- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 28, 2005

TORONTO — Canada’s House of Commons voted yesterday to legalize homosexual “marriage,” passing landmark legislation that would grant all same-sex couples in Canada the same legal rights as those in traditional unions between a man and a woman.

The bill passed as expected, despite opposition from Conservatives and religious leaders. The legislation drafted by Prime Minister Paul Martin’s minority Liberal Party government also was expected to pass the Senate easily and become federal law by the end of July.

The Netherlands and Belgium are the only other two nations that allow homosexual “marriage” nationwide.

Some of Mr. Martin’s Liberal lawmakers voted against the bill, and his Cabinet minister for economic development in Ontario, Joe Comuzzi, resigned yesterday over the legislation. But enough allies rallied to support the bill, which has been debated for months.

Mr. Martin said he regretted losing Mr. Comuzzi, but praised the vote as a necessary step for human rights.

“We are a nation of minorities,” Mr. Martin said. “And in a nation of minorities, it is important that you don’t cherry-pick rights.”

There are an estimated 34,000 homosexual couples in Canada, according to government statistics. Before the measure passed, homosexual “marriage” was legal in seven provinces.

“This is a victory for Canadian values,” said Alex Munter, national coordinator of Canadians for Equal Marriage, a group that has led the debate for the legislation.

Mr. Martin, a Roman Catholic, has said that despite anyone’s personal beliefs, all Canadians should be granted the same rights to marriage.

Churches have expressed concern that their clergy would be compelled by law to perform same-sex ceremonies, with couples taking them to court or human rights tribunals if refused. The legislation, however, states that the bill covers only civil unions, not religious ones, and no clergy would be forced to perform same-sex ceremonies.

The Roman Catholic Church, the predominant Christian denomination in Canada, vigorously has opposed the legislation, saying it would harm children in particular.

“Families with both mothers and fathers are generally better for children than those with only mothers or only fathers,” Calgary Bishop Frederick Henry said in a recent statement.

The debate in Canada began in December, when the Supreme Court ruled that passage of same-sex legislation would not violate the constitution.

According to most polls, a majority of Canadians support the right for homosexuals to “marry.” In the United States, homosexual “marriage” is opposed by a majority of Americans, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll taken in November, shortly after constitutional amendments in 11 states to ban same-sex “marriage” were approved.

Massachusetts is the only state that allows homosexual “marriages,” as a result of a decree from the state Supreme Judicial Court. Vermont and Connecticut have approved same-sex civil unions, the former also as a result of a decree from the state’s highest court.

In the United States, the federal government does not recognize same-sex “marriage” and most states refuse to acknowledge marriage certificates from homosexual couples, regardless of where they “married.”

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