Canada’s Two Biggest Faiths Battle Over Gay Marriage
January 24, 2005
By Ben Thompson, 365Gay.com Ottawa Bureau
Ottawa—As Canada’s Prime
Minister Paul Martin and Opposition leader Stephen Harper verbally spar over
same-sex marriage, the country’s two biggest denominations have come out
swinging with one opposing gay marriage and the other endorsing it.
A letter by the Roman Catholic primate of Canada
denouncing same-sex marriage was read Sunday in parish churches across the
“At the risk of being judged politically incorrect, we
need to recall that the bill under discussion is offensive to the moral and
religious sensibility of a great number of citizens, both Catholic and
non-Catholic,” Marc Cardinal Ouellet writes in the letter. “We therefore
find ourselves at a turning point in the evolution of Canadian society, and
the bill announced by the government threatens to unleash nothing less than a
cultural upheaval whose negative consequences are still impossible to
But, as the Catholic Church was mustering support to
oppose the legislation to legalize gay marriage the country’s largest
Protestant denomination was sounding its support.
“Some will protest that we must have faith in the
Bible, and that the Bible takes an unfavorable view of intimate same-sex
relationship. But I would answer that Christian faith is not an uncritical
repetition of a received text. It is a mindful commitment to the power of
love, to which the text seeks to give witness. Every generation of the
Christian faith must decide how they will honor that demand of love in the
living of their days. Changing circumstances and changing ideas are not the
enemy of faith,” said the Right Rev. Dr. Peter Short, Moderator of the
United Church of Canada in an open letter to all members of Parliament.
“It is wrong to invoke the love of God in order that
one person’s ‘values’ might diminish another’s value. Those who claim
that homosexual people threaten to dismantle the value of heterosexual
marriage would do well to remember that if anyone destroys marriage, it is
married people, not gays and lesbians.”
Dr. Short also invited MPs to a parliamentary breakfast
that he will host on Parliament Hill on Thursday, February 24, to engage
parliamentarians in further conversation on the subject of marriage.
In China, where he is leading a trade delegation, Prime
Minister Martin Sunday repeated a threat he made on Friday (story) that he
could call a snap election over gay marriage.
Martin said that if his minority Liberals lose a free
vote on same-sex marriage it would not necessarily lead to an election call,
but, if the Conservatives attempt to invoke the notwithstanding clause of the
Constitution he would see it as a confidence motion. If the Tories won that,
Martin said, the government would fall.
Martin said that if Conservative leader Stephen Harper
wants to ensure marriage in Canada remains between a man a woman, he would
have to over-ride the Charter of Rights.
“ The only way that that option can be realized is if,
in fact, you use the notwithstanding clause. Stephen Harper has got to come
clean and tell Canadians the truth—there are no other options,” Martin
“I will not allow the rights of Canadians to be taken
away and I will make that—the use of the notwithstanding clause—a motion
of confidence,” Martin said at a news conference in Hong Kong.
Harper remains coy on the use of the clause, which allows
a government to opt out of any section of the Constitution with which it
“The prime minister keeps talking about the
notwithstanding clause and legal mumbo jumbo because he doesn’t want to face
the marriage issue,” Harper from Vancouver.
But, if the government fell Harper said he would be
comfortable campaigning on a traditional definition of marriage. Tory ads are
already exploiting the wedge issue.
If the government’s gay marriage bill were defeated in
Parliament it would not affect the rights of same-sex couples to wed in areas
of Canada where the courts have ruled in favor. But, gay couples in the other
regions would have to go to court to challenge the existing law. In every area
where gay marriage has come before the courts same-sex couples have won.
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