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‘Pass C-38 before summer,’ youths tell Parliament

Gay youth, religious groups tell Paul Martin to finish the job now

OTTAWA – Get the same-sex marriage bill passed before taking summer vacation. That’s the message Paul Martin was sent Sunday by youth and faith groups rallying on Parliament Hill to support Bill C-38.

A 500-foot Pride banner created by five Calgary high school students – four of them queer and one of them a straight supporter – wove across the lawn in front of the Peace Tower, providing startling images for media.

“There is support, great support, for this legislation all over Canada,” Cora Bailey, 18, told the crowd to loud applause.

For two years, the five Calgary teens held monthly sewing bees to transform brightly coloured swatches of donated fabric into a massive rainbow.

“As liberal-minded youth in a conservative city and province we were often ignored in the media,” Bailey told the more than 100 people holding up the rainbow in a giant circle around her.

Ottawa gay youth activist Jeremy Dias took to the podium to thank youth for what polls show is rock-solid support of same-sex marriage.

All youth, not just gay youth, want the sort of legal equality that Bill C-38 represents, he suggested.

“Equality and tolerance: these are Canadian values, and not discrimination and second-class citizenship.”

The Calgary students were not alone in complaining of being ignored by mainstream media. Gilliam Wallace says a group she is involved in – the Religious Coalition for Equal Marriage Rights (www.religious-coalition.org) – has been virtually shut out of media coverage.

“They’re only paying attention to the fundamentalists,” says Wallace, a straight woman who also volunteers for Canadians for Equal Marriage (CEM). “And I’m getting really frustrated by this. They’re paying attention to the hate-mongers. We’ve got Sikh and Muslim organizations on our side and they only get a tiny mention deep inside [the paper] and Tristan Emmanuel [an Ontario Presbyterian minister] is on the front page. He’s saying the government is out to destroy [churches]. It’s US religious paranoid thinking.”

Alex Munter of CEM drew loud applause from the crowd when he directed his comments to Prime Minister Paul Martin.

“We’re counting on you to show commitment, to show spine and leadership and ensure this bill is passed before summer.

“If the Prime Minister and Parliament want this bill to pass, it will be passed before summer,” he said.

A succession of representatives from different religious groups and churches joined in calling for Martin to pass the bill before taking a break.

“Get on with the job,” said Ron Chaplin of St John’s Anglican Church in Ottawa. “We say to the legislators: The demonization of gays and lesbians in our society is unacceptable and we want them to act.”

“Love is a family value,” said another. “Hate, on the other hand, is destructive to families.”

“They’re all going to be on the BBQ circuit this summer,” noted Brian Kopke an Ottawa Unitarian Church minister and MC for the gathering. “Wherever they are, get to them. If they don’t get the bill passed this week, make this summer not worth happening.”

Last month, Paul Martin told MPs to be prepared to sit into July to pass Bill C-38, and put the Senate on notice that it would also be sitting to pass the legislation into law prior to taking a summer vacation. But last week, the Liberal government started backing away, while blaming the Tories for planning to obstruct passage by dominating Third reading with long-winded questions and comments.

Leaders of both the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP say they are willing to sit until the bill is passed.

NDP leader Jack Layton says the Liberals are to blame if the bill is delayed until fall.

“It would take a simple vote of the House to extend the work time so we can get it done,” he told reporters Jun 16. “If the prime minister doesn’t have the political will to make sure that happens, that’s a disgrace. And he’s breaking a promise to Canadians.”

Meanwhile, Egale has asked supporters of same-sex marriage to contact Martin’s office demanding the bill be passed before summer.

Egale asks that people e-mail the prime minister and phone his office.