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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 1

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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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Conflicting quotations:

bullet Don Martin, columnist for the National Post: "Now, the traditional definition of marriage -- [one] man and [one] woman to the exclusion of all others -- has been relegated to the bins of history filled with outdated concepts like suffrage, the death penalty, [Native] residential schools, and the Chinese head tax." 1

bullet Jim Hughes, of Campaign Life Coalition Canada: "The battle for the right of the traditional family, like the battle for the rights of the unborn Canadian children will continue. Contrary to the wishful thinking of the National Post and others the issue is far from decided." 2

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2006-DEC-07: Defeat of the motion:

The Conservative Government's motion to renew debate on SSM was defeated by a vote of 175 to 123 on 2006-DEC-07. 3

Many MPs -- including all members of the New Democratic Party, all from the Bloc Québécois, and most Liberals -- voted against the motion because they viewed it as an attack on the fundamental human rights of sexual minorities. They had also considered the SSM matter closed as of 2005-JUL when Bill C-38 enlarged the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

Some Conservative Party MPs, including some cabinet ministers, apparently voted against the motion because it did not forcibly divorce the existing 12,000 same-sex married couples in Canada. A second reason for their opposition might have been that the motion talked about some undefined "civil union" status for loving, committed same-sex couples that would probably have given them some or all of the rights, privileges, and obligations of marriage.

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Does this settle the matter?

During 2005-JUL, the previous government expanded the definition of civil marriage to include all loving committed couples, whether of the same sex or opposite sex. With the vote on this motion, the MPs decided to not reopen the matter. There is a divided opinion over whether the matter is settled, and couples of all sexual orientations can look forward to the option of marriage for themselves and their descendents.

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Reaction by conservative politicians:

bullet Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters a few minutes after the motion's defeat: "The result was decisive. ... I don't see reopening this question in the future." Referring to rumors that the government was planning to create new legislation to strengthen religious freedom to discriminate against sexual minorities, Harper said: "The government has no plans in that regard."

bullet Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said: "It's time to move on. It's been debated in House and it's been considered by the provinces and the courts."

bullet Gerald Kennedy said: "I think this issue has finally found closure." He added that most MPs probably realize that same-sex marriage has been working seamlessly so there is no need to revoke it.

bullet Pat O'Brien indicated that SSM is still an active issue for him. He said:
"When a candidate comes to my door seeking my vote, let me find out what their view is on the issues that are important to me. That's the democratic strategy, to try to elect people who share your values. This is far too serious of an issue to give up so lightly." 2

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Reaction by other politicians:

bullet Paul Zed from New Brunswick MP voted against the motion because he viewed it as creating two classes of same-sex couples: some married and some refused to be allowed to marry. He said: "From an equality rights point of view, it just doesn't make any sense." 2

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Reactions by gay-positive organizations:

bullet The web site of Canadians for Equal Marriage stated:

"MPs, like most Canadians, have come to understand that equal marriage doesn’t harm anyone, it only makes life better for some. They have come to understand that a generous and inclusive definition of marriage actually strengthens the institution. They have come to understand that the only reason to exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage is discomfort, resistance to change and moral judgment. And they have learned that voting in favor of equality feels really, really good!!" 4

bullet Laurie Arron, spokesperson for Canadians for Equal Marriage said that the defeat of the motion was a "relief for everybody because if this motion were to pass we would have been dragged through years of debate and court challenges." However, she criticized the government for attempting to turn back the clock by trying to reopen debate on SSM. against the will of most Canadians.

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Reactions by organizations of religious and social conservatives:

bullet, a Catholic pro-life organization commented:

"It is widely acknowledged that the measure was not a serious attempt to reopen debate.  CanWest News reporter Janice Tibbetts captured that message in two lines of her coverage.  Tibbetts wrote:

'Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the man who promised to bring the contentious same-sex marriage issue back to the Commons, was absent from the chamber and had no plans to defend traditional marriage as debate opened Wednesday on whether to revoke Canada's same-sex marriage law. The Commons was virtually empty, with about 20 of 308 members showing up'." 5

The term "traditional marriage" is frequently used by religious and social conservatives in the U.S. and Canada to describe the marriage of one man and one woman. It implies the denial of marriage to loving, committed same-sex couples.

bullet Jim Hughes, National President of Campaign Life Coalition Canada (CLC) said:

"Unfortunately, there was no vote today on traditional marriage in the House of Commons. Instead, there was a vote on a procedural motion which was both awkward and confusing in its wording, resulting in its defeat. ... The battle for the right of the traditional family, like the battle for the rights of the unborn Canadian children will continue. Contrary to the wishful thinking of the National Post and others the issue is far from decided." 6

bullet Brian Rushfeldt, executive director of the Canadian Family Action Coalition criticized the  Conservative party for its "weak performance" on traditional marriage. He criticized "progressives" in the party like MacKay, Gerald Keddy, Jim Prentice, James Moore and others. He said that they "... have just set a tone that could result in a Conservatives loss in the next election."

bullet Roman Catholic Bishop James Wingle of St. Catherines, ON took a dim view of the defeat of the motion. He wrote to the Catholics in his diocese:

"What a terrible irony it is to witness our country sinking ever deeper into the morass of moral chaos and confusion as we ignore the sane order established by God for the good of creation. Rather than protecting this institution, so critical to the health and stability of society, our government denatures marriage and the family. The unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society that men and women make when they enter into marriage, and especially when they beget and educate children, is no longer treasured or protected by those who make our laws."

[With the new definition of marriage] "the government neglects its duty to promote and preserve the common good of society, founded upon the sane and reasonable order established by God. ... The Catholic Church is clear and unwavering in its teaching and practice concerning marriage, as God intended this fundamental institution: authentic marriage is the loving union of a man and a woman in a lifelong partnership that is open to the begetting and rearing of children. ... I wish to thank all those working to uphold and promote the authentic understanding of marriage, as we have received it in God's good creation. We will continue our efforts to do everything possible to see that such an understanding is restored to its proper recognition in law." 7

We are unable to understand Bishop Wingle's statement about the lack of protection for opposite-sex married couples. They can still get married and receive all of the usual rights, protections, and privileges of marriage. The only difference with the passage of bill C-38 is that the institution of marriage will be open to loving, committed same-sex couples.

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This topic continues in the following essay

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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. Janice Tibbetts, "Same-sex marriage issue put to rest: PM," CanWest News Service, 2006-DEC-08, 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. 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:
  8. John-Henry Westen, "BREAKING - Conservative Party Marriage Motion Wording Revealed,", 2006-DEC-01, 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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