Saturday, April 23, 2005

Canada's Gay Marriage Bill All But Dead

by Ben Thompson Ottawa Bureau

(Ottawa) Canada's largest LGBT civil rights group Friday was preparing for a battle over same-sex marriage in a federal election campaign expected to begin next month.

In a desperate bid to save his minority government Prime Minister Paul Martin apologized to Canadians Thursday for a scandal that has riveted the country with new revelations of graft and corruption almost daily.

In a speech likened to Richard Nixon's 1952 'Checkers Speech' a contrite Martin begged for time to allow the inquiry into the sponsorship scandal to complete its work.

"I commit to you tonight that I will call a general election within 30 days of the publication of the commission's final report and recommendations,'' Martin said in the first national TV address by a Prime Minister in a decade.

The report is not due out until fall, and Canada's opposition parties Friday were chomping at the bit.

A motion of non confidence in the government was filed Friday. The first possible date it could come to a vote in the Commons is May 18. The motion is an amendment to a routine finance committee paper. If it passes, the government will fall.

If that occurs the same-sex marriage legislation will die, and Canadians will go to the polls - likely in mid to late June.

Same-sex marriage is already legal in 7 of Canada's 10 provinces and one of the three territories. The legalization before Parliament would extend that to the rest of Canada.

"I think that given where marriage legislation is a later election would be ideal but I'm not holding my breath," Egale executive director Gilles Marchildon told

"We're gearing up for a June election."

Public opinion polls show the Liberals' popularity has dropped to an all time low and if an election were held today the opposition Conservatives would win easily.

Earlier this month Conservative leader Stephen Harper, speaking at a rally of some 15,000 evangelical Christians, Catholics and Muslims on Parliament Hill, vowed that if his party is elected to govern he would would abolish same-sex marriage - even in those provinces where courts have declared it legal. (story)

The next day, two leading constitutional law experts said that the only way Harper could achieve that would be by using the so-called 'notwithstanding clause' - a section of the Constitution which allows governments to opt out of sections of the document and must be renewed every five years. (story)

With the clock in the Peace Tower high above Parliament Hill ticking down the days of the Liberal government, a final push is being made to get the marriage bill through Parliament.

A final vote in the Commons may be moved up ahead of the confidence motion but the measure still needs the approval of the Senate which, under ideal conditions, could be done in about a week after the Commons acts. But, most observers believe it would be impossible to get the legislation through in time.

© 2005


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