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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
January 27, 2006

New Canadian government may leave marriage alone

Conservatives might not have the votes to
keep a campaign promise to revisit it

Ottawa--Canada took a small step to the right this week, but the new prime minister�s promise to revisit the nation�s same-sex marriage law may not come to pass.

The Conservative Party broke the Liberal Party�s 12-year hold on government in the January 23 elections, edging out their chief competitors. However, the Conservatives did not win the 155 seats needed for a majority, and will form a minority government.

The elections came after a December no-confidence vote on Prime Minister Paul Martin�s Liberal government.

The vote stemmed from a scandal involving the Liberals� use of tax money to pay firms for little or no work, which predates Martin�s tenure as head of the nation.

During the campaign, Conservative leader and new prime minister Stephen Harper said that, if they won, he would revisit Canada�s landmark same-sex marriage law, with an eye to restoring the �traditional� definition of marriage while respecting the same-sex marriages already performed in the nation.

However, Harper also said he would do so without invoking the unpopular constitutional �notwithstanding� clause, which allows the government to opt out of court decisions.

Most constitutional experts viewed Harper�s statements as contradictory, since most of the country already had court-mandated same-sex marriage before the law passed last summer.

Former Prime Minister Jean Chr�tien never appealed the provincial court rulings to Canada�s highest court, so no final court ruling was ever handed down. The Supreme Court did confirm the constitutionality of the national marriage law before it passed.

During the campaign, critics said Harper was taking his cues from the religious right in the United States. He did use the term �activist judges� on