Canada's Gay Marriage Bill Passes Second Reading

A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Canada passed a second reading in the Commons on Wednesday. Conservatives, meanwhile, vow to defeat the Liberal Government in blocking this measure.

Bill C-38 will grant civil marriage rights to same-sex couples throughout Canada. The legislation was introduced by the Liberal government, headed by Prime Minister Paul Martin, in response to several courts declaring that same-sex marriage prohibition was a violation of equal rights.

Conservatives, who largely opposed the bill, tried but failed to block the bill from getting a reading in the House. On Wednesday, the bill passed the second round by a vote of 164 to 137, with only thirty-five Liberals joining the Conservative Party to go against the bill.

Public hearings will be held before a House-appointed committee, to examine the legality of the bill. In order to become law, the bill must pass the committee and a third reading in the House. It must then pass the Senate before seeking royal approval.

The whole process could take at least a month, enough time for the Conservative Party to take action. Conservatives, led by Party Leader Stephen Harper, plan to force a confidence vote by next week, through which they hope to take control of the government. If they succeed, the marriage bill will most likely die.

“I don’t expect the bill to make it through this Parliament,” said Harper to reporters on Wednesday.

The bill has stirred up controversy and debate across the nation. On Sunday, thousands rallied in a showing of multi-faith unity for traditional marriage. A poll conducted by the Environics Research Group in March showed that Canadians are divided over the issue, with slightly more than half of whom are opposed to the bill.

Currently, six provinces and one territory recognize same-sex marriage. The proposed bill will extend marriage rights to same-sex couples across all of Canada. Currently, only two other countries recognize same-sex marriage on a nationwide scale.