National Vote on Gay Marriage in Canada Rejected

The federal government of Canada rejected Sunday the idea of holding a national referendum on same-sex marriage after the Canadian Supreme Court said the federal government had the authority to legalize same-sex marriage across the nation.

Both Prime Minister Paul Martin and conservative leader Stephen Harper has said the issue should be decided by the Parliament.

"I think that this is an issue that parliamentarians ought to decide," Martin said. "The courts have now given their direction. I think it's one for Parliament and I think that Parliament ought to accept their responsibility."

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said last Wednesday that a legislation to legalize gay marriages could be introduced as early as next month.

Liberal sources have said that straw polls of MPs have indicated opponents of the bill would only be able to muster 141 or 142 votes, leaving 25 or more votes over the 154-vote minimum needed to pass the legislation.

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein said he and other Albertans are opposed to gay marriage. Klein is pushing for a national referendum on the issue. Last week, Alberta Justice Minister Ron Stevens said "the government of Alberta has continually defended the traditional definition of marriage, believing that marriage is deeply rooted in history, culture and religion and is a special bond between a man and a woman."

Canadian Family Action Coalition, a pro-family group opposed to same-sex marriage, is also collecting signatures for petitions in support of a national referendum.

“Let the real debate begin and Canadians' opinions be heard on this issue," said Brian Rushfeldt, CFAC Executive Director, in a press release.

According to the group, when the Supreme Court did not answer the fourth question posed by the Liberal government - Is the traditional definition of marriage between a man and woman constitutional? – it sent a clear message that it is the responsibility of Parliament to legislate on the matter. Therefore, the Parliament cannot say, "The Courts made us to do it,” said CFAC.

"The institution of marriage as man and woman is so fundamental to all major religions that the state should not be allowed to alter it," said Dr Charles McVety, President of CFAC. "You do not have to desecrate the sacred institution of marriage to protect the rights of others."
He added, "Common law relations already exists for others."

In response to Martin’s statements saying there will be free vote only for MPs and not cabinet ministers, Rushfeldt said, “Martin is ordering them to vote the party line. That is a corruption of democracy.”

Lower courts in Canada have legalized same-sex marriage in six of the nation’s ten provinces including one territory.