Saturday, October 09, 2004

Toronto Sun: Liberals Hide Behind the Courts

Sat, October 9, 2004
PM hides behind courts

Since our federal Liberal government is once again pretending that it doesn't know what its own position is on same-sex marriage, allow us to clear the air. Prime Minister Paul Martin and his government support same-sex marriage and plan to pass a law recognizing it.

This is a complete reversal of the Liberals' position of five years ago, when they defined marriage as "the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others" and called on Parliament "to take all steps necessary to preserve (this) definition."

At the time, then-justice minister Anne McLellan assured the Commons that "the government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or of legislating same-sex marriages." But that was then, this is now, and the Liberals' previous position has gone the way of most other Liberal commitments.

We know the Liberals now favour same-sex marriage because (a) they've said so and (b) they decided not to appeal three lower court rulings which recognized same-sex marriages in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. Given all that, this week's move by the Liberals to refer the whole issue to the Supreme Court of Canada was (a) unnecessary and (b) a blatant abdication of their role as parliamentarians.

The Liberal thinking is that once the Supreme Court rules in favour of the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, which it no doubt will if previous court decisions are any guide, they will be able to argue that the issue has been decided by the courts. All of which is a clever political strategy, but makes for lousy government.

The correct thing for the Grits to do would be to forget the Supreme Court reference, which several judges rightly described this week as political, rather than a legal manoeuvre, and introduce a law recognizing same-sex marriages.

Since we oppose same-sex marriage (along with 43% of the Canadian public, compared to 54% in favour), we 'd prefer that Martin allow Liberal MPs to vote their consciences on this issue, as Conservative Leader Stephen Harper called for this week in demanding a free vote. But even if the Liberals don't have the courage to do that, they should at least have the guts to introduce the law and pass it, rather than trying to hide behind the Supreme Court.

Our preference would be for a law giving gays the same rights as married, heterosexual couples by recognizing "civil unions" while preserving the traditional definition of marriage as "the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others." Which is what the Liberals used to believe, before they changed their minds.