YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The World

Canada Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

After years of divisive debate, it becomes the world's fourth nation to grant such rights.

July 21, 2005|From Associated Press

TORONTO — Canada signed gay marriage legislation into law Wednesday, becoming the fourth nation to grant full legal rights to same-sex couples.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin signed the legislation hours after it was approved by the Senate, which acted late Tuesday despite strong opposition from Conservatives and many religious leaders.

The bill gives homosexual couples the same rights as women and men in traditional unions, something that was already legal in eight of Canada's 10 provinces and two of its three territories.

The legislation drafted by Prime Minister Paul Martin's minority Liberal Party government easily passed the Senate, which in effect rubber-stamps any bill passed by the House of Commons, which approved it late last month.

The Netherlands, Belgium and Spain are the only other countries that allow gay marriage nationwide.

The new law comes after years of court battles and debate that divided families, religious groups and even political allies. The Roman Catholic Church, the predominant Christian denomination in Canada, vigorously opposed the legislation.

But Martin, himself a Roman Catholic, has said that despite anyone's personal beliefs, all Canadians should be granted the same right to marriage.

Churches have expressed concern that their clerics would be compelled to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. The legislation, however, states that the bill covers civil unions only, not religious ones, and no clerics will be forced to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

Charles McVety, a spokesman for Defend Marriage Canada and president of Canada Christian College, said he was "very sad that the state has invaded the church, breached separation of church and state and redefined a religious word."

McVety pledged that his group would work to vote out lawmakers who supported the legislation in the next general election.

But Alex Munter of Canadians for Equal Marriage, which has led the debate in favor of the law, said, "It is a signal to the world that Canada is an open and inclusive society that believes in the notion of full citizenship for all."

Los Angeles Times Articles