Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 27, 2005
Same-sex bill tops Grit agenda
Liberal determined to pass Bill C-38 through Parliament before recess
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
Despite what a pro-traditional marriage Liberal MP described as "wink, wink, nod, nod" assurances from the prime minister that same-sex marriage Bill C-38 would be postponed to the fall, the Liberal government has now signaled its determination to pass the bill before the summer break.
On June 20, Liberal House Leader Tony Valeri put forward a motion to extend the sitting of the House of Commons well into July, and if that motion fails (the vote was June 22 after press time), he said he will ask the Speaker to recall the House, something that has historically happened only in matters of urgent national interest.
Already, the House has extended hours of debate to midnight every night, a grinding schedule designed to pass Bill C-48-the $4.6 billion in extra social spending the Liberals promised the NDP for their support.
Attorney General Irwin Cotler told journalists June 21 he would like to see the same-sex marriage bill adopted by the House and move on to the Senate.
"That's my objective and that's the government's objective," he said, noting passage was possible if the Conservatives did not resort to obstructionist tactics.
"Everybody who's wanted to speak has been able to speak," he said. "Everything that needs to be said has been said. What is now necessary is for us to reflect and represent the democratic will and adopt the legislation."
Conservative Justice Critic Vic Toews, however, described the committee hearings as an "outrage" and a "disgrace."
"This government and a parliamentary secretary to the justice minister knew, all along, that this bill is un-amendable," Toews told the committee June 15. "We've insulted 60 witnesses who came here to give us technical evidence on the bill."
Toews introduced 18 substantive amendments to the bill, but on June 15, the committee, dominated by same-sex marriage supporters, ruled them inadmissible.
But the committee added two amendments that even backbench Liberals say aren't strong enough to protect freedom of religion and conscience.
Both Conservative and Liberal MPs have introduced amendments now that the bill is at the report stage. Liberal MP Dan McTeague (Pickering-Scarborough East), a Roman Catholic, told CCN June 21 the amendments the legislative committee proposed "aren't good enough."
McTeague predicted that without strong federal protection for freedom of conscience and religion, the bill, once it becomes law, could be used to "further assail" religions that do not accept same-sex marriage.
Gay activist complains
Kevin Bourassa, a Toronto gay activist, recently said that churches not supporting same-sex marriage should lose their tax exemption.
McTeague said while he did not want to see the bill pushed through, most of his colleagues do not want same-sex marriage to be an election issue.
Though some Liberal backbenchers said they would refuse to vote in favour of extending hours, pro-traditional marriage Liberal MP John McKay said he would vote in favour in order to get the budget bill passed.
"I think we're winning the public debate, but we'll lose the vote (on C-38)," he told CCN June 21.
In a media scrum earlier that day, McKay said he would prefer to see the vote postponed until the fall, but with Bloc Quebecois and NDP support, "the votes are pretty clear."
"I'll continue to speak out against it: I think the bill is a disaster," McKay said.
At a June 21 dinner in London, Ont., former Liberal now independent MP Pat O'Brien urged approximately 80 Church leaders to stay involved in the fight.
Don't be lukewarm
O'Brien left the Liberals over same-sex marriage. According to the June 22 London Free Press, O'Brien said: "Polygamy, euthanasia and religious freedom - they are the next issues. Please stay involved."
"Don't get discouraged, don't withdraw," he said. "The hottest place in hell is reserved for the lukewarm."
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