Tuesday, February 01, 2005

On Discussing the Civil Marriage Act

The Civil Marriage Act, or Bill C-38, was introduced in the House of Commons this morning. Since this is probably going to be discussed quite a bit, the Dept. of Justice was thoughtful enough to post a link here.

The site links to the full text of the bill (and which has a printable version here). It also has backgrounds and a FAQ page fully justifying the Martin government's position.

Some initial observations:

-- It's an awfully long preamble, laying out the federal case for the bill. The long-windedness makes the Martin government look like a truant pupil trying to explain why he wants a deadline extension on his homework.

-- The meat of the bill is essentially four paragraphs. Paragraph 2 defines marriage, Paragraph 3 is the "out" clause for churches and other groups, and paragraph 4 says a same-sex marriage can't be delegitimized. (The rest of the bill harmonizes federal laws to conform to the Act when it comes into force.)

-- Paragraphs 2 and 3 are the ones people are going to fight over. To the government's credit, paragraph 2 is simply worded enough that trying to shift it to a "traditional" definition is going to be a losing proposition. Paragraph 3, on the other hand, has a capacity for expansion. While churches may not be forced into performing a same-sex marriage ceremony, church-owned property is a different matter altogether.

-- Paragraph 4 won't be debated just in Parliament; it'll be debated by the provinces. Its implication is that a province (like Alberta) cannot deny marriage rights (such as property inheritance, income tax transfers, child custody, etc.) to a couple married in Quebec just because it's a same-sex union. The question the provinces have will be whether Ottawa can dictate to the provinces on something like that.

It's a bit to think about, but before we watch the fireworks go off, it won't hurt to look at the program. Check the site out.