Ottawa--The House of Commons voted 158 to 133 to approve full same-sex marriage on June 28, a move that will result in Canada becoming the third nation to recognize such marriages.
The bill extending marital rights for same-sex couples to the entire nation must still pass the upper chamber of Parliament, the Senate. It is expected to pass easily in the next few weeks since the bill�s backers, the ruling Liberals, control the Senate.
�We are a nation of minorities,� said Prime Minister Paul Martin. �And in a nation of minorities, it is important that you don�t cherry-pick rights.�
Martin�s Liberals were supported by the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party in the vote, shoring up the numbers despite two dozen Liberal members of Parliament voting with the opposition Conservatives on the matter.
The approval came less than a week after a successful vote to extend the session to take care of pending legislation, including this bill. The Bloc Quebecois only agreed to extend the session once they were assured that C38 would be one of the bills voted on.
Court rulings have already made gay and lesbian marriage legal in Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the Yukon. Once this bill clears the Senate, it will extend marriage to Alberta, whose premier vehemently opposes same-sex marriage; Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Prince Edward Island.
The law specifies that religious groups will not be forced to perform same-sex weddings, so a Catholic church could not be strong-armed into holding gay nuptials, for instance.
However, progressive denominations, like the predominantly gay Metropolitan Community Churches, could perform the rites.
Conservative leader Stephen Harper promised that his party would revisit the issue if they came to power in the next election. However, since courts covering over 90 percent of the Canadian population have ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, it is unclear what, if anything, he could do to reverse the issue�s course.
The legislation was vetted by the Supreme Court of Canada before being introduced in Parliament to ensure that it passed constitutional muster and provided iron-clad protections for the rights of religious groups opposed to same-sex marriage.
Canada will be the third country to legalize full same-sex marriage nationwide, after the Netherlands and Belgium. In both of those countries, however, there are residency or citizenship requirements. Massachusetts also allows gays and lesbians to marry, but restricts it to residents and people who declare they will move there.
Canada allows citizens of other countries to marry, and hundreds of U.S. lesbian and gay couples have wed there in the two years since Ontario�s highest court first ruled in favor of a Toronto gay couple.
Spain has also passed a same-sex marriage bill in its House of Commons, but its more conservative Senate rejected the measure last week. A second vote in the Commons can override the Senate rejection, and that is expected this summer.
About a dozen other countries, mostly in Europe, have civil union or domestic partner laws that grant varying rights and responsibilities but fall short of marriage.
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