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Same-sex marriage: Harassing the squeamish

Toronto-area MPs are key in marriage battle

UNDECIDED? Ruby Dhalla is one of the MPs who can make or break the same-sex marriage bill. Credit: Xtra files

Some members of Parliament who have been supportive of same-sex marriage are starting to waffle.

Activists say that opponents of same-sex marriage are flooding MPs with messages against the bill, expected to be introduced in February. There’s worry that the pro-side – more confident, less crazy people who actually have lives – is being drowned out. Especially considering that the bill only directly affects homos, who make up a small portion of the population.

“There are a lot of MPs torn between doing what they think is the right thing to do and doing what they think their constituents want them to do,” says Laurie Arron of the group Canadians For Equal Marriage (CEM). “They
need to hear from us to give them the confidence they need to vote for the legislation.”

While Conservative MPs are expected to vote in a block against the bill and the New Democrats, the Bloc Québécois and the Liberal cabinet en masse for the bill, a handful of Toronto-area MPs hold the balance of power.

“There are undecided people around the country, but the MPs seem to be concentrated around here,” says Arron, who recommends a phone call over e-mail, fax or letter as a method of contact.

Several of the MPs in question come from ethnic or religious minorities where the balance between human rights and religious values is particularly precarious.

Ruby Dhalla, Liberal MP for Brampton-Springdale
Handpicked by Prime Minister Paul Martin to run here (much to the chagrin of some of the members of the riding association), Dhalla hasn’t publicly expressed support or opposition to the bill. She told The Ottawa Citizen she will vote how the majority of her constituents want her to vote

Lloyd St Amand, Liberal MP for Brant
A community-minded lawyer, St Amand quotes Pierre Elliott Trudeau on his website, but has kept his head down on same-sex marriage

Wajid Khan, Liberal MP for Mississauga-Streetsville
One of a handful of Muslim MPs, Khan did not fill out a CEM survey, though, during the election, one of his assistants told CEM he would support the bill. A Toronto Star survey filed him under undecided

Susan Kadis, Liberal MP for Thornhill
As a city councillor in Vaughan, Kadis brought forward an (unsuccessful) motion to declare Pride and told York-region.com last month she would support the bill. But she’s considered
to be under siege by conservative lobbyists

Bev Oda, Conservative MP for Clarington-Scugog-Uxbridge
Oda was one of three Conservative MPs who said they would support same-sex marriage. (The others are Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam’s James Moore – who last month issued a detailed statement on his website in favour of the bill – and Newmarket-Aurora’s Belinda Stronach.) But last month she told The Globe And
Mail she’d changed her mind and would poll constituents as to how they’d like her to vote

Gary Carr, Liberal MP for Halton
This former Conservative MPP hasn’t said much about the issue since last June when he said he favoured the traditional definition of marriage and protection for churches who don’t want to wed same-sex couples

Carolyn Parrish, independent MP for Mississauga-Erindale
Once one of the strongest Parliamentary supporters of lesbian and gay rights, Parrish’s feud with Martin seems to have had an effect on her personal beliefs. Though she claims to support same-sex marriage personally, she says her constituents oppose it and that she’ll vote against the bill

Navdeep Baines, Liberal MP for Mississauga-Brampton South
The youngest sitting MP has spoken in favour of the bill – and protecting freedom of religion

Nancy Karetak-Lindell, Liberal MP for Nunavut
Though she voted against the Alliance motion restricting the definition of marriage and in a tough nomination battle chastised her opponent for having a watered-down stance on human rights, Karetak-Lindell now claims she’s undecided.