Gay marriage equality, George Bush Notwithstanding.  Rob Moore's Bill C-268

Bill C-268

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Advocacy News - Equality, George Bush notwithstanding

November 17, 2004 (Updated Nov. 20)

Equality, George Bush notwithstanding
Rob Moore's Bill C-268 tests Harper not marriage
By Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell

"I'm afraid we're all going to have to pay some attention up here or we'll find we have laws based on Christian morality and religious leaders plunging into politics."
Val Sears, columnist, the Ottawa Sun, Nov. 16, 2004

"If anything, in the next election, Harper and his party could be casualties of a Republican-style strategy rather than its beneficiaries."
Chantal Hebert, columnist, the Toronto Star, Nov. 10, 2004

"Out of 308 Members of Parliament," a statement from MP Rob Moore said yesterday, "Moore will be the 2nd Conservative Member to have their Private Members bill debated in the House of Commons this session."

Moore sounded pleased to have won an early slot in the schedule, and even more pleased to demonstrate his lack of understanding of the role of MPs, Parliament, and the Courts in a constitutional democracy.

“Parliament needs to own up to its responsibility and take a stand on this important issue,” stated Moore. “Members are elected to represent their constituent’s views and I hope this will happen when this bill is debated in the House.”

The act in question is Bill C-268, a misguided attempt to go back in time prior to the June 10, 2003 Ontario court decision that changed the definition of marriage in Canada (subsequently upheld by courts in 6 other jurisdictions).

The Conservative party tried this last year, under its previous incarnation as the Alliance Party. It didn't work then. What's different now?

Well, the election of George W. Bush, for one thing. U.S. Republican consultants are working with the Alliance party in Alberta politics. Conservative extremists in Canada are emboldened.

You would think the lessons from Canada's own recent elections would be lingering just five months after Conservative MP Randy White gave away his party's potential minority leadership to the the Liberals, because Canadians rejected discrimination.

Bill C-268
An Act to confirm the definition of marriage and to preserve ceremonial rights.

Whereas marriage has always been recognized in Canada as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others; Whereas, because of certain court decisions, it is now necessary to confirm the definition of marriage;

Whereas Parliament, under the Constitution Act, 1867, has legislative authority over marriage;

Whereas Parliament has recognized relationships other than marriage under the category of common law partnerships and certain provinces, exercising their legislative authority over property and civil rights, have also provided legal recognition to relationships other than marriage such as civil unions or registered domestic partnerships;

And Whereas the institution of marriage is a matter of great public concern;

Now, Therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:

1. This Act may be cited as the Definition of Marriage Act.

2. Despite any other Act of Parliament, marriage means the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all other persons.

3. For greater certainty, nothing in this Act affects the freedom of officials of religious groups (a) to perform ceremonies; or (b) to refuse to perform ceremonies that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.

The Conservative party's stance against same-sex marriage hurt its opportunity to govern Canada. Its American-style of politics scares, if not amuses, Canadians who are determined to protect their valued Charter rights.

Rob Moore, with his Bill against gay marriage, seems determined to join Randy White in carrying on the Alliance/Conservative party's long tradition (Cheryl Gallant, Elsie Wayne) of demonstrating why the party cannot be The Canadian Charter - using the nothwithstanding clause against same-sex marriagetaken seriously, no matter how often it rebrands itself .

The Notwithstanding Clause

Unlike last year's attempt to stem the ongoing advances of marriage equality, Bill C-268 doesn't even imply that the bill would have to be enforced by invoking the Notwithstanding Clause (the ability to override Charter protections for a 5-year period), perhaps to soft-peddle the issue.

That is the only way gays and lesbians will be kept from marrying in the remaining holdout regions (a dwindling minority). Rob Moore, with his background as a lawyer, should know this. Certainly the law-students who attended our lecture at his alma mater did. Such are the protections found in a constitutional democracy: MPs are empowered, but only within the limits of our Charter.

Despite Moore's attempt to preempt a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, the court is aware of attempts to politicize marriage equality and we trust that the esteemed court will have a timely response to such attempts (since the oft-sited Ontario court decision, subsequent cases have been resolved quickly). The court's response during the hearings gave us every reason to expect the progress of equality to continue.

"In attempting to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples, a right now endorsed by a rapidly expanding vanguard of provinces and territories, traditionalists are essentially admitting homespun moralizing and ecclesiastical persuasion aren't changing behaviour and must now be replaced by laws that impose beliefs. But how well can those laws work in a country that celebrates its differences and encourages diversity? Unlike the melting pot to the south where the line between church and state is blurring and the firmly held views of the self-styled moral majority pushed George W. Bush back into the White House, Canada draws its strength from tolerance, not conformity."
James Travers, columnist,
the Toronto Star
, Nov. 16, 2004

Parliament doesn't have the stomach to strip a targeted minority group of its rights. Canadians wouldn't stand for it. Not 5 months ago, and not now, George Bush notwithstanding.

Postscript: On November 18, the Subcomittee on Private Members' Business ruled the bill non-votable (reasons were not given, but most likely this was due to Moore's lack of consideration of the constitution in his bill). Moore is appealed the decision and, predictably, was turned down again on Nov. 25.

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