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MPs defeat bid to reopen same-sex marriage debate
Motion tabled by Tories falls 175-123
Last Updated: Thursday, December 7, 2006 | 6:56 PM ET
A motion to reopen the same-sex marriage debate was easily defeated in Parliament on Thursday, as expected.
MPs voted 175-123 against the controversial motion tabled by the ruling Conservatives.
The motion had asked the government to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages.
The Liberal and Conservative parties allowed their members to vote freely, and there were some surprises.
Twelve Tories — including cabinet ministers Peter MacKay, David Emerson, John Baird, Jim Prentice, Lawrence Cannon and Josée Verne — broke from party lines and voted against the motion.
"It was simply a matter that I felt had received fair discussion and airing in the House of Commons and other venues, and I feel there are other pressing matters before the Canadian people and certainly before this chamber right now," MacKay said after the vote.
Most Liberals present gave the motion the thumbs down. Among them were Joe Comuzzi, who gave up his cabinet post in 2005 so he could vote against a same-sex marriage bill proposed by the Liberal government.
Thirteen Liberals supported the motion.
All Bloc Québécois and NDP members present voted against Thursday's motion, as their party leaders had directed.
Since Prime Minister Stephen Harper said a free vote — promised during January's general election campaign — would settle the matter, the vote should put an end to parliamentary wrangling about same-sex marriage.
"We made a promise to have a free vote on this issue; we kept that promise, and obviously the vote was decisive and obviously we'll accept the democratic result of the people's representatives," Harper said Thursday following the vote. "I don't see reopening this question in the future."
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said Harper must now accept defeat.
"It was the wrong move to question the rights of the people and to try to override the Charter [of . He must not be very proud of that."
Victory bittersweet, activist says
Laurie Arron, national co-ordinator for Canadians for Equal Marriage, said the victory is bittersweet.
He said he's pleased the vote was defeated, and by such a large margin, but it's unfortunate the issue came up at all. He said he and others already fought hard to have same-sex marriages legalized in Canada in 2005.
"I'm relieved that we're not going to have to fight this battle again," he told CBC News Online. "This issue's been debated to death. I'm glad today it's finally laid to rest."
Same-sex marriage became legal in Canada last year when the Liberal government passed Bill C-38 in response to a series of court rulings that said gays had the right to marry.
That bill passed 158-133.
Thirty-two Liberals voted against it, while 95 supported it. Only three Conservatives gave the bill the thumbs up.
Thursday's motion hollow, Liberals say
Liberals called this most recent motion hollow because, even if it had passed, it would not have struck down the right of gays to marry.
Most constitutional lawyers have said the only way the Tories could change the law would be to invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, something Harper has said he would not do.
Charles McVety, head of the conservative Canada Family Action Coalition which is opposed to same-sex marriage, said his group will not give up the fight.
"The people of Canada are not going to let this go, because marriage is too important an institution to just let it evaporate because of the emotions of a few people in Parliament," he told a news conference.
Canada upholds law allowing same-sex marriage
Thu Dec 7, 2006 4:36pm ET
By David Ljunggren and Randall Palmer
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's Parliament upheld a 2005 law allowing same-sex marriage on Thursday when it threw out a bid by the minority Conservative government to revisit the contentious issue.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper put forward the motion after promising his socially conservative backers that he would do so, but most observers had expected it to fail.
The Conservatives are set to fight an election next year and had legislators backed the idea of revisiting the law it would have become a campaign issue.
"We made a promise to hold a free vote and we kept that promise. The result was decisive and we'll accept the democratic result," Harper told reporters.
Legislators voted 175 to 123 to reject a motion by the right-leaning Conservatives to re-examine the law, which some religious groups and critics say undermines society.
The law was passed by the previous Liberal government after a number of courts ruled that banning gay marriage contravened Canada's charter of rights.
Some Liberal legislators shouted "Shame!" as the Conservatives voted.
Harper seemed to reject the idea of looking again at gay marriage, even if he won a majority government.
"I don't see (us) reopening this question ... It's not our plan," he told reporters. Six of his cabinet voted against the motion on Thursday.
Canada was the fourth country, after the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain, to legalize homosexual marriage.
Last year's vote was 158-133 in favor of the new law, but the Conservatives said it had not truly reflected the will of Parliament because the Liberals had forced cabinet ministers to vote in favor. Both parties allowed their members to vote according to their consciences on Thursday.
The signs were clear from the beginning that the motion was likely to fail. Even some parliamentarians who voted against the law last year said the matter had been settled and did not need to be reopened.
Asked whether the issue was now resolved once and for all, Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion replied: "It will be, especially if we win the next election ... This prime minister tried and he failed."
Groups opposed to the law vowed to continue the fight and warned Harper that the affair would cost him votes.
The Canada Family Action Coalition said the Conservatives who voted against the motion "have just set a tone that could result in a Conservative loss in the next election. When a party abandons the values of its core base, it loses support".
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who backed the idea of reopening the debate, said that when he was attorney general of the province of Ontario he had fought for the civil rights of all Canadians, including same-sex partners.
"I did that proudly. I think it was the right thing to do. But marriage is something different," he told reporters.
The motion called on the government "to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages."
(With additional reporting by Louise Egan in Ottawa)
Canada's Parliament votes not to reopen gay marriage debate
The Associated Press
Thursday, December 7, 2006
Canada's Parliament voted Thursday not to reopen the gay marriage debate, letting stand legislation passed last year that legalized marriage for same-sex couples.
Same-sex marriage is legal in only four other countries: Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and South Africa. Gay marriage is also legal in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, but not in any other state.
During the last election campaign, Conservative leader and current Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to hold a vote in the House of Commons on whether Parliament should reconsider the issue.
Harper's government, which draws most of its support from the conservative west, was seeking to appease its base, even though Christian activists acknowledged this week the law would stand.
Twelve Conservative members of Parliament, including several members of Harper's Cabinet, joined Liberals and Canada's other opposition parties to defeat the motion 175-123.
"I don't see reopening this question in the future," Harper said.
Gay marriage became legal in Canada last year under the previous Liberal government in response to a series of court rulings that gave gay people the right to marry. Thousands of gay Canadians, as well as foreign visitors, have gotten married.
Laurie Arron, national coordinator for Canadians for Equal Marriage, said the vote reflects a growing consensus among Canadians that it is time to move on. Last year's vote to allow gay marriage was 158-133.
"It's clear that this issue is now settled. The vote today was quite overwhelming," Arron said.
New Liberal Leader Stephane Dion allowed Liberals to vote freely on the motion, something former Liberal leader Paul Martin did not allow for when it was passed in 2005.
The Liberals and Canada's other opposition parties did not support reopening the divisive debate and had enough votes to defeat the motion.
Charles McVety, a Christian activist who is the head of the Defend Marriage movement, acknowledged the defeat but said the fight to overturn the legislation is not over. He vowed to punish Parliament members who voted against the motion by organizing against them in the next election.
"We didn't expect it to carry, but it was defeated by a higher margin than we thought," McVety said.