Wednesday, April 06, 2005

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

We continue the summaries of MPs' statements on Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act. This round is taken from the Hansard of Tuesday, 5 April. Links to MPs' parliamentary web pages are included in case you want to contact them directly.

Remember that Tory Leader Stephen Harper has proposed an amendment to the bill that has not yet been accepted. The assumption is that an MP who speaks for the amendment will vote against the bill if the amendment doesn't pass.


Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP): Pro. The leader of the New Democrats says the bill expresses the fundamental Canadian value of equality, something not currently experienced by gays and lesbians since not all provinces and territories recognize SSM. He points out a specific example that the bill is meant to remedy: one of his friends is denied pension benefits in spite of his 28-year union with his partner.

Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, CPC): Con. He doesn't believe that SSM would advance Canadians' well-being. He questions whether the Canadian government and the courts have the right to alter the definition of marriage at all: since marriage is a concept that existed before governments, it's an institution that governments have no right to change. "This government is breaking new ground, but it is breaking it on private property."

Ms. Monique Guay (Rivière-du-Nord, BQ): Pro. She says the bill affirms the Charter position that people have the right to be happy. She points out the weakness of Conservatives' arguments: if a couple don't want to have children, then according to Tory positions they shouldn't have the right to marry in the first place. She points out the bill is necessary to protect the property rights of same-sex couples. She welcomes the opportunity to vote because this is an issue that's being dragged on for too long.

Mr. Dave Batters (Palliser, CPC): Con. His constituents want him to preserve the traditional definition of marriage, but will accept a compromise position, the one put forth in Stephen Harper's amendment. He argues that this position is consistent with those in Sweden, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland and parts of Italy.

Hon. Carolyn Bennett (Minister of State (Public Health), Lib.): Pro. She says that partners of the same sex must not be denied the ability to enjoy and formalize one of life's most significant relationships. She's sympathetic to the arguments of United Church of Canada moderator Peter Short, who supports SSM. She points out that marriage is not just for religious people. She finds the notion of civil unions to be akin to two-tiered marriage, which she finds unacceptable.

Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, CPC): Con. She recognizes that the state cannot prevent two people from entering into a formal union, and that same-sex couples are entitled to the same benefits as opposite-sex couples, but the federal government's proposed redefinition would ignore societal and religious traditions. She finds that the clause intended to protect religious freedoms has no power. "Traditional religious belief systems and secular values must be recognized in an equitable and thoughtful manner."

Mr. David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre, NDP): Pro. He says the bill is consistent with the Charter. He has the support of several labour organizations which support SSM. After being heckled for being a dreamer [shame on you, Mr. Hanger--Ed.], he acknowledges it because his dreams are of what the country can be. He dislikes the civil union option because it brings to mind the segregated school system in the U.S. which has since been declared unconstitutional.

Mr. Art Hanger (Calgary Northeast, CPC): Con. The heckler lumps SSM in with decriminalization of marijuana and prostitution, accusing the Liberals and NDP of using the Charter to justify their positions. He differs from his party in that he wants this issue settled with a national referendum. He things passage of this bill will open the door to all sorts of religious persecution based on political correctness. "The Constitution says Parliament can legally define marriage, but that legal recognition reflects what marriage is, not what some social engineers want it to be."

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Pro. He points out that the courts have already struck down provincial attempts to ban SSM. He likens the Tory position to that of the U.S. politicians who supported segregation. He thinks the bill's protection clause will be effective: "Will the status of marriage be any less? Will people in heterosexual marriages lose any of the financial, legal or social benefits of marriage? Will people who are already married feel less married? Will various religious institutions be forced to perform same sex marriages? The answer to all of these questions is unequivocally no."

Mr. Rob Anders (Calgary West, CPC): Con. Quoting several references from John Stuart Mill, he concludes that the philosopher would have opposed civil unions. He also gives several examples from ancient history writings showing that when traditional family institutions were celebrated, civilization flourished; when they were ignored, civilizations fell.

Mr. Norman Doyle (St. John's East, CPC): Con. He thinks changing the definition would do marriage a grave injustice. He considers marriage a spiritual union, which is why so many churches reject this bill. He points out no provincial government has agreed to pass legislation protecting religious organizations or individuals who refuse to sanction SSM.

Mr. Guy Lauzon (Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, CPC): Con. His constituents oppose this bill overwhelmingly; more to the point, they don't believe a civil official should be disciplined for refusing to sanction SSM if it goes against his religious beliefs. He believes the Harper amendment will give same sex couples the same rights and benefits as married couples without trying to legislate the definition of marriage. He disagrees that the issue is about love and commitment: "Nobody needs the support of the state to live in a loving, committed relationship. The state must never get into the business of validating people's affections for one another."

Mr. Steven Fletcher (Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, CPC): Con. His constituents believe that marriage is a basic heterosexual institution but that same sex couples also have rights to equality within society. He supports the Harper amendment as a compromise that the majority of Canadians will accept.

Mr. Jim Abbott (Kootenay—Columbia, CPC): Con. He says the debate isn't about equality or equality rights, but the expropriation of "marriage." Gay and straight unions are equal before the law, but they are not the same. To redefine marriage as this bill does is to rob the word of its deeper symbolism as a foundation for the family. He also considers the bill a frontal attack on the religious freedoms of Canadians.

Mr. James Lunney (Nanaimo—Alberni, CPC): Con. Most of the people in his riding want to keep the traditional definition of marriage. As a Christian, he finds the bill to be a direct assault on freedom of religion. He notes the public pressure on Christians and others of faith to keep their views private, considering it a form of persecution.

Mr. Jeff Watson (Essex, CPC): Con. He points out the debate is the result of a Liberal policy decision, since the Supreme Court neither struck down traditional marriage as unconstitutional nor directed the government to change the definition. He knows from personal experience and a study of history that traditional marriage has always benefitted society: "The government has the power and duty to recognize this. It does not however have the power to change it. " He believes the bill will also threaten the concept of rule of law, since people will not respect the law of the law doesn't reflect their values.

Mr. Inky Mark (Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, CPC): Con. His constituents oppose changing the traditional definition of marriage. They, and he, are puzzled that this debate has a priority when there are other pressing issues to tackle, such as health care. He points out that other countries recognized same-sex unions while keeping the traditional definition. The clergy in his riding have no confidence that the Supreme Court would rule in their favour if a dispute came up under this act.

Mr. Andrew Scheer (Regina—Qu'Appelle, CPC): Con. He thinks passage of the bill will expand the intrusion of government in daily life. He argues that since the Supreme Court did not rule on same-sex marriage as a Charter right, by silence it upheld the status quo. He suggests that "marriage" cannot apply to a same-sex union because there is no inherent foundation for children. He considers the clause protecting freedom of religion to be meaningless since the solemnization of marriage is a provincial function.


The score today: Pro 5, Con 13.
So far: Con 43, Pro 20.