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Deep Divisions Remain On Gay Marriage
by Ben Thompson
Posted: May 30, 2003 11:29 a.m. ET
(Ottawa) A Parliamentary committee is so divided on the issue of same-sex marriage it cannot reach a consensus. The only thing the members do agree on that the status quo is no longer Constitutionally acceptable.
A draft report prepared by the Justice Committee says Parliament can no longer deny official recognition of gay couples, but what form that recognition will take is uncertain, and may result in two very different final reports being presented to Justice Minister Martin Cauchon next month.
The committee spent two months this spring crossing the country listening to Canadians' views on gay marriage. When it returned to Ottawa the members were no more in agreement than they were before they left the capital.
The divisions within the all-party committee tend to fall along party lines with most members of the ruling Liberals, the New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois supporting full marriage.
But one Liberal committee member opposed to marriage rights says the situation has become frustrating and divisive.
"We're all over the map," said MP John McKay, who along with the Canadian Alliance and Conservative members would likely support a domestic partner register but not marriage.
There are only two gay members of the committee: New Democrat Svend Robinson and Bloc MP Real Menard. Both support amending the law to permit gays to marry.
The divisions on the committee may result in both a majority report recommending full marriage for gays and lesbians and a minority report advising Cauchon to tread more softly with a civil union register but not marriage.
"It will not be a unanimous report," said Bloc Quebecois MP Richard Marceau, who personally favors allowing gays and lesbians to wed and believes that the federal government has no legal choice but to accept it.
Whether the committee issues one or two reports, the recommendations are not binding and pressure is mounting on Cauchon to bring in legislation legalizing full marriage rights for gays and lesbians.
His Liberal party is in the middle of a leadership race. The winner will automatically become Prime Minister in February, and all three contenders announced earlier this week they supported gay marriage. (story)
Both the leaders of the Bloc and the New Democrats also said they would support full marriage rights.
The Justice Committee has until the end of June to present its report to Cauchon.
The committee was asked to look at ways of recognizing gay couples after an Ontario court ruled that denying gays and lesbians the right to marry was unconstitutional. Court rulings in Quebec and British Columbia have reached similar conclusions.
Adding to the pressure for the government to pass legislation allowing gays to marry are a series of polls over the past two years showing a slim majority of Canadians believe gays and lesbians should be permitted to marry, and a report from the Liberal Party's own think tank saying the government should legalize gay marriage.
"Marriage for gays and lesbians is inevitable," gay activist John Fisher told 365Gay.com. "There is no choice other than equal marriage under the Constitution".
The approval of gay marriage in Canada would make it the third country in the world to allow gays and lesbians to marry.
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