Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 6, 2005
Same-sex marriage bill on hold
Compromise postpones passage of the bill
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
While the Liberal government had been hoping to get same-sex marriage legislation passed before the summer break, a compromise reached May 30 may postpone final passage of Bill C-38 until the fall.
In a move that journalists are describing as a coup for the Tories, members of the special legislative committee looking at same-sex marriage Bill C-38 arrived at a compromise that will return the bill to the House of Commons June 16 for third reading.
That makes it unlikely the bill will go through the House and to the Senate before the summer break June 23.
In return, Conservative Justice Critic Vic Toews will be able to invite an additional 22 witnesses, including Calgary Bishop Fred Henry, the Catholic Civil Rights League and a number of Catholic lawyers and academic experts on marriage and religious freedom.
"This is the best we're going to get," Toews said in an interview.
Toews had been filibustering the committee until he got the additional witnesses, but admitted to CCN his delaying tactics might only have carried him through the next week.
However, he described the compressed afternoon and evening hearings to accommodate the extra witnesses as "lip service" to the promises that Prime Minister Paul Martin had made to pro-family Liberal MP Pat O'Brien to keep him from leaving caucus.
Toews said he was disappointed that none of the supporters of traditional marriage from any of the other parties came to his assistance when he used delaying tactics to prevent the speedy passage of the bill through the committee.
However, O'Brien told the May 31 Globe and Mail: "What's the rush about this bill? What's magical about getting it through the House of Commons by the end of June? I don't think there's a good answer to that."
O'Brien told the Globe he was pleased with the compromise, but said, "If this is hour after hour of witnesses being rushed through when MPs are not there or half asleep when they are there, then I still have some questions about how meaningful (their testimony) will be."
O'Brien is one of 35 pro-traditional marriage Liberal MPs now being targeted by Defend Marriage Canada (which includes the Catholic Civil Rights League, Real Women of Canada, Campaign Life Coalition and the Canadian Family Action Coalition) in lobbying efforts to get them to put principle ahead of politics.
Defend Marriage Canada (defendmarriage.ca) is lobbying these MPs asking them to threaten to withdraw support in upcoming confidence motions if Bill C-38 is rushed through the House.
Toews' list of witnesses will mostly focus on the dangers that Bill C-38 poses to religious freedom.
In addition to Henry, who now faces two human rights complaints, Toews is calling B.C. school counsellor Chris Kempling, who was recently suspended for writing letters to the editor critical of homosexuality.
Toews has said that the Conservatives want to make sure that charitable tax status is protected for those churches which refuse to marry same-sex couples.
Toews told the May 30 National Post that he believes the loss of charitable status is inevitable if the bill passes without amendments.
"They'll say, 'Well, you've got the right to refuse, but since you're discriminating in a manner that's similar to racism, that is the equation that is being made here and the arguments, you're not entitled to these kind of income tax benefits,'" Toews told the Post.