Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Canada Becomes 1st New World Country To Legalize Gay marriage

by Ben Thompson 365Gay.com Ottawa Bureau

Posted: July 20, 2005 12:30 am ET
Updated 11:00 am ET

(Ottawa) With the stroke of a vice-regal pen Canada becomes the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

The federal government's gay marriage legislation passed its final hurdle shortly before midnight following a raucous, emotional debate in the Senate. (story)

The final word in the debate came from Ione Christensen, the 71-year-old Liberal senator from the Yukon. To a hushed chamber Chistensen read an e-mail from a constituent.

"You have no idea what a difference it makes to the human spirit to know that you are treated equally under the law,'' the e-mail said.

With that, members of the upper chamber were called in for a three-minute vote that came after about three years of political and legal battles.

The Senate voted 47-21 to pass the bill that allows civil marriage for same-sex couples. Three senators abstained. There are currently 95 sitting senators and 10 vacancies in the appointed upper house.

When the vote was tallied the chamber erupted in a loud cheer.

"I'm so proud to be Canadian," Laurie Aaron, executive director of Canadians for Equal Marriage told 365Gay.com

"This is a country where quality, inclusion and mutual respect are so important."

The legislation sailed through the House of Commons on June 28. (story)

The law affects the four regions of Canada where same-sex marriage has not already been declared legal by courts.

"Same-sex, same rights,'' said Liberal Senator Jim Munson following the vote.

Conservatives in the chamber had attempted to using stalling tactics to delay passage until fall hoping it could then be put off until an election is called in the winter. The Liberals, however, refused to budge. After a threat of invoking cloture - the process of cutting off debate - the measure was put to a vote.

Tories are still threatening to derail gay marriage. Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper has said he would bring in legislation to repeal gay marriage an convert those already performed to civil unions.

While opposition to same-sex marriage worked for US President George Bush in last November's election two recent polls shows the approach appears to be having an opposite effect in Canada.

One poll shows the Liberals have bounced back and hold a 10 percentage point lead over the Conservatives. If an election were held today the numbers would give the Liberals a majority government

The other survey shows that Canadians have become comfortable with same-sex marriage. (story) The Globe & Mail/CTV poll shows that 55 percent of Canadians surveyed say the next government should let same-sex legislation stand. Only 39 percent said they would like to see an attempt made to repeal it.

Same-sex marriage already is legal in 8 of Canada's 10 provinces and one of the three territories.

The government of Prince Edward Island, one of the two provinces impacted by the new law, has already said that it will amend dozens of laws affecting families to conform to the new definition of marriage.

Alberta, the other province, had fought the legislation but now says it will not challenge the federal law. The conservative province, however says it will bring in legislation to allow civil servants and marriage commissioners who oppose gay marriage to refuse to perform the ceremonies.

The law makes Canada the fourth country - after Holland, Belgium and Spain, and the first in the Americas - to legalize same-sex marriage.

©365Gay.com 2005

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