Canada House Passes Gay Marriage Bill

Canadian lawmakers on Tuesday passed the controversial law to legalize gay marriage despite fierce opposition from Conservatives and religious leaders who vowed to continue the battle to protect marriage.

The bill, which passed the House of Commons, would make Canada the third country in the world to legalize gay marriage and would give same-sex couples the same legal rights to those in unions between a man and a woman.

The legislation still faces the Senate, but is expected to easily pass, according to the Associated Press, and become federal law by the end of July.

Prime Minister Paul Martin, whose minority Liberal Party drafted the bill, said the law is a necessary step forward in granting human rights for all minorities.

"We are a nation of minorities," Martin said. "And in a nation of minorities, it is important that you don't cherry-pick rights."

There are an estimated 34,000 gay and lesbian couples in Canada, according to government statistics.

However, opponents of the bill from religious spheres pointed out that the law essentially strips children of their rights to a mother and father.

“Parliament is embarking on a social experiment that removes the language of husband and wife from the law and eclipses its ability to champion the rights of children to know and be raised by a mother and a father,” said Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, upon the passage of the bill.

The Roman Catholic Church also said the legislation would be harmful to children in particular.

Additionally, religious leaders worried the bill will compromise the religious freedom of those who make references to biblical marriage.

“We believe that religious freedom will be compromised by this change in the definition of marriage,” said Janet Epp Buckingham, the director of law and public policy at the EFC. “Marriage is both a religious and a civil institution and it’s inevitable that such conflicts will arise.”

Clemenger agreed the bill will be hazardous to the evangelical population in Canada.

“Evangelical Christians have engaged on this issue because it’s part of our deeply held religious beliefs that marriage as ordained by God is a union of one man and one woman,” said Clemenger. “Rather than our concerns being taken seriously, we have been made to feel that our beliefs about marriage are unCanadian and contrary to the Charter.”

Most provinces in Canada already allow gay marriages. The debate to legalize such unions across the nation began in December, when the Supreme Court ruled that passage of same-sex legislation would not violate the constitution.