Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Canada's Turn to Play

Canada's Parliament displays more intricate and theatrical politics about same-sex marriage all the time. While the current session has not extended beyond the scheduled closing next week, pressures to pass the budget and countrywide same-sex marriage are high.

We U.S. North Americans can only look with envy at the governments who can toss an unpopular leader with a simply legislative vote. We get Shrub for four years at a time and impeachment is far too daunting. Meanwhile, the Conservatives in Ottawa make the usual threats of votes of confidence because Prime Minister Paul Martin is flat-out for the marriages. He doesn't have a majority of the 308 House of Commons members, but his coalition does. Meanwhile, all but four Conservatives are against same-sex marriage.

Can they not have noticed that one after another of the provinces, assemblies and courts, have legalized gay marriage (7 and 1 territory so far). It is like a mirror of the United States, where the people have largely enacted DoMA amendments or laws. Perhaps the Canadian brains are preserved better by the cold, as the chilly New England states favor gay rights, civil unions and same-sex marriage.

Martin says he is sick of fooling with the bill...and that he has the votes in his caucus to pass it today. He intends to bring it to a vote this session. The budget bills must pass first and then if necessary, the session must extend.

The Globe and Mail writes that "(s)ome Liberal MPs have said they want the issue brought to a vote, in part because they aren't eager to debate it with their constituents all summer, and in part because they don't want it lagging as an election issue next spring."

One ameliorating effort has failed so far. To placate Liberals who were critical of such marriages, an amendment proposed to exempt churches that will not perform same-sex marriages from losing their charitable tax status. That's a common bogeyman of the right here, even though U.S. discrimination statutes always include exemptions letting a broad range of religious groups be as bigoted as they want. Our only exceptions are for non-religious services and sales, and for where they take government money.

The Commons Speaker Peter Milliken (a Liberal) rejected the amendment.

CTV reports that the Conservatives are still pushing for extended civil unions, "something legal experts say will not pass constitutional muster." Also if C-38 loses in Parliament, the court rules that allow same-sex marriage stay in effect. One way or another, the Tories seem intent on losing this one, probably without grace or civility.

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