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Openly gay MPs urge responsible debate on marriage

Valentines Day open letter to federal leaders

Three openly gay Members of Parliament marked Valentines Day with an open letter to federal leaders, urging responsible debate on the marriage legislation —

Monday, February 14, 2005

Open Letter

The Rt Hon Paul Martin, PC MP
Prime Minister of Canada

Hon Mr Stephen Harper, PC MP
Leader, Official Opposition

M Gilles Duceppe, Depute
Chef du Bloc Quebecois

Mr Jack Layton, MP
Leader, New Democratic Party of Canada

Gentlemen:

We are writing to you as gay and lesbian Members of the House of Commons as we begin debate on Bill C-38, The Civil Marriage Act. We know that you will appreciate that this bill is very important to us and to our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers.

Much has been said and written about this issue. We would ask you to remember that this matter has not been championed by the courts or by particular political parties or even by specific lobby groups-although they have all had important roles to play. This issue is before us today because gay and lesbian couples in most provinces and one territory have sought to be included in the institution of marriage. These are couples who strongly support marriage and who actively seek to live out its ideals, responsibilities, and duties. They, perhaps more than other couples, fully appreciate the support and protection marriage offers to couples in relationship, because they have forged relationships usually in the absence of those supports and protections. These brave couples have put their relationships in the public spotlight, often at considerable personal risk and significant monetary expense, because they seek inclusion in an institution whose values they share. Their efforts have not been about seeking a change in marriage-they only seek inclusion in this institution.

For us, this discussion is about love and commitment. We, like you, have been raised in families, faith groups and communities that teach the joy and responsibilities of loving partnership. We, like you, have been inspired by the example of married couples who touch our lives, couples who are nurtured by an enduring marriage relationship. We, like you, have been raised in a culture that values love highly and that encourages making public commitments of our love. We, like you, are excited and challenged by the mysteries of the incredible, complex experience of love. And we, like you, need the support of family, friends, the community, and the state to live out faithful, loving commitments.

Relationships are not easy, even in the most supportive settings. Relationships left only to the best efforts and intentions of two people on their own have even more challenges.

But this issue is also about our full citizenship. Does our being gay or lesbian mean that certain features of life in our society are outside our experience or our reach? We believe that it should not. If central institutions by definition exclude us, how can we be considered full citizens? We believe that civil marriage is one of those secular institutions to which all citizens must have equal access.

Like many of you, marriage is a dream and fervent hope of many gay and lesbian people in our society. For many of us, our hopes for happiness and security, like yours, connect intimately to our understanding of marriage. Our desire for stability and companionship, for creative partnership, for a positive environment in which to raise our children, like yours, cannot be separated from our society’s understanding of marriage.

And like you, not all of us will choose marriage. And like you, not all of our marriages will be successful. But in the same way you were able to choose to be married or not, in the same way that your marriage succeeded or not, we believe that all gays and lesbians should have the choice to seek to be married.

We support the protection of religious freedom. We agree that no mosque, temple, synagogue or church, and no clergyperson, should be required to marry a couple if that act conflicts with their beliefs, practice, or theology. Those decisions will be left to those religious organizations. In the same way, religious organizations and leaders that believe gay and lesbian couples are eligible for religious marriage should be able to perform those marriages on the same basis that they solemnize the vows of heterosexual couples. But in the end, this legislation is not about religious marriage-it is about civil marriage. It is about the federal government’s jurisdiction over the definition of civil marriage.

We would ask that you do all that is possible to ensure the passage of this important legislation.

Bill Siksay, MP
Burnaby Douglas

Réal Ménard, MP
Hochelaga

Libby Davies, MP
Vancouver East