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HARPER’S MOTION TO RE-OPEN EQUAL MARRIAGE DEFEATED! Prime Minister says the issue is settled

After more than a year of facing the threat that our right to marry would be taken away, equal marriage supporters can breathe easy and rejoice: on December 7, 2006 Members of Parliament rejected Stephen Harper’s motion to re-open the divisive equal marriage debate.

The vote wasn’t even close, with the motion being defeated by a vote of 123 to 175. The spread between equal marriage supporters and opponents more than doubled from last June's vote and in every single party the percentage of MPs that voted for equality increased. That increase reflects the growing consensus among Canadians that equal marriage is settled.

We also note that many MPs who voted against Bill C-38 now consider the issue settled and voted against re-opening the debate. In addition, no MPs who voted for Bill C-38 wished to re-open the issue. They all voted against the motion to re-open, including all the Liberal MPs who were Cabinet Ministers when Bill C-38 was passed.

MPs, like most Canadians, have come to understand that equal marriage doesn’t harm anyone, it only makes life better for some. They have come to understand that a generous and inclusive definition of marriage actually strengthens the institution. They have come to understand that the only reason to exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage is discomfort, resistance to change and moral judgment. And they have learned that voting in favour of equality feels really, really good!!

This is the wording of the motion that was defeated:

“That this House call on the government to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages.”

Shortly after the vote, Canadians for Equal Marriage held a press conference. We said “This is a bittersweet day, because today does not mark an advance in equality, but rather the defeat of an attack against us. We are happy that we can now avoid years of divisive and difficult debate, but we are weary that for over a year now we’ve had to defend our hard-won inclusion in the fabric of Canadian society.”

Since the courts have ruled, the Harper government’s motion marks the third time in three years, under three successive prime ministers, that the issue of equal marriage has been debated and voted on.

The first vote was in September 2003, following the historic Ontario Court of Appeal ruling and the Chretien government’s decision to accept that ruling. Harper, then leader of the Canadian Alliance, put forward a motion calling on Parliament to “take all necessary steps” to defend the old definition of marriage. That motion was narrowly defeated, 137-132.

The second vote on equal marriage came in June, 2005, the equal marriage law introduced by the Martin government. It was actually a series of four votes, each vote being a decisive victory for extending equal marriage rights across Canada. The final vote for Bill C-38 passed 158-133.

Canadians for Equal Marriage salutes the political leaders who have had the courage to stand on principle and defend the Canadian way. You are champions of human rights. In particular, we would like to acknowledge NDP leader Jack Layton, Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, Liberal leader Stephane Dion, former Liberal leader Bill Graham, Conservative MPs James Moore and Gerald Keddy and the many other MPs who took a courageous stand for equality.

Congratulations to the more than 12,000 marriage licences same-sex couples across Canada who have been married since the Ontario Court of Appeal first allowed equal marriage in June, 2003. You are all trailblazers for human rights in a country that is – now, more than ever – a role model for the rest of the world.

But just because the debate over equal marriage has ended (hopefully!) doesn’t mean the advancement of equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families is over. The mission of Canadians for Equal Marriage might be accomplished, but the work of Egale Canada continues – and Egale needs your help!

Egale has been successfully advocating for equality and justice for over 20 years and has been a key partner of CEM. In fact, CEM wouldn’t have existed without Egale.

As we move beyond law reform, we face the challenge of changing hearts and minds, and of making everywhere across Canada safe and welcoming for LGBT youth, LGBT seniors, LGBT families and their children. We need a strong national organization to lead the way!

Please consider making a donation to Egale at www.egale.ca

Thank you once again to all our supporters for ensuring that Canada remains a role model for human rights around the world, and a country that treats all its citizens with equal consideration and respect.

Laurie Arron
National Coordinator
Canadians for Equal Marriage

Love is 'the only genuine force that binds individuals together in pursuit of common purpose and meaningful lives lived with and for others.'
-- The Vanier Institute of the Family


Here’s one for your wedding song list: a Canadian band called The Habit has written and recorded a pop song about the fight for marriage equality. It’s called Fighter and the band describes it as “a cri-de-coeur for the government to respect people’s right to love and commit to whoever they want.” You can listen to it (and download it) at www.thehabit.ca.


The debate about equal marriage went on for several years before it finally passed Parliament -- cross-Canada hearings of the Justice Committee, nine court decisions, one Supreme Court reference, one election campaign, three House of Commons votes, six months of Parliamentary debate on the Hill. Check out our Turtle Timeline for a full-colour graphic overview.

Even the National Post said "the marriage debate had had its day."

A 2005 April Environics opinion poll showed that 76% of Canadians – including 70% of Conservative Party supporters -- believed it was time for Parliament to decide the issue, rather than drag it out further.

The bill was approved in principle by the House in a 164 - 137 vote on May 4.

On Monday, June 6, anti-equality MP Pat O'Brien left the Liberal Party. He threatened to use all democratic means, including defeating the government, to stop the bill. Other dissident Liberals were threatening to help him.

On June 16, the C-38 Legislative Committee finished its work and reported back to the House of Commons.

On Thursday, June 23, Parliament voted to extend the session indefinitely, to allow passage of both the budget bills and the equal marriage bill before summer. The budget bill was then passed, leaving only the equal marriage legislation to be dealt with.

On Tuesday, June 28, the House of Commons passed Bill C-38, the equal marriage bill, by a vote of 158 - 133.

On Tuesday, July 19, the Senate passed the equal marriage bill by an overwhelming 47 to 21.

On, Wednesday, July 20, 2005 at 4:56 p.m. the bill received Royal Assent and was proclaimed into law at 6:09 p.m.


Take a look at CEM's ad in The Hill Times, the newspaper of Parliament Hill, which lists prominent equal marriage supporters - "Look who supports equal marriage!"

Famous Players Theatre Ads:
Slide 1 English"Slide 1"
Slide 2 English"Slide 2"

Public Service Announcements on Equal Marriage:
Clip 1"Park Bench"
(15 sec)
Clip 2"Water Cooler"
(15 sec)
Clip 2"Urban Landscape"
(30 sec)

Focus on the Family Ad: We Believe in a Mom and Dad.FOCUSING ON ANTI-GAY ADS: Our opponents are on the move. Focus on the Family (FOTF), a US-based organization, has begun its $1.5 million ad campaign against equal marriage. They are raising the stakes, in the hopes of mobilizing opponents of equal marriage. Your active involvement is needed now!

[CLICK HERE] to take the first step.

Focusing on All Families: A Better MessageSee a full-size version of the FOTF Ad which appeared in the country's largest newspapers in mid-May, and an Ad We Feel Sends a Better Message.


Canadians for Equal Marriage Needs Your Help!

Canada is at an historic moment. Will we maintain our human rights leadership or will we see a major reversal? Please help us to prevent Parliament from rolling back the clock on equality.

Four steps to prevent an equal marriage rollback:
electionMP ACTION

We would like to thank our Corporate Supporters for their generosity.

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