The Canadian parliament may soon pass a bill that will legalize gay marriage across the nation. While evangelicals and conservatives in Canada are opposed to the bill, some are welcoming parts of the legislation that would protect dissenters - including religious adherents - in federal court.
At a meeting in the House of Commons on Thursday, the bill committee proposed adding two amendments to the marriage bill, C-38, that would increase protection for religious freedom and freedom of conscience in areas of federal responsiblity.
The third reading of the bill is scheduled to take place on June 16, before the June 23 summer break. Conservative ministers of parliament have been pushing for a delay of the vote until lawmakers reconvene in the fall.
Some leaders of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), whose affiliates include 7,000 protestant evangelical churches and 40 denominations across Canada, supported the new additions to the controversial bill.
"This amendment will give a certain amount of comfort to the evangelical Christian community who have been concerned about discrimination in the face of the redefinition of marriage," said Janet Epp Buckingham, director of law and public policy for EFC in a statement released on Thursday.
However, Buckingham added that other amendments that will further protect religious freedom and freedom of expression should be included.
The EFC expects current amendments to protect dissenters from legal, policy and financial consequences in court. However, the group is also asking the committee for specific protection of federal employees, which is currently only implied.
Bruce Clemenger, president of EFC, wrote in a statement that while recent amendments are necessary, they do not sufficiently address the "unforeseen consequences" of the new legislation.
Ultimately, Clemenger explained, the fellowship is opposed to Bill C-38 because marriage should be defined as the bond between one man and one woman.
He added that many important questions regarding the redefinition of marriage had yet to be fully answered or examined by the courts or Parliament.
He also showed concern that "a majority of Canadians, and a majority of religious institutions will be at odds with the new meaning of marriage."
"Bill C-38 changes the public meaning of marriage," said Clemenger in the statement. "