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canadian parliament split over gay marriage

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/19/international/americas/19canada.html?th Internal Splits Emerge in Canadian Parties Over Gay Marriage By CLIFFORD KRAUSS
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 19, 2004

      Internal Splits Emerge in Canadian Parties Over Gay

      Published: December 19, 2004

      TORONTO, Dec. 18 - A week after the Supreme Court gave
      the government the constitutional go-ahead to expand
      marriage rights to gays and lesbians, a bitter battle
      has emerged in Parliament that is creating deep
      fissures in the Liberal and Conservative parties.

      Polls indicate that a comfortable majority of
      Canadians actively support or passively accept
      legislation being prepared by Prime Minister Paul
      Martin to redefine marriage across the country.
      Already courts in six provinces and one territory, all
      told including 85 percent of the population of nearly
      32 million, have struck down old marriage laws to
      allow gays and lesbians to marry. Only minor protests
      have occurred.

      But pockets of dissent have emerged in rural areas and
      suburbs of Toronto with heavy immigrant and Muslim
      populations, putting as much as one-quarter of the
      governing Liberal caucus in the House of Commons in a
      political quandary. Mr. Martin has said that Liberal
      backbenchers may vote their conscience but that
      cabinet members must toe the party line in favor of
      the legislation.

      Already two members of the cabinet have said they may
      have to resign and vote against the government. A few
      defections from the cabinet, however, would probably
      not jeopardize final passage of the marriage
      legislation, which will be introduced when Parliament
      comes back into session late next month. The majority
      of Liberals supporting the bill will be joined by
      nearly all the members of the opposition Bloc
      Qu�b�cois and New Democratic Party along with a few
      Conservative members.

      The greatest rancor has surfaced in the Conservative
      Party, which united social conservatives, libertarian
      conservatives and moderates from two parties last

      Stephen Harper, the Conservative leader from Alberta,
      personally opposes expanding marriage rights, but he
      has tried to soft-pedal the issue to win more urban
      support and become competitive in socially liberal
      Quebec in national elections that could come next

      His centrist stance has generated an outcry from
      right-wing Conservatives led by the Alberta premier,
      Ralph Klein, who said he was considering starting a
      national crusade to save the traditional definition of
      marriage. "I'd like to see Stephen be more definitive
      in his actions," Mr. Klein said.

      Mr. Klein called on Mr. Harper to press the House of
      Commons to enact a rarely used constitutional loophole
      known as the "notwithstanding clause" enabling the
      legislature to override constitutional rights. Such a
      measure would overturn the lower court rulings in
      favor of same-sex marriage, although it stands
      virtually no chance of passage and would be viewed by
      many as a trampling of the Charter of Rights and
      Freedoms, Canada's Bill of Rights.

      Mr. Martin has tried to exploit the split by accusing
      Mr. Harper of "a lack of courage and clear lack of
      leadership" and complimenting Mr. Klein for at least
      being "intellectually honest" to speak his mind.

      Mr. Harper has said he plans to introduce amendments
      to the marriage legislation that would preserve the
      traditional definition of marriage as a bond between a
      man and a woman, guarantee equal rights and benefits
      for gay couples, and protect religious institutions
      that refuse to perform weddings for same-sex couples.

      But without enacting the notwithstanding clause, Mr.
      Harper's amendments would not have force in the
      jurisdictions that already allow same-sex marriage
      representing that vast majority of Canadians.
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