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Canadians for Equal Marriage
Hansard – Civil Marriage Act (C-38) debate – Merv Tweed (CPC)
April 19, 2005
Mr. Speaker, before I get into my speech, I do want to thank the people of Brandon--Souris for their input on this issue. I know that for many of my colleagues and, I suspect, for many of the members in this House, this subject was part of the election issue in the last campaign. I believe that if we were truly honest with ourselves and told people what we felt, that should be reflected in the votes.
I have received many calls, many letters, many e-mails, mostly against the legislation but also some in support. I have tried to deal with all of my constituents with the same level of respect and willingness to hear their points of view.
This is arguably the most controversial and divisive piece of legislation to come before Parliament in a generation, and it does not have to be so. A clear majority of Canadians favour the proposal put forward by the Conservative Party of Canada, namely providing for same sex unions while maintaining that the term “marriage” will continue to apply to opposite sex couples. That is a position which is very Canadian in its compromise. I believe it is the position that most Canadians are putting forward. It is respectful of both the gay community and its desire for equal benefits under the law, and of those people who agree with maintaining the current definition of marriage as that between a man and a woman.
This divisive debate, in my opinion, is an attempt by the current government to detract from its shameful record of governing and trying to paint those who disagree with its view as intolerant or un-Canadian. It does not have to be this way. Our party’s proposal keeps the term “marriage” and provides for recognition of homosexual couples.
I believe I am like most Canadians. I have friends who are gay and I have friends who are still uncomfortable with homosexuality. I think that I am also like most Canadians when I say that gays, lesbians and straight couples should be able to enter into civil unions if they so desire. I do not think we would find many Canadians who would disagree with that position. I have to stress, however, that because someone agrees that the term “marriage” should be preserved for a man and a woman, it does not make that person intolerant, but wrapping oneself in the charter and calling everyone who disagrees stupid does.
It is the tolerant and mainstream position of this party in regard to civil union that the majority of Canadians agree with. In fact I would go so far as to say that the majority of the industrialized world agrees with our position. This is shown by looking at comparable legislation enacted by countries around the world which Canada often compares itself to. France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Germany, Portugal and New Zealand have all brought in laws that allow couples to enter into civil unions, unions that provide all the same benefits of marriage while maintaining the important and accepted term “marriage” as that between opposite sex couples.
Only two countries have legislated same sex marriage at the national level, Belgium and the Netherlands. Before some say that this proves it is possible to grant same sex couples what they call equal rights, I would add that in both of these countries there are some areas related to adoption or marriage of non-nationals which still make the relationship different from opposite sex marriages.
Even in the so-called progressive countries, same sex couples are treated differently from opposite sex couples. I am certain that the Prime Minister would not call the leaders of those countries stupid for not giving same sex couples the exact same legislation of the traditional definition.
It is true that several Canadian provinces and one territory have same sex marriage. Add to that the American state of Massachusetts and we have all the jurisdictions in North America that allow it. It should be noted, however, that all of these jurisdictions have had the decisions dictated by the courts, not by their parliamentarians.
Some jurisdictions have enacted civil union on their own initiative, including uber-liberal Hawaii and Howard Dean’s Vermont. These states have always been viewed as forward looking by Canadian liberals. It should be stressed that neither state has brought in same sex marriage. That would be called intolerant by the government. I am sure Mr. Dean would find it amusing that Canadian Liberals would find his views intolerant, views that, I may add, reflect exactly the position of this moderate mainstream Conservative Party.
The Conservative position is one that is in line with the views of most Canadians. It is a compromise between those who will stop at nothing until same sex couples have marriage even if it means potentially trampling on religious rights in the process, and those on the other side who believe that same sex couples are illegitimate and deserve no recognition at all. Let us respect the views held by mainstream Canadians and enact legislation allowing civil unions and keep the term “marriage” reserved for those who are of the opposite sex.
Canadians agree. So does most of the industrialized world. In December New Zealand passed civil union legislation that is open to both same sex and opposite sex couples. It allows for same sex couples to obtain the benefits of marriage while leaving the term “marriage” for a man and a woman. It is true that the left of centre, progressive, tolerant, forward looking, inclusive, moderate and mainstream Labour Party of New Zealand has the same position on marriage as the Conservative Party of Canada.
It is not the Conservatives who are out of touch with Canadian values or those of the international community. It is the Liberals across the way.
The civil union bill was brought before the New Zealand House of Representatives on June 24 last year by the Labour-led coalition government. It sparked a huge national debate there, very similar to what we are seeing with the civil marriage bill in Canada.
Speaking to the civil union bill in New Zealand at first reading, the hon. Chris Carter, an openly gay Labour MP and minister of conservation said that he supported the legislation because it was an opportunity to publicly register his relationship with his partner and to obtain proper legal protection for their rights.
When responding to the fact that the bill did not allow for same sex marriage, Mr. Carter said:
The irony is that this bill does not allow couples like Peter and I to marry. I am often asked whether I am comfortable with this--and, actually, I am.
I accept that marriage has a traditional and religious heritage, which is why our churches are so protective of it.
I recognize that those churches often cannot include same-sex couples in their world view.
Therefore, I accept that it could be difficult for the State to apply the institution of marriage to same-sex couples until the majority of our religions have done so.
That sounds so familiar to the debate taking place in Canada. Talk like that in this country would have one branded as being intolerant or worse, against the charter, by the Liberals across the way.
The bill provides public recognition of same sex relationships while at the same time respecting the beliefs of those who think marriage, often due to religious beliefs, is between a man and a woman. That is reasonable and fair. We on this side cannot understand why the Liberals on that side do not get it.
Georgina Beyer, a post-operative transsexual Labour MP also voiced her support of the legislation, saying:
This is no more or less than we are asking for with the Civil Union Bill--for the sake of enhancing the lives of New Zealanders, not for destroying the institution of marriage, which we stand here in this House today to acknowledge and respect for what it is.
My party shares the same views as the Labour Party of New Zealand and yet is labelled intolerant by Liberals because we want to give equality of status to homosexual couples while respecting those who believe in the current definition of marriage. Canadians are willing and ready to accept this. I believe we represent the majority of Canadians.
I will be opposing the bill presented as it is. I will continue to support the values as presented by the Conservative Party of Canada.
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