Monday, December 12, 2005 Person Of The Year

by Doug Windsor, New York Bureau

Posted: December 12, 2005 12:01 am ET

(New York City) The editorial board has named Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin its Person of the Year for 2005 for making Canada the first country in the Americas to legalize same-sex marriage.

Martin came to support gay marriage after months of reservations, but in the end, he stood up against marriage equality opponents in his own Liberal Party, faced off against the Conservative opposition party, and delivered one of the most stirring speeches for equal rights in Canadian parliamentary history.

"We are a nation of minorities," Martin told the House of Common. "And in a nation of minorities, it is important that you don't cherry-pick rights.

"A right is a right and that is what this vote tonight is all about."

After courts in three Canadian provinces declared it unconstitutional to prevent same-sex marriage, Martin's predecessor, Jean Chretien, said the government would bring in same-sex marriage legislation to extend equality from coast to coast. But then Chretien retired, leaving the marriage bill for Martin to deal with.

Faced with a minority government that could fall at any time, and dissent within his own party, Martin could have buried the marriage bill, even though it had the support of two smaller parties - the New Democrats and the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

He acknowledges there was a lot of pressure on him to do that, and that he had concerns about preserving "traditional marriage". What led to his epiphany isn't known. But he quickly picked up the gauntlet and pressed forward.

It cost him a cabinet minister and an MP who quit the party. In the end, though, the measure passed the Commons 158 to 133, went on to pass in the Senate and in July Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

Martin is in the midst of an election campaign. His minority government finally fell and polls show he is likely to be returned in another minority.

For his courage names Paul Martin its Person of the Year.

© 2005


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