REFOCUS BY GERARD VELDHOVEN
Prime Minister Paul Martin was a man of his word when he presented a bill in Parliament legalizing same-sex marriage. He was determined to see this through because as he said, “it is the right thing to do.” Consequently, he introduced the Civil Marriage Act on Feb. 1, 2005, and it passed in Parliament on June 28 and approval of the Senate on July 19, the same year.
The following is part of what Mr. Martin had to say: “I rise today in support of Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act. I rise in support of a Canada in which liberties are safeguarded, rights are protected and the people of this land are treated as equals under the law. If we do not step forward, then we must step back. If we do not protect a right, then we deny it.”
Mr. Martin, a devout Roman Catholic, was challenged by the Bishop of Calgary, Frederick Henry, who was in favour of excommunicating Martin for his plan to legalize same-sex marriage. Henry said that the prime minister’s politics clashed with his religion. The Bishop went on to say, “You’re either with the Church, or you are not.”
Mr. Martin considers his beliefs a personal matter, but believes strongly in equality, including equal marriage. The gay community is thankful that this prime minister realized the need for equal marriage in this country, in spite of his religious affiliation.
When Martin’s government was defeated, Stephen Harper stepped in to succeed him. Harper had made it quite clear that he would revisit the idea of same-sex marriage. He strongly opposed the idea and would make an attempt to revisit this issue to reverse the decision already voted on and signed into law. Harper did introduce a motion to get rid of the new marriage law.
This free vote in Parliament was thankfully defeated by the NDP, most Liberals and a handful of Conservatives. He even threatened to use the notwithstanding clause and that would not have been supported by Canadians. He failed in his attempt and kudos to former prime minister Paul Martin for giving us this important choice. They were friends indeed. For comments and information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.