Friday, April 22, 2005

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

Yesterday, the House of Commons continued debate on Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act. Once again I'm going to summarize the positions of MPs who spoke on this bill, including links to their parliamentary websites in case you want to contact them.

Since people are starting to speak on this for the second time, I've left them out if I've already recorded their positions, unless they've changed their minds. (You can find the previous recordings here, here, here, here and here.)


Hon. Irwin Cotler (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Pro. He finds the main arguments against the bill to be mistaken. He suggests that enacting the traditional definition of marriage would have to involve the notwithstanding clause in order not to invalidate the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. Leaving the issue to the provinces would result in a patchwork of marriage laws. As for religous freedom, the government is already negotiating with the provincial governments to strengthen the religion clauses in their marriage laws.

Mr. Myron Thompson (Wild Rose, CPC): Con. He argues the debate is more about social policy than human rights. He points out that no international human rights document has ever supported a right to same-sex marriage, and since the Supreme Court never ruled on the constitutionality of traditional marriage, the notwithstanding clause isn't necessary.

Mr. Rodger Cuzner (Cape Breton—Canso, Lib.): Con. 82 percent of his constituents oppose any change to the traditional definition of marriage. This was a bigger response than their reactions to Canada's possible involvement in the Iraq war. None of his constituents want to deny rights to gay couples, but they feel the government is moving too fast with this legislation that could cause unforeseen changes in the social fabric.

Mr. Derek Lee (Scarborough—Rouge River, Lib.): Con. Although the bill is called the Civil Marriage Act, he finds that it deals mainly with straight civil marriage, ignoring the sociological aspects of the institution. His constituents, from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds, will not accept the strictly legal/constitutional viewpoints of the courts, believing that equating same-sex and opposite-sex unions will delink the institution from its societal and cultural roles.

Mr. Gary Goodyear (Cambridge, CPC): Con. He considers the notwithstanding clause argument to be merely a distraction. He points out that the lower court decisions involving same-sex marriage involved the common law and not a recently-enacted statute; he has reason to believe the Supreme Court would not declare a law enshrining traditional marriage unconstitutional.

Mr. Pierre Paquette (Joliette, BQ): Pro. The BQ doesn't really have an official position on this issue. He sees the bill as harmonizing the provincial and territorial marriage laws so that they are compatible with the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights and freedoms. He does have a problem with the religious clause in C-38 because it treads on provincial jurisdiction.

Mr. James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake, CPC): Con. He accuses the Liberal government of failing to defend the religious freedoms of those who refuse to perform same-sex marriages on religious grounds. He believes there's room in the law for both traditional and civil unions. He'll vote against the bill because it imposes a new social institution with no respect for faith, cultures or multicultural beliefs.

Mrs. Carole Lavallée (Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, BQ): Pro. The government cannot choose to defend some rights and not others. Since the bill refers only to civil marriages, religious marriages are not a concern. The Supreme Court said that Parliament could legislate on marriage in order to establish legal uniformity. Parliamentarians have to respect that all people in society have a right to equal access to happiness, including through the institution of marriage.

Mr. Brian Jean (Fort McMurray—Athabasca, CPC): Con. He won't support any legislation that infringes on the rights of Canadians. The mail he's received from his constituents runs more than 100 to 1 in favor of traditional marriage. He'll support a civil union and stronger religious protections.

Mr. Russ Powers (Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, Lib.): Pro. He believes the bill achieves a balance between granting equality rights and protecting religous freedoms. He finds the bill defines civil marriage without affecting holy matrimony.

Ms. Nicole Demers (Laval, BQ): Pro. She notes how society has progressed since the early 1970's and the heyday of the women's movement. Society is now at the point where it can recognize gay people without penalty; now it needs to go further. People have a right to be happy and to choose the person they want to live with. She's sure that most Canadians are prepared to accept SSM.

Mr. Richard Harris (Cariboo—Prince George, CPC): Con. He points out a huge segment of the populace supports the traditional definition of marriage. He suggests that if the definition is changed, then the role of raising children in a marriage becomes less important. He notes that the lower courts have only overturned the common-law understanding of marriage, not the traditional definition.

Mr. Claude Bachand (Saint-Jean, BQ): Pro. He considers himself pretty open-minded as far as SSM is concerned. While he believes in the supremacy of Parliament, sometimes the courts have to make judgments in grey areas, and that's what happened in the case of SSM. He doesn't believe this bill will deprive others of their rights.

Hon. Hedy Fry (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lib.): Pro. She cautions that if the bill does not pass, other legislation may be needed that would involve using the notwithstanding clause. She also knows the bill enjoys support from the unions as well as some religious groups in her riding.


The score today: Pro 7, Con 7.
So far: Con 59, Pro 30.