Toronto
3 min

Gay marriage by stealth

Het clause satisfies no one

WOMAN OF THE HOUR. In the justice committee hearings, the only Liberal to vote against her own government to stop an amendment defining marriage as heterosexual was Toronto MP Carolyn Bennett (St Paul's). Gay MPs Svend Robinson (a British Columbia New Democrat) and the Bloc Québécois's Réal Ménard joined her, as did Conservative MP Peter McKay (Pictou-Antigonish-Guysborough). Credit: Xtra files

A government amendment forcing a het definition of marriage into same-sex spousal rights omnibus legislation has left everybody unhappy – and led to an all-out attempt by the rightwing to essentially rename the bill An Act In Defence Of Heterosexual Marriage.



Liberal MPs closed ranks at the justice committee hearings in late March to ensure the bill passed with only the one “marriage” amendment.



“This minister has caved in to her own Neanderthal backbenchers,” said gay NDPer Svend Robinson. “From the beginning this minister has said that this bill is not about marriage. Why, at this last stage of the whole committee process, is she now including a clause on marriage? It makes absolutely no sense.”



Bill C-23, shepherded by Justice Minister Anne McLellan, then went to the full House Of Commons for third – and final – reading on Apr 3. That very same day, more than 170 amendments – filed by the anti-gay Reform Party, Bloc Québécois MP Pierrette Venne and dissident Scarborough Liberal Tom Wappel – were up for debate.



The amendments included further straight definitions of marriage and motions barring common-law couples from accessing benefits. They’re expected to be voted on Thu, Apr 6.



Backbench Liberal dissidents, along with their Reform colleagues, complained about the number of calls, faxes and letters they are receiving from constituents.



“I go back to my riding,” Reform MP Paul Forseth told the committee, “I have made no published comments about this issue. I’ve done no interviews, yet I am getting all kinds of calls and request for petitions 100 percent against this bill once the bold face of the implications of C-23 have been made known to the community through the media.



“I have not had one call in my office in support of the legislation, but I’ve had maybe 150 calls and messages and a variety of responses against the legislation,” he said.



Opponents have certainly mounted a grassroots campaign.



Appearing as a witness to testify before the justice committee was Ibrahim El-Sayed, president of the Toronto District Muslim Education Assembly, and his colleague Dr Mobarak Ali.



“This would be malignant, unfair and unjust, and does not serve any real benefit to society. On the contrary, only great harm and evil will ensue from such abuse and usurpation,” said El-Sayed.



“It would be a blatant and vulgar attack on the sacred institution of marriage in society. A homosexual/lesbian relationship not only negates the higher societal duty of procreation, but it is the promotion of moral corruption and degradation of human beings. Promoting such a lifestyle is wrong and unacceptable and constitutes grave dangers to society.”



Ali called the issue confusing. “What makes homosexuals or lesbians alone so preferred to other kinds of sexual activities? What about incest? We will jump up and say it’s morally wrong, and not homosexuality?



“These people should not be abused, or whatever else is happening to them, but at the same time they can’t come under this cover and take away the right of marriage. This is undermining marriage.



“The family is the basic unit of society,” said Ali. “Lenin tried to abolish the family under his hoax of the proletariat and classless society, and what happened? He had to reinstitute it.



“There are a lot of consequences here – not to mention the danger of AIDS and all these other things.



“Morality in Islam does not change. Islam is a revealed code, and I believe it’s the same for the Torah and the Gospel. It doesn’t change. Homosexuality is wrong there. It’s wrong now. It will be wrong until the day of judgment. Nothing will change it.”



Gwendolyn Landolt of REAL Women also joined the fray.



“If I did have a daughter who was a lesbian for example,” Landolt told the committee. “I would be deeply troubled and I’d want her to take counselling, because then she could change and become heterosexual. Mr Robinson here told us he was legally married and he changed. I’d like my daughter to change because as a mother, I’d want her to be fulfilled and have as full a life as possible. It can obviously change, because Mr Robinson has changed from being a legally married man to not.



“I would think something possibly was wrong with her upbringing if she were a lesbian. It’s an acquired characteristic, since they can all change back and forth. It’s not genetic. So obviously I would say I had done something when I raised her.



“Something has gone wrong, Mr Robinson, because you were both heterosexual and homosexual. Are you going to go back to heterosexual next?”



Also appearing as a witness was Lisa Hitch, senior counsel on Bill C-23 for the Department Of Justice. “Nothing could protect the definition of marriage from a charter challenge, short of an amendment to the charter,” she said.



The national lobby group, Equality For Gays And Lesbians Everywhere, is asking everyone to contact their MP. You can obtain their number through Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868, or by visiting the website at http://www.parl.gc.ca/36/sm-mpcur-e.htm.