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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 7, May/June 2006

Take action to protect gay marriage equality

by Amanda Cantelon

Stephen Harper promises to move quickly on a free-vote motion before Parliament on whether the heterosexual definition of matrimony should be restored. There are 125 Tory MPs compared to 102 Liberals, 51 Bloc Quebecois, 29 New Democrats and one Independent. Any vote would be close.

The current law, which defines marriage more inclusively, allowing gays and lesbians to marry, follows a Canadian tradition of positive leadership on social and human rights issues. The legislation also provides for a balance of competing rights, in that religious communities have the freedom to choose not to perform same-sex marriages. This provides for a win-win outcome based on the fundamental principles of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The legalities of reversing the same-sex marriage legislation would be complicated at best. The highest provincial courts in Quebec, BC, and Ontario ruled that an exclusively heterosexual definition of marriage violates equality rights. Over 130 academics signed an open letter challenging Harper’s position that the traditional definition of marriage can be restored. If the social conservatives win this vote, it will lead to constitutional challenges. The ensuing legal battle will cost taxpayers and drag out the debate. I am sure that all sorts of shockingly conservative sound bytes will be flying out from the back-benchers of the Conservative party. That could be a positive outcome: perhaps the public would find out where MPs really stand.

If you support the dignity and rights of all Canadians, take a stand and lobby your MP to vote against any legislation that compromises the rights of gays and lesbians. MPs need to answer to their constituents. MPs are already being lobbied by opponents of equality who want to redefine civil marriage to exclude same-sex couples. Every voice counts. Take time to make yours heard!

  • Find out where your MP stands on re-opening the equal marriage debate.
  • E-mail your MP.
  • Call your MP, a phone call is more valuable than e-mail.
  • Meet with your MP, a meeting is best.

For more information and lobbying tips, check out the Canadians for Equal Marriage web site: www.equal-marriage.ca/election.php.

Amanda Cantelon teaches at Eastside School, Vancouver, and is a member of the BCTF’s Heterosexism and Homophobia Social Justice Action Group.

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