Friday, March 25, 2005

Same-Sex Marriage: The MPs' Roundup, Part Two

Yesterday the House of Commons continued debating Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act. Once again, I've summarized the statements of MPs who spoke on the Act, and I've included links to their Parliamentary web page (which includes their e-mail addresses) so folks can weigh in to them directly.


Mr. Mark Holland (Ajax—Pickering, Lib.): Pro. He's a big believer in equality; he's talked with younger gays and lesbians in his riding, and believes it's unfair that they don't have the right to marry because someone else thinks it's a bad idea. His aunt is lesbian, and he doesn't understand how giving her the right to marry harms his own family. He doesn't support civil unions because the term doesn't carry the same weight as "marriage" does.

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP): Pro. She's been married for 34 years and regards her relationship as an asset, of the type that shouldn't be denied to gays and lesbians. As a member of the United Church of Canada, she regards SSM as representative of the Christian ideal of inclusive love. She remembers hearing the same arguments as a member of the Manitoba legislature in 1987, when sexual orientation was included in provincial human rights legislation.

Hon. Gurbax Malhi (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Lib.): Con. He thinks it's a myth that the SSM debate is divided among generational lines; he's received several letters from constituents aged 10-20 supporting his stand. He argues that differences in society don't constitute inequality; a woman isn't discriminated against just because she's not allowed in the men's washroom. He points out that many religious organizations favor the traditional definition of marriage because such a union needs the contributions of both sexes.

Mr. Dean Allison (Niagara West—Glanbrook, CPC): Con. He's following the wishes of his constituents, having received thousands of letters from them. He suggests that the Liberal government is bringing this bill forward to distract Canadians from its other problems. He says the people who oppose changing the definition are Canadian and have Canadian values such as democracy, who deserve to have their voices heard in Parliament, and scolds the Prime Minister for suggesting otherwise.

Hon. Marlene Jennings (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Canada—U.S.), Lib.): Pro. A black woman, she's been married to a white man for 31 years, so she understands the pain of discrimination. She's not speaking to MPs who've pretty much made up their minds, but to Canadians who are on the fence on this issue. She points out the bill amends the definition of civil marriage, not religious marriage, and is a reflection of growing acceptance of gays and lesbians in Canadian society.

Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, CPC): Con. He says that traditional marriage has a social purpose not present in other relationships, and that to remove the idea of heterosexuality will affect those who are shaped by the institution. He blasts the Liberal government for breaking promises on SSM, saying the Supreme Court of Canada never declared the traditional definition of marriage to be unconstitutional as the government claims. His party plans to bring forward amendments to strength religious protections in the bill, since provincial human rights commissions cannot be trusted to protect religion.

Mr. John Cannis (Scarborough Centre, Lib.): Con. He chides the preceding two Tory MPs for attacking the government, but admits that 94% of his constituents who wrote him want to keep the traditional definition of marriage. He points out the ramifications of changing the definition, including the need to harmonize provincial adoption laws. He points out that attacking the government is pointless because under the free vote for backbenchers, the Liberals don't have enough to pass the legislation.

Mr. Russ Hiebert (South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, CPC): Con. He says the Liberals don't have a mandate to proceed with this legislation, accusing them of having a hidden agenda by funding court challenges to provincial definitions of marriage. He says the bill threatens the rights of parents to have their children educated as they see fit, because advocates will try to force same-sex issues onto the public school curriculum. He calls the bill neither constitutionally required nor publicly desired.

Mr. Bernard Patry (Pierrefonds—Dollard, Lib.): Pro. He sees his support as part of an MP's duty to improve the quality of life for people in Canadian society, and to promote tolerance. As a doctor, he's seen the effect of prejudice and discrimination on the health and well-being of his patients; while this bill won't solve all of society's problems, it's a significant step towards improving the well-being of one group of citizens.

Mr. Brian Pallister (Portage—Lisgar, CPC): Con. He points out that there are important differences between same-sex and opposite-sex unions, and to ignore those differences would be to act in confusion. He doesn't buy the government's commitment to protecting religious freedoms since it has a history of equating religion with intolerance and acting accordingly. He defends the idea of civil unions by denying that "different but equal" is discrimination.

