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Canadians for Equal Marriage
Hansard – Civil Marriage Act (C-38) debate – Larry Miller (CPC)
April 21, 2005
Mr. Larry Miller (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak about Bill C-38 on behalf of my constituents of Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound. To say that this debate has garnered a lot of attention would be an understatement. It is contentious and divisive on both sides of the House as well as within society and even within families.
My office has processed thousands of emails, letters, faxes and phone calls from across my riding. I commend my constituents for making their voices heard. More than 95% of the people I have heard from are united in their message and in their convictions. Traditional marriage must be preserved and protected.
While I am pleased that the decision has been placed in the hands of parliamentarians, many people across my riding have displayed their displeasure at this issue even coming forth at this time. They continue to tell me there are many more important issues we should be spending our time on such as corruption in government, health care, corruption in government, the BSE crisis, corruption in government, the high taxes Canadians are forced to pay, and did I mention corruption in government.
I do not believe a decision such as this should be made by a handful of hand-picked, bias, backroom Supreme Court judges, especially when they were appointed by a corrupt government that knew these appointees leanings on this issue. We were elected by the people and we are here to represent them. It should be this House that ultimately has the final vote on this issue, after consultations with the people we represent.
As I see it, this is a debate about fundamental family and social values. In my opinion there are two issues that have to be addressed in any bill on same sex. The rights of gays as determined by the courts must be adhered to, including their right to unite in some form, and traditional marriage defined as one man and one woman must be enshrined. That can be done very simply by allowing civil unions or similar terminology.
I will not oppose same sex unions. However, I will oppose same sex marriage. There is a big difference. Traditional marriage is between one man and one woman. That is the true definition.
I have met with a number of people from the gay community in my riding, with parents who have gay children and with siblings and friends of gays to discuss the issues surrounding this legislation. Most of the people I have met with were in favour of my views and my stance. As I said, most told me that as long as their rights are protected as stated by the courts and they are able to be with their partners, they agree that calling it a civil union or something equivalent is acceptable to them.
We have been forced to address this subject. While I realize there is no perfect answer that will satisfy everyone, I believe we can offer a compromise that would win the support of the vast majority of Canadians who are looking for some middle ground.
On the one hand there are people who believe the equality of rights of gays and lesbians should rule over rights to religious free faith, religious expression or multicultural diversity. On the other hand there are people who think that marriage is a fundamental institution, but that same sex couples can have equivalent rights and benefits and should be protected.
My position is not unlike that of my colleagues and our leader in that it is based on a very solid foundation and time tested values. We believe that if the government presented the option of preserving marriage while recognizing equal rights of same sex couples through civil unions or other means, this is the option that most Canadians would choose.
Marriage and the family based on marriage are the basic institutions of our society. We should not change these kinds of foundational institutions lightly or easily. I do not believe that the government has demonstrated that there are compelling reasons to alter this central social institution.
At least one of the major purposes of marriage historically has been to provide a stable environment for the procreation and raising of children. This does not mean that other kinds of relationships are not loving and valuable. Nor does it mean that heterosexual married couples who cannot or do not have children are less married than anyone else.
What it does mean is that marriage as a social institution has as one of its goals the nurturing of children in the care of a mother and a father. If we change the definition of marriage to end the opposite sex requirement, we will be saying that this goal of marriage is no longer important.
Those of us who support traditional marriage have been told that to amend the bill to reflect the traditional definition of marriage would be a violation of human rights and an unconstitutional violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is nothing more than an attempt by the government to shift the grounds of this debate. If the rights of gays and lesbians are adhered to, as I stated earlier, this debate is not about human rights. It becomes simply a political, social policy decision and should be treated as such.
There are those who would suggest that our leader would use the notwithstanding clause. However, this is also an irrelevant distraction to the debate as our leader has made it very clear that he would not use the notwithstanding clause. There is no reason to use or discuss the use of the notwithstanding clause in the absence of a Supreme Court decision which indicates that the traditional definition of marriage is unconstitutional.
I would like to thank my leader for allowing our party, including the members of the shadow cabinet, to have a free vote on this side of the House. A free vote means everyone. Not just backbenchers can vote the way their constituents want them to.
The Prime Minister says his backbenchers can vote their conscience, but cabinet ministers have to vote with the government. Does that mean cabinet ministers do not have a conscience? Those cabinet ministers who do not vote the wishes of their constituents or who do not listen to their conscience are a disgrace to the profession of parliamentarian.
I ask the Prime Minister to make this important issue a free vote for all his MPs, including his cabinet ministers. If this is not a purely free vote, Canadians will never be truly satisfied that the democratic process has prevailed.
While I am on the topic of the Liberal government, it is funny but not surprising that the Deputy Prime Minister, then the justice minister said in 1998, “Let me state again for the record that the government has no intentions of changing the definition of marriage or of legislating same sex marriages”. What a difference six years makes. It is just another in a long line of deceptions.
I believe the legislation the government has introduced will increase intolerance in our society. Examples of this have already occurred in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. In Manitoba 11 commissioners have been told that they are no longer welcome to work as marriage commissioners if they refuse to also marry same sex couples. Two more commissioners have refused to quit and are taking this to the human rights commission to defend their freedoms and their rights from being imposed upon by the state. They were sent a letter on September 16, 2004 telling them to either perform same sex marriages or to turn in their licences.
In Bill C-38 only clergy from religious institutions are recognized as needing religious freedom protection. While I agree that churches should have the right to that choice, I also believe that this will be challenged in court and clergy will be forced to perform same sex marriages.
There is a clear solution that would guarantee all individuals freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. The solution is for the government to continue to allow these individuals to have government licences to perform marriages that do not violate their conscience or religious faith. At the same time, the government can license more of those who are willing to perform same sex civil unions. This would be the tolerant approach.
The government has taken a very narrow view of the freedoms of conscience and religion and is allowing individual freedoms to be trampled upon.
Making my decision to stand up for traditional marriage goes back to my being raised with Christian values and to my dedication to family values. I am not ashamed to stand up for these values. I believe marriage should continue to be what it has always been, between a man and woman, and that is an institution which is by nature heterosexual and has as one of its main purposes the procreation and nurturing of children in the care of a mother and a father.
I encourage all members of Parliament to do as I plan to do, to oppose Bill C-38.
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