Canadian Parliament votes to allow 'gay marriage' law to stand

OTTAWA, Ontario (BP)--Canada's Parliament affirmed the nation's "gay marriage" law Dec. 7, easily voting down a motion by the Conservative government that would have reopened debate on the issue and likely ended up reversing the law.

The motion lost, 175-123, with most of the Conservatives supporting the motion and nearly all the Liberal and Bloc Quebecois members voting against it. All members of the New Democratic Party opposed it. The motion, although unsuccessful, fulfilled a campaign promise by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Canada legalized "gay marriage" in 2005 when the Liberals and then-Prime Minister Paul Martin controlled Parliament. But they lost in January to the Conservatives, who took a plurality of seats to form a minority government. But because the Conservative government doesn't have a majority of seats, they must rely on the other two parties to pass any legislation. Both the Liberals and the Bloc are significantly more liberal on social issues.

The motion's defeat means "gay marriage" may be legal in Canada permanently.

"We made a promise to have a free vote on this issue, we kept that promise, and obviously the vote was decisive and obviously we’ll accept the democratic result of the people’s representatives,” Harper said, according to Canadian Press, referring to the fact that members of Parliament could vote "freely" according to their conscience and not be forced to follow the party lead.

“I don’t see reopening this question in the future,” Harper said.

Thirteen Conservatives voted against the motion, including Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay. Among the other two parties, 13 Liberals voted for the motion, while two Bloc MPs didn't vote at all, Canadian Press reported.

The vote showed that support in Parliament for "gay marriage" actually increased by 17 votes, despite the fact that Conservatives had picked up seats. The law to legalize "gay marriage" passed in the summer of 2005 by a vote of 158-133. Back then, 32 Liberals voted against legalization while only three Conservatives voted for it.

Although some media outlets had reported in previous weeks that the Conservative government wanted to pass legislation protecting public officials who opposed "gay marriage" from being forced to perform such ceremonies, Harper said there in fact were no plans to do that.

"If there were any time in the future when fundamental freedoms were threatened, of course the government would respond to protect them," he said. "The government has no plans at this time."

Conservative MP Bill Casey voted against the motion to reopen debate. The motion asked if MPs wanted "to call on government to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages."

“If the vote had gone the other way, we would have spent the next several years with this as the main motivator here … so I just voted to move on,” Casey said.

Christian groups expressed disappointment. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada released a statement affirming the natural definition of marriage and requesting tolerance from Canadians for those holding traditional views.

“In a plural and democratic society, faith communities must have language to communicate their principles and beliefs and the freedom to promote a distinctive relationship that has stood the test of time and been accepted into common use,” Bruce J. Clemenger, president of the fellowship, said in a statement. “In the wake of today’s vote, we call on Parliament and all Canadians to respect the diversity of views on the nature and meaning of marriage and to affirm the legitimacy of faith communities to abide by an understanding of marriage that has served the public good.”

The EFC statement said "marriage has historically been concerned with the common good of the couple, their children and society as a whole."

"By turning the focus to a matter solely of individual rights, other valid concerns are not being addressed," the statement noted. "These issues include religious freedom, the impact on children and the benefits society gains from a stable environment in which future generations are conceived and raised."

Canada is a good example of how the "gay marriage" movement has advanced worldwide. In 1999, Parliament passed a motion affirming marriage as between one man and one woman, 216-55. But in 2003 a similar motion failed, 137-132. Then-Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien voted for the 1999 motion but against the 2003 one. Asked to explain his reversal, Chretien said society "has evolved."


Compiled by Michael Foust. For information about the national debate over "gay marriage," visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage