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 waste 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 the country.
Naturally, Ottawa's reaction has not been favourably recieved in those rouge territories I mentioned. So the fuss has continued.
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 Canada.
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 sandwich:
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.