- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2003

TORONTO — Canada’s government proposed yesterday that marriage be defined as the “lawful union of two persons,” which would legalize same-sex “marriage” throughout the country.

The draft bill, presented to the Supreme Court for judicial review before Parliament considers it, is the government’s reaction to court rulings that have allowed same-sex “marriages” in Ontario and British Columbia.

Hundreds of homosexual couples have taken “marriage” vows in recent weeks, and the proposed law showed Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s intention to make Canada the fourth nation in the world to recognize same-sex unions after Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands.

“The bill is very short, just two sections, but I believe it speaks volumes about who we are as Canadians and the rights that we share,” Justice Minister Martin Cauchon said at a news conference.

He said changing the definition of marriage does nothing to erode the institution or diminish the rights or status of heterosexual marriage.

Titled the Act Respecting Certain Aspects of Legal Capacity for Marriage, the proposal says: “Marriage for civil purposes is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.”

Under current law, marriage is defined as the union of a man and woman. Courts in Ontario and British Columbia have ruled that language unconstitutional, but religious groups and social conservatives say the traditional definition of marriage dates back thousands of years and is a cornerstone of society and procreation.

The proposed new law states that religious communities can define marriage as they wish, an attempt to appease opponents of “marriage” rights for homosexuals.

“We also live in a society that believes in freedom of religion,” Mr. Cauchon said. “I believe the draft bill strikes the proper balance, and by taking this approach, the government of Canada is doing the right thing at the right time in our history.”

In its submission to the Supreme Court, the government asked for answers to three questions involving the proposed law. Is the law within the exclusive authority of the federal government? Does it respect constitutional rights? And, do guarantees of religious freedom in Canada’s constitution permit some religious groups to refuse to sanctify same-sex “marriages” as a violation of their beliefs?

It was not clear when the Supreme Court would respond. It is setting its calendar for the rest of the year, and Mr. Cauchon said an answer may not come until 2004.

Once the Supreme Court has responded, he said, the measure would go to Parliament for a free vote, meaning legislators could vote their conscience rather than follow party discipline.

Mr. Cauchon also noted a potential legal challenge by opponents of same-sex “marriage” who are seeking intervener status to challenge the Ontario court ruling. He said the federal government likely would oppose allowing outside groups to intervene.

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