- The Washington Times - Monday, August 12, 2002

TORONTO The Canadian government is considering whether to legalize same-sex "marriage" after a court ruled that the traditional definition of marriage one man, one woman violates the country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"The restriction against same-sex marriage is an offense to the dignity of lesbians and gays because it limits the range of relationship options available to them," wrote Justice Harry LaForme of the Ontario Superior Court.

Homosexual- and lesbian-rights activists across the country were delighted by the ruling. Couples kissed each other for the news cameras, held hands and lined up for marriage licenses.

"The genie's out of the bottle," said Michael Leshner, a government lawyer who wants to marry his longtime male lover. "The old marriage process is dead. It can't be resurrected."

But the wedding plans were soon put on hold. The federal government has decided to appeal the ruling, which gives it two years to change the law.

The government has also appointed a parliamentary committee to study the issue. It could release a discussion paper as early as next month.

Among the government's options are changing the definition of marriage to cover same-sex couples or creating a form of civil union for homosexuals and lesbians. It could even get out of the marriage business altogether and leave it up to the churches to decide what constitutes marriage.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien's Liberal Party is torn by the issue.

Both Industry Minister Allan Rock and Foreign Minister Bill Graham have voiced their support for same-sex "marriage."

"It's an important step along the road to equality," Mr. Rock said before marching in a homosexual pride parade.

"I respect those who believe in the integrity of marriage," Mr. Graham said. "It's equally important that gay and lesbian people who are in an affectionate relationship over time want to commit themselves to that relationship."

But some Liberal backbenchers are incensed by the idea and have called on Mr. Rock to resign. When he served as Canada's justice minister, they say, he promised that same-sex "marriages" would not be allowed.

"Mr. Rock's position breaks caucus solidarity, which is forged by consensus, so perhaps he should consider a career as a backbencher," said Dan McTeague, an outspoken member of Parliament representing suburban voters in southern Ontario.

In Toronto, Canada's largest city, councilors voted 28-6 in favor of same-sex "marriages" by asking the federal government to drop its appeal of the Ontario court ruling.

At least one politician, though, is worried that things could get out of control.

"If two people from the same sex can get married, why can't three?" asked Councilor Doug Holyday. "I don't know where this ends once you open this Pandora's box."

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