Mr. Brent St. Denis (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, Lib.): Pro. He supports it because recent court rulings made the issue a matter of respecting rights. The bill is necessary to prevent the balkanization of provincial marriage laws as a result of provincial court judgements. He also draws a distinction between civil and religious marriage, and states that marriage is an institution that belongs to all of society, and it shouldn't be tied down by tradition.

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, CPC): Con. Her stance is based on protecting religious freedoms and the freedom to speak without fearing persecution. She blasts the Prime Minister for forcing cabinet members to support the bill. She also considers the bill a diversion away from Liberal government mismanagement.

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Pro. The former leader of the New Democrats reminds her colleagues that SSM support is part of the NDP platform. She doesn't believe that changing the definition would weaken the institution and that Canadians would be better off if more people could embrace the marital tradition and be able to live in a marital relationship.

Mr. Francis Scarpaleggia (Lac-Saint-Louis, Lib.): Con. He believes traditional marriage has features that make it a unique designation. Speaking in terms of political liberal philosophy (i.e. the state being subservient to individual will), he things C-38 oversteps the bounds of the marriage issue by taking away the role of marriage in bridging the generation and gender gaps. He proposes a 2-step civil registry option: a civil licensing ceremony followed by a public ritual that could be performed by religious officials.

Mr. Bob Mills (Red Deer, CPC): Con. His constituents feel that there are more important issues to deal with than SSM. He doesn't believe that this government can guarantee protection of religious freedoms with C-38; for example, it won't protect marriage commissioners who refuse to perform marriages because of their beliefs. It also doesn't protect religions who have other requirements for marriage vows besides civil ones.

Hon. Sarmite Bulte (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Pro. She suggests that Canadian society has evolved considerably since the written definition of marriage first appeared in 1866. She equates the SSM debate to those of 1918, giving women the right to vote. She believes that amending the definition would be a reflection of Canadian values of fairness, equality and non-discrimination.

Mr. Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, CPC): Con. He chides the government for allowing the courts to drive this issue. He defends traditional marriage as a vital, integrated force in society, but it is not a human right. He feels that redefining marriage would threaten freedom of religion, which is itself a Charter right, and points to examples where the SSM issue has had a negative impact on religious matters. He finally urges the Prime Minister to allow cabinet members to have a free vote on the issue.

Hon. Paul DeVillers (Simcoe North, Lib.): Pro. He considers SSM and equality and minority rights issue, and he's explained that to his constituents. He has stronger faith in the ability of C-38 to protect religion, pointing out that no one has ever compelled the Catholic Church in Canada to ordain women despite their having equal rights under the Charter. He's skeptical about using the "notwithstanding" clause of the Charter to set aside civil marriage, since that could set a precedent that threatens minority language rights.

Mr. Randy Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, CPC): Con. He doesn't consider SSM to be a fundamental human right, based on the UN Covenant and Declaration of Human Rights. He suggests that if marriage is inherently a heterosexual union, then it is not discriminatory to exclude same-sex couples from it. He also believes there will be unintended consequences from changing the definition of marriage.

Hon. Tony Ianno (Minister of State (Families and Caregivers), Lib.): Pro. He thinks the resolution of SSM will have a big impact on the role of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canadian life. The Charter exists to protect the weakest in our society; extending rights to them does not take away rights from anyone else. He also fears that using the "notwithstanding" clause to preserve marriage would set a dangerous precedent with regard to minority rights under the Charter.

Mr. Tony Martin (Sault Ste. Marie, NDP): Pro. (His comments came after Statements by Members and Oral Question Period.) He considers civil SSM an issue of justice. As a practicing Catholic, he loves and respects his church to feel confident about telling its leadership when it's wrong. He's aware that a lot of constituents in his riding are opposed to C-38, but he believes it's a step forward in a continuing evolution of society. He doesn't like the Conservative idea of same-sex civil union because it's devoid of the tradition and symbolism that make marriage a memorable institution.


So for 24 March, ths score would be Con 11, Pro 10.
Total so far this week: Con 19, Pro 14.

The House adjourned yesterday and resumes sitting on Monday, 4th April. So this isn't over yet by a long shot.