

bullet There have been many past divisive debates, over the flag, anthem, death penalty, abortion access, etc. But our institutions have survived. The implication is that Canada will survive SSM. [Webmaster's note 8 years later: It did survive.

bulletSenator Ione Christensen, noting that the hour was late and that most of his points had already been covered by others simply read an Email from one of his constituents in the Yukon -- a man in a same-sex marriage. He wrote: "You have no idea what a difference it makes to the human spirit to know that you are treated equally under the law."

bulletVote: The senators appeared to run out of steam at this point; no further debate was offered. "In the end, the debate concluded of its own accord, without the need for closure." 3 The senators voted 47 to 21 in favor of C-38, with 3 abstentions. Senator Moore would have voted against the bill. However, he abstained because of a prior agreement with an absent senator. 1

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Signing the bill into law:

The normal procedure is to have the bill signed by Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada. She acts as the Queen's representative in Canada. However, the Governor General was recovering from emergency surgery to correct a heart abnormality. Her role was taken over by the Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. Justice McLachlan signed it into law on 2005-JUL-20, at 4:56 PM, Eastern Time, just 17hours after it had been passed by the Senate late on the evening of JUL-19 at 11:25 PM.

This gives new meaning to the common complaint by religious and social conservatives that judges are creating legislation from the bench.

Canada thus became the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriages, after the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.

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A look back on SSM in mid-2013:

Eight years later:

  • SSM has become largely a non-issue in Canada.

  • Liberal faith groups in Canada, including Unitarian congregations and the United Church of Canada routinely marry same-sex couples.

  • Mainline and conservative faith groups generally refuse to marry same-sex couples. The Anglican Church of Canada is considering solemnizing same-sex marriages by 2019.

  • The number of countries worldwide that have legalized SSM has grown to about 15.

  • All of the predominately English speaking nations of the world, except for those in the Caribbean, the U.S., UK, and Australia had legalized SSM. The Legislatures of England and Wales, Scotland, and Australia are actively debating SSM.

  • The U.S. allows SSM in 13 states and the District of Columbia and is gradually adding additional states, one at a time. Three states were added by voters in 2012-NOV; three more in 2013-MAY were added by state legislatures; there are two active lawsuits underway (in New Mexico and New Jersey).

  • Between six and ten (sources differ) predominately Muslim countries consider any same-gender sexual behavior to be criminal, punishable by execution.

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Related essays on this web site:


Positive reactions to the passage of C-38


Negative reactions


Subsequent developments later in 2005

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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. "Debates of the Senate (Hansard)," Volume 142, Issue 84, 2005-JUL-19, at:
  2. "Same-sex marriage bill gets royal assent. Becomes law across country," National Post, 2005-JUL-20, at:
  3. "Equal marriage bill proclaimed -- It's the law across Canada," Canadians for Equal Marriage, at:

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Copyright 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2013-JUL-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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