Having promised to reopen the equal marriage debate, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is likely to make good on his pledge within weeks — and perhaps days.
Parliament’s fall session begins Sep 18, and the Harper government could introduce a motion to reopen the issue “with little or no warning,” says Canadians For Equal Marriage’s national coordinator Laurie Arron.
Pundits peg Sep 28 as the most likely date for the Conservatives to introduce the proposal, following an announcement Harper made this June to deal with it quickly.
If the motion to reopen debate passes, a second vote would be needed to repeal equal marriage. But numbers bandied about by national gay lobby group Egale Canada suggest that the initial vote will fail since some MPs who oppose equal marriage don’t want to reopen the divisive issue.
“A lot of MPs are keeping their cards close to their chest,” says Gilles Marchildon, executive director of Egale.
“I’m still cautiously optimistic.”
Marchildon estimates that roughly 160 MPs are opposed to such a bill, with 136 for, and 12 undecided. But he qualifies such an estimate with a warning.
“We can’t rest on our laurels and trust that MPs will do the right thing, especially since we know that the religious right has mobilized,” he says.
Religious groups that oppose equal marriage have invited their supporters to contact their MPs. As well, an antigay protest plans to converge on Parliament Hill on Mon, Sep 28 at 2pm. On Sep 15, The Calgary Sun reported that Catholic Bishop Fred Henry called equal marriage a betrayal of children which is worse that his church’s sex scandals.
Canadians For Equal Marriage is asking people to call their MPs and let them know that they consider the equal marriage debate settled. Arron says even supportive MPs should be contacted so as to counteract the calls from opponents of equal marriage.
“We consider the matter settled. Most consider the matter settled — two-thirds of Canadians consider the matter settled, in fact,” Arron says.
Arron is referring to an Environics poll released in June, which showed that 62 percent of Canadians consider the same sex marriage debate settled, while just 27 percent want to see the issue revisited. Support for the idea of legal recognition for gay marriage itself is more evenly divided among Canadians.
Same-sex marriage has been the law of the land for roughly 14 months. However, when Bill C-38 was passed last July, almost all Canadians could already get married in their home provinces, except those living in two of the territories (Nunavut and the Northwest Territories), PEI and Alberta. Provincial courts in Canada’s three most populated provinces — Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec — had legalized civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples between June 2003 and March 2004.
Torontonians can attend a breakfast briefing on the subject at Toronto’s National Club on Mon, Sep 25. Speakers include Jaime Watt, Doug Elliott and Laurie Arron. There’s a $100 minimum suggested donation with all proceeds going to Canadians For Equal Marriage. For details, contact Tamara Kronis at (416) 951-8765.