Thursday, January 26, 2006

Disappointment and he's not even sworn in yet!

Same-sex marriage battle may be one Harper is better off losing



OTTAWA (CP) - Stephen Harper says he wants to move quickly as leader of a fractious new Parliament to reopen the same-sex marriage debate.

The makeup of the new House of Commons suggests the prime minister-designate knows there's a good chance such a motion will be rejected.

It would not be a total loss, however. In fact, an honourable defeat on equal marriage would satisfy obligations to Harper's most right-wing supporters while defusing a politically explosive issue.

Winning a vote to wade back through that political quagmire would lead the Conservatives straight into a legal morass, most experts say.

It would also be a costly and perhaps fruitless attempt to redefine marriage as the sole domain of one man, one woman - a fight that would only shine a spotlight on the party's most extreme social conservatives.

Still, Harper has promises to keep to the most traditional members of his team.

He has said he'll put a free-vote motion before Parliament on whether the heterosexual definition of matrimony should be restored.

"I would prefer to do it sooner rather than later - but not immediately," he told a news conference Thursday.

The Conservatives would then craft legislation to that effect should the motion pass in a sharply divided House of Commons.

There are 124 Tory MPs compared to 103 Liberals, 51 Bloc Quebecois, 29 New Democrats and one Independent. Any vote could be close.

But at least one Conservative insider who spoke on condition of anonymity said social moderates in the party would welcome the issue's demise.

"There would be a quiet hurrah."

Sujit Choudhry, a law professor at University of Toronto, was one of 134 academics who signed an open letter challenging Harper's position that the traditional definition of marriage can be restored.

Parliament last summer passed a law allowing gay weddings across Canada after two years of intense debate.

More than 3,000 same-sex couples had already wed after courts in eight provinces and the Yukon cleared the way. Moreover, the highest provincial courts in Quebec, B.C. and Ontario ruled that an exclusively heterosexual definition of marriage violates equality rights.

Harper has stressed that existing gay marriages will be allowed to stand.

But Choudhry and a long list of other experts say new legislation would be a recipe for confusion and fresh legal action.

"It could be a mess," he said in an interview.

"I have to say, I think it's a little bit reckless."

What would happen, Choudhry asked, if some provinces recognized a new law reversing same-sex marriage but others decided to await the outcome of inevitable constitutional challenges?

He also pointed out that the Department of Justice Act will oblige the new Conservative attorney general to assess all government bills for any clash with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Such inconsistencies are to be reported to the House "at the first convenient opportunity," it says.

Martha Jackman, a constitutional law professor at University of Ottawa, says the best outcome would be for a majority of MPs to "resoundingly reject" any bid to reverse gay marriage.

"That would reflect an understanding on their parts that they're obliged to comply with the Constitution - and not just because they've gone back and back to the courts" and lost.


Blogger niwde said...

Watch how the promise tax cut will not happen, health care system will colapse, Canadian troops will be send to fight US's war, and Harper will avoid these issues by attacking gays and abortionist.

It just matter of who are the easy targets.

8:14 PM  

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