Canadian House of Commons approves same-sex marriage

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

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In a 158 to 133 vote of the House of Commons held Tuesday night, Canadian MPs have approved the legalization of same-sex weddings in Canada. Assuming the Senate passes Bill C-38 and the Governor General gives royal assent, Canada will become the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex weddings after the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain. The bill presented to the House of Commons by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Paul Martin has passed mainly because of support by the left-wing New Democratic Party of Jack Layton and the support of the separatist Bloc Québécois, which enabled it to overcome the staunch opposition of the Conservative Party.

Votes in House of Commons on Bill C-38
Group For Against Absentees Total
Liberal cabinet 36 0 1 37
Liberal backbench 59 32 3 95
Conservatives 3 93 2 98
Bloc Québécois 43 5 6 54
NDP 17 1 1 19
Independents 0 2 2 4
Totals 158 133 16 307

While this vote is historic, gay weddings had already been legalized by the Supreme Courts of most Canadian provinces. The C-38 bill now extends these rulings to the rest of Canada, namely to the provinces of Alberta, Prince Edward Island, and the territory of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

The adoption of this bill ends a longstanding political and judicial debate in Canada, with the House of Commons referring the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada last year, only to have it handed back to them by the judges. If the debate has just been closed in a political sense, gay rights continue to create tensions between Canadians, since support for gay weddings comes mainly from Quebec and Ontario and parts of British Columbia while the Maritimes and Prairie provinces are mostly against them.

Those tensions have also been felt in the House of Commons itself, when Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper said on Monday, anticipating that the C-38 bill would be adopted, that the vote would "lack in legitimacy" since the bill would pass because of an unnatural alliance between the federalist Liberals and the separatist Bloc Québécois. This partisan view of gay rights has been strongly condemned, especially by Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe who said that MPs from his party were democratically elected and as legitimate as any in parliament. Others called Harper a hypocrite, pouncing on the fact that he never raised any such objections allying with the Bloc in the previous month's confidence votes. Prior to the vote, Joe Comuzzi announced his resignation from the Liberal cabinet because of his opposition to gay weddings and the fact that Liberal cabinet members were required to vote the party line in this case.