Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Same-sex marriage in Canada: We're #4! We're #4!

Bill C-38 has passed. Late last night, the bill to legalize same-sex marriage passed the Senate, our upper house, just a few weeks after it passed the House of Commons. The Globe and Mail reports here:

One of the most raucous debates in Canadian history resulted in a vote that made Canada the fourth country to sanction same-sex marriage on Tuesday.

The Senate erupted in a loud cheer as it adopted the Liberal government's Bill C-38, which will give gay and lesbian couples the right to marry in courthouses and city halls across the country.

The 47-21 vote came after years of court battles and debate that divided families, religious groups and even political allies.

The votes have been quite close -- 158-133 in the House, 47-21 in the more heavily Liberal Senate -- and the issue has divided Canadians despite a clear majority in favour of the legislation and widespread support for same-sex rights across the country. Opposition (and Conservative) Leader Stephen Harper, who is trying to market himself as a viable alternative to Prime Minister Paul Martin and his party as a viable alternative to the Liberals even as he continues to pander to social conservatives on the far right, has threatened to reopen the legislation if he's ever elected, but a recent Strategic Counsel poll indicates that 55% of Canadians support the legislation while only 39% oppose it. Here's the background:

Over the past two years, the courts in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Yukon, and Newfoundland and Labrador have ruled to permit legal same-sex marriages. In December 2004, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of allowing the federal government to go ahead with a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage. The country’s foremost tribunal said the constitution protects the rights of homosexual partners to formalize their bonds.

On Jun. 28, the House of Commons passed the bill that legalizes same-sex marriage in the entire country after a 158-133 vote. Most Liberal, Bloc Québécois and New Democratic Party (NDP) members supported the legislation. The bill is expected to be ratified in the Senate this month, where 64 of the 96 appointed members are Liberals.

On Jun. 29, Canadian prime minister Paul Martin explained his government’s rationale on same-sex marriage, saying, "In a country of minorities, it is crucial that the rights of the minorities be protected and that they not be subject of political whim."

All that remains for the bill to become law is royal assent (a formality in our parliamentary system). When it does, Canada will be the fourth country to sanction same-sex marriage after Belgium, the Netherlands, and, most recently, Spain.

I've said before that this makes me incredibly proud to be a Canadian. This is one day when our country truly shines.

(I've previously discussed same-sex marriage in Canada here and here.)

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