Canada to have free vote on reopening gay marriage debate

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Prime Ministers Office announced today there will be a free vote on reopening the gay marriage debate in the House of Commons. Stephen Harper had already talked about having a free vote many times but the date was never set.

The previous government lead by former Liberal leader Paul Martin approved same-sex marriage last year. Harper made this vote one of his promises during the federal election campaign. The 2005 legislation made Canada the fourth country in the world to legalize gay marriage after the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain.

A gay marriage lobby group argued that it was not fair to "leave this issue hanging over our heads" and urged the Conservative government to have a vote soon. "Either get on with the vote or admit that the equal-marriage ship has sailed," Laurie Arron, national co-ordinator of Canadians for Equal Marriage said at a news conference.

It will not directly challenge the existing legislation but it will ask MPs if they would like to reopen the debate.

Because of the composition of the house of commons, the Conservative government's minority status and its lack of allies in the house on this question, the motion is almost sure to be voted down. Many see this motion as a symbolic gesture to satisfy the government's conservative base.

Over 12,000 gay couples have married in Canada since Bill C-38 passed.

The vote will have to happen before December 15, when the MPs go home for the Christmas holidays.