(Ottawa) A day before the first major House of Commons vote on the government's same-sex marriage bill, constitutional law experts are weighing in on the legality of Stephen Harper's proposed changes to that bill.
Conservative Party Stephen Harper is pushing for an amendment to the legislation by specifying that marriage must continue to be defined as a union between a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others but require parliament to recognize same-sex relationships through civil unions.
Today, two constitutional law experts held a news conference in Ottawa to argue that the only way Harper's approach would work is if he uses the Constitution's "notwithstanding" clause.
The constitutional experts declared that Harper's amendment to the government's bill is based on the "deceitful and disingenuous assertion" that Parliament can keep same-sex couples from marrying through other means.
If Parliament votes in favor of the amendment on Tuesday, "It would be impossible for this bill to be withdrawn, amended or defeated without requiring the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Charter being invoked," said Constitutional law professor Martha Jackman.
Harper has previously rejected such assertions.
Meanwhile, at a Toronto news conference a coalition of religious leaders announced their support for same-sex marriage.
The Religious Coalition for Equal Marriage Rights includes representatives from liberal and traditional faith communities in Canada, including The United Church of Canada, the Canadian Unitarian Council, the Muslim Canadian Congress, the Canadian Friends Service Committee of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the World Sikh Organization, Canadian Rabbis for Equal Marriage, Metropolitan Community Church, Ahavat Olam Synagogue (Vancouver), Church of the Holy Trinity (Anglican) in Toronto, the Apostolic Society of Franciscan Communities-Canada, and liberal and progressive members of the Buddhist, Catholic, First Nations, Hindu, Mennonite, and Muslim communities.
"We want to dispel the myth that if you are a person of faith, you must be opposed to same-sex marriage," said Richard Chambers of The United Church of Canada. The largest Protestant denomination in the country, the United Church is on record supporting same-sex marriage.
Jane Orion Smith of the Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers) says the Religious Coalition for Equal Marriage Rights came together with the common purpose of demonstrating faith-based support for civil same-sex marriage by a wide range of religious groups.
The same-sex marriage bill is likely to squeak-through on Tuesday with a final vote expected next month. But, if the government falls before then, the bill would be dead.
If that occurred, or if it were defeated in a Commons vote, same-sex marriage in more than 80 percent of Canada where courts have ruled in favor of gay and lesbian couples would not be affected.