Ottawa Citizen

Wednesday June 9, 1999

Government supports marriage motion

STEPHEN THORNE


The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA (CP) - The Liberal government supported an Opposition motion Tuesday asserting Parliament's view that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. "The definition of marriage is already clear in law," Justice Minister Anne McLellan said during debate.

"This government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or legislating same-sex marriage."

The motion was voted on just before 11 p.m. Tuesday and passed 216 to 55.

McLellan said she does not believe it necessary to change the definition to accommodate equality concerns among gays and lesbians. The federal government has already extended survivor benefits to same-sex couples.

Courts have recognized the need for recognition of same-sex couples, she said, and the public's message is one of "tolerance, fairness and respect for others."

The motion by Reformer Eric Lowther states that Parliament believes "marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that Parliament will take all necessary steps . . . to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada."

Lowther said MPs have been receiving a petition a week in favour of such a motion.

"Before the courts tell us what marriage means, we thought it would be prudent to take a leadership role and make it clear to the courts and represent Canadians first," said the Calgary MP.

"It's a pre-emptive approach rather than a reactive approach to court rulings."

Last month, the Supreme Court struck a huge blow to discrimination against gays and lesbians, suggesting their rights and responsibilities should be the same as those of heterosexual couples.

Though the decision was specific to Ontario, federal and provincial governments will have to fall in line. The private sector is sure to follow.

Some MPs called the motion discriminatory, but Lowther disagreed.

"Under the law, all Canadians are equal. But the law in Canada says that marriage is a union of a man and a woman. That is supported by tradition and it is supported so far by the courts."

Reformer Monte Solberg said "We want to take this opportunity to get out ahead on this issue.

"That's something that hasn't happened too often in the past. All these issues have been driven by the courts and by special interests. We'd much rather see them addressed in the House of Commons."

© The Canadian Press, 1999