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    December 08, 2006

    Canada defends marriage, charter

    Posted by: Chris

    Canada Canadian lawmakers voted yesterday to defeat a Conservative Party effort to reopen debate on the country's law allowing gay couples to marry. The vote was seen by many as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's perfunctory attempt to fulfill a campaign promise to social conservatives to try and re-open the issue, after Parliament passed landmark legislation last year making opening marriage up to gay couples.

    The vote this time was 175-123, an improvement over the 158-133 tally last year, even though Conservatives have since taken control of Parliament (over corruption issues, not gay marriage). Even many Conservative ministers in leadership roles voted against their own party, saying the issue should now be closed closed. 

    Yesterday's motion was a last-ditch effort to prevent same-sex marriages from taking hold in Canada, although even Conservatives promised they wouldn't revoke more than 12,000 marriage licenses issued to gay couples since the change in the law. In some ways, Harper's Conservatives were following the same script as George W. Bush's Republicans, following through on a campaign promise by introducing a motion on gay marriage they knew would be defeated. In similar fashion, Republicans forced votes in 2004 and 2006 they knew they would lose on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ban states from marrying gay couples.

    What's more striking, however, was the stance taken on the other side of the aisle. In the U.S., Democrats have run screaming from the gay marriage issue, opposing a federal marriage amendment as unnecessary and a political diversion from "real issues."

    Shephanedion In Canada, as in the U.S., the initial impetus to marry gay couples came from judges, who ruled that it was required by that country's Charter of Rights & Freedoms — their Bill of Rights. But the Liberal Party — another label they embrace rather than running from! — didn't hide from the judges' ruling; they defended it. Imagine!  The National Post reported:

    Liberal Leader Stephane Dion called the prospect of re-opening the gay-marriage issue “an attack against the Charter.” … He reacted with pleasure to the results of the vote, saying Harper tried and failed to overwrite the Charter of Rights & Freedoms. “We are the party of the Charter. … It’s good news for the Charter, for the rights of all Canadians,” Dion said.

    How impressive it would be to see Democrats show the same cajones, and defend the role the judiciary plays in our constitutional democracy. "We are the party of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights," they could say. "The Republicans are attacking the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, and that's bad news for the rights of all Americans."

    Yes, Canada is not the United States, and conservative Christians are far more influential in the U.S. than they are north of the border. But if Howard Dean's Democrats weren't so willing to sacrifice a full-throated defense of gay Americans in some delusional effort to win white evangelical votes, we wouldn't see gay marriage already banned in so many states. And many Americans, whatever their views on judicial activism and gay marriage, might see a Democratic Party willing to stand for something other than opposing Republicans.



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