With yet another future round of marriage-related legislation rumoured to be coming soon, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives Wednesday introduced the latest in their battle against same-sex civic marriage rights.
As he promised in the first day of last winter’s federal election campaign, Harper’s government introduced a motion Dec 6 asking Parliament to reconsider the equal marriage legislation passed by Parliament in June 2005.
The motion “call[s] on the government to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages.”
It’s not a legislative bill. If passed by a majority of Parliamentarians, the Conservatives would presumably introduce a bill that would effectively reverse last year’s Bill C-38, which passed by a vote of 158-133.
The most recent poll, by Strategic Council, found that 38 percent of Canadians want a return to a “traditional” definition of marriage.
But the motion is expected to go down to defeat, with some MPs predicting during a late-night debate Wednesday that it would lose by a 2-1 margin. That’s partly because many Liberals and a few Conservatives that voted against Bill C-38 do not want to re-open the divisive debate. Even Harper is rumoured to be hoping his motion will be defeated, fearful of continuing to be cast as a social conservative dinosaur while fighting the next election – expected as early as next April.
That perception has denied Conservatives a share of urban votes in the past two elections – and an urban breakthrough in Ontario and Quebec is necessary to attain a healthy majority in Parliament. But anti-gay legislation has also shored up the rural and suburban Conservative vote and re-engaged social conservative voters.
If his motion to redefine marriage goes down in flames as predicted this afternoon, Harper is said to have a back-up plan to take to those voters. Bill C-38 protects religious organizations from having to perform same-sex marriage. Harper would extend that protection to officials performing civil marriages, allowing them to refuse to perform a ceremony if it goes against their religious beliefs. Critics point out that civil marriage is a provincial jurisdiction.
BC Conservative James Lunney hinted at the direction of future legislation. Businesses have been fined, organizations have been reprimanded by human rights commissions, marriage commissioners have been threatened with job loss and a teacher in BC has been suspended for opposing same-sex marriage rights, he said.
Canadians for Equal Marriage claims that approximately 12,038 couples have been married in Canada, including 409 in Alberta.