It has passed.
Bill C-38, the legislation designed to equalise marriage in Canada, has passed the final vote in the House of Commons and is now on its way through the Senate. It is expected to be signed into law by August.
This makes Canada the third country to redefine marriage in such a manner. Spain looks to become #4 very shortly,
sending an additional insult to Bush the Junior and the American
Republican Party (the first being Spain's about-face in Iraq).
The fight against equal marriage in Canada is now over, ended
by Bill C-38's passage. There were regions in Canada that had not yet equalised
marriage, including the rouge province of Alberta. Those territories were in violation of the Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms.
Had C-38 not ended the debate, those territories would have had to
money hearing court challenges making exactly that case - that to
refuse marriage to a homosexual couple is a violation of the
Charter. Now that the bill has passed, those rouge
provinces will finally be forced to get back into line with the rest of
Naturally, Ottawa's reaction has not been favourably
recieved in those rouge territories I mentioned. So the fuss has
Incumbent Alberta Premier Ralph Klein recently shot from the mouth (again) when he mused about using the N.W.C.
to ban the equalisation of marriage in Alberta. Despite all of
his talk about using it to protect the province's "rights" and such,
the so-called notwithstanding clause included in Section 33 of the
Charter is a highly controversial legal loophole.
Governments who invoke it in order to maintain an
illegal policy risk the wrath of an electorate which is decidedly
uncomfortable with the idea of governments suspending civil
liberties. Suspending civil liberties is something that American
and Russian governments do, not Canadian ones.
Add to that the conditions which must be met if the
clause is used (its use must be reviewed every five years) and the use
of the clause is virtually guaranteed to become an election issue
during every election that follows its being used.
King Ralph was never foolish enough to invoke
Section 33 over such a trifle as a redefinition of the legal meaning of
the term "marriage" - Klein is a jackass, but he would never have
shot his own party in the foot by making the Alberta Conservatives the
party that suspended civil liberties in Alberta. Especially since the
only other place in Canada where the N.W.C. was used was in Quebec;
that alone would give Klein pause. However, his bullheaded stance
played well to his conservative constituency.
All of that chatter, of course, became irrelevant
with the passage of C-38. According to our constitution, the
definition of the word "marriage" in Canada is exclusively the
responsibility of the federal government. A province cannot pass
a law that transfers that responsibility to themselves; provincial
governments do not have that authority. A province cannot
use the N.W.C. to change the legal definition of the word "marriage"
either, as Klein himself pointed out. With C-38 expected to be
given assent by the Governor General, there are no legal tools left
with which to illegally resist the equalisation of marriage in
Klein's next shenanigan was to suggest pulling the
Province Of Alberta out of the business of solemnizing marriages, and
to leave it in the hands of religious organisations. That, while
also playing into the hands of the rednecks who vote for Klein's party,
would be a meaningless gesture. Albertan municipalities would step in
to fill the vacuum; religious groups that have expressed support for
equalising marriage would perform the marriages that Klein wants to
stop (defeating the purpose of handing them the reins); most
importantly, the province would lose out on the revenue that that their
marriage-solemnizing operation generates (and Klein is too much of a
neocon to allow that to happen). Klein's religious crusade has
effectively ended; I am confident that we can now return to being
concerned with making sure that Ottawa moves to shut down Klein's
illegal attempts to privatise healthcare.
At the Federal level, Stephen Harper
has been rambling incoherently about the issue as well, claiming that
he will revisit it if he makes it to the Prime Minister's Office after
the next election. Fortunately for civilised society in Canada,
the current composition of Parliament is very left-wing,
as I've illustrated in previous posts. It seems unlikely that
Harper's conservative politics would get him anything more than an
unstable, abortive minority government that would be unable to pass any
laws (if that).
And of course, a number of regular civilians are
incensed that the law has been passed, but there aren't enough of them
to make a difference in the long run. As more of them learn that
their main concern - that the rights of their funny little places of
worship be respected - has already been adressed, more and more of them
will fall silent on the issue. Bill C-38 specifically protecs the
rights of religious institutions to refuse to perform a marriage that
contravenes the superstitions which drive those institutions.
And that, dear reader, brings me to the most important part of this entry.
Religious fundies across Canada have been furious at
the prospect that their powow huts might be forced to perform
ceremonies for couples consisting of more than one groom. Dear
reader, I implore you... if you should happen to come across one
such poor, lost fellow who believes that Bill C-38 was about forcing
churches to wed gays, hand him or her the following reality
Marriage as we know
it is not about religion, faith or worship. It's about a legal
contract drawn up between two people, which forces the government,
courts and private sectors to recognise each partner in the marriage as
the other's legal heir, guardian, and proxy.
Homosexuals in Canada did not want to force the local Imam to perform
the ceremony, they wanted to force the courts to recognise legal wills that name a man's male partner as his legal heir in the event of his death.
They wanted to force the government to protect them finacially in the same manner in which the government protects married heterosexual couples.
They wanted the private sector to have to pay Adam the insurance money that he is entitled to in the event of Steve's death.
They wanted the adopted children that they spent so much time raising
together to be recognised as being the adopted children of both Anna and Eve, not just one or the other.
Homosexuals in Canada were not
concerned with the religious
definition of marriage, because, quite frankly, it is not the religious
definition of the word marriage, but the the legal definition, that is
the important one.
Priests in Canada are granted the authority to perform a
marriage ceremony not by some mythical figure, but by the Canadian
Government. In Canada, it does not matter how many preachers attest to
the validity of one's marriage: without a legal marriage license, no
marriage is valid in the eyes of the law. In Canada, it does not
matter where you were married, be it a temple, city hall or in an open
field on the Maritime Coast: if the marriage license is valid, and an
authorised person performed the ceremony, the marriage is valid in the
eyes of the law. And it was the LAW that they wanted changed, not your religion.
With the situation being what it is, I am confidant
that we can now breathe easy, knowing that once C-38 becomes law, the
issue will be dead, and Canada wil reaffirm its place as a leader in
setting an example of what the proper attitude should be to human
rights in the world. I hope not to be proven wrong.