TORONTO — Canada’s Parliament narrowly rejected a motion defining marriage as the “union between a man and a woman,” after a fiery debate in which conservatives squared off against lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Party, who called homosexual matrimony a human right.
The nonbinding resolution, introduced by the conservative Canadian Alliance to force Liberal lawmakers to take a public stand on the divisive issue, lost on a 137-132 vote. At least 50 Liberals voted against their government in the 301-member House of Commons.
The vote followed recent rulings by courts that the traditional definition of marriage was unconstitutional.
In the debate yesterday, Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper condemned the courts and the Liberals.
“Marriage has from time immemorial been firmly grounded in our legal tradition,” he said.
Mr. Harper added that allowing the courts to redefine marriage is “wrong in law, universally insulting, dangerous as far as rights are concerned.”
Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, the government’s point man on revising the law, defended same-sex “marriage” as a human right.
“We are at a historic moment in time,” Mr. Cauchon told Parliament yesterday. “We have the opportunity to challenge our simple assumptions and beliefs and do what is right in terms of equality.”
Hundreds of homosexual couples, many from the United States, have been married in Ontario and British Columbia since courts there ruled earlier this year that the traditional definition of marriage is discriminatory.
The government decided not to appeal the rulings, opting instead to rewrite the law to define marriage without a sexual distinction.
The draft legislation on same-sex “marriage” is being reviewed by the country’s Supreme Court. It is likely to be introduced this fall and is expected to pass.
Mr. Harper said the vote yesterday was an attempt to force the Liberal lawmakers to “come clean.”
“It is not about human rights,” he said. “It is about democracy. It is about the right of the people to make social value judgments and, more specifically, the right of judgments to be made by the representatives of the people rather than by the judges appointed by the government.”
Religious organizations and family-rights groups said they would continue to pressure the government to leave the current marriage law untouched.
“I believe there will be retribution at the polls,” said the Rev. David Mainse. “I believe they have awakened a sleeping giant which may tragically begin pushing the pendulum too far the other way, and — you know — they are just going too far to steal, to rob, to cheat families of this unique name called marriage.”
Earlier this summer, Mr. Mainse quit his executive role at the Burlington, Ontario-based Crossroads television ministry he founded 40 years ago to campaign against homosexual “marriage.”
Prime Minister Jean Chretien said Monday that “society has evolved,” and that it was time to recognize the validity of same-sex “marriages.”