Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Northern Enlightenment

Isn’t it slightly ironic that the night President Bush declares that “freedom is on the march” in the guise of a bloody war in Iraq, the Canadian Parliament has done more to advance the cause of freedom and equality for its own citizens and recognize the fact that it’s more important to take care of those rights at home before you try and spread them somewhere else.

Canada is on its way to becoming the third country in the world to openly embrace homosexual marriage after the House of Commons gave its final approval last night to a bill that changes the definition to include same-sex couples.

The historic 158-133 vote capped an intense and divisive two-year Commons battle that maintained its political drama to the end, as Liberal minister Joe Comuzzi resigned from cabinet yesterday because he could not support his government’s move.

Réal Ménard, a gay Bloc Québécois MP who has been one of the leading proponents of the bill within his party and within Parliament, said the vote was extremely important. “If you are gay, [no matter] who you are, whatever are your rights, you have the right to be in love,” he said as his eyes welled with tears. “And I am very proud today for what we have done.”

NDP Leader Jack Layton held a victory party with staff to celebrate both the same-sex vote and last week’s final vote on the NDP budget amendment.

“I think Canada is now sending out a signal that it is possible to really provide full equality to people with different sexual orientations and to celebrate those relationships,” Mr. Layton said. “I think it will sound a real clarion call around the world and perhaps reduce the hatred and the animosity and perhaps move toward a society where all are really considered equal.”


All that remains for the same-sex bill to become law is debate in the Senate, where Liberals vastly outnumber the opposition Conservatives and are expected to pass the bill early next month.

Belgium and the Netherlands are the only two countries to have legalized same-sex marriage, but Spain is on the verge of passing a similar law that will soon be put to the King for final approval.

Alex Munter, of Canadians for Equal Marriage, praised last night’s vote, as well as gay and lesbian Canadians who have long advocated for gay rights. “This is a proud and exciting day to be a Canadian.”

The Liberals outnumber the opposition in the Senate nearly three to one, with 64 Liberals, 22 Conservatives, five Progressive Conservatives, five independents and one New Democrat.

The bill will be referred to the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee as early as today, where Conservatives are vowing to oppose it.

Stephen Harper, the Conservative Leader who has been consistent in his opposition to same-sex marriage, said last night’s vote would not put the issue to rest.

“I think it will be an issue to come to Canadians in the next election and there will be a chance to revisit this in a future Parliament,” he said.

Well, failing that, Mr. Harper, you could always move to Tampa (see below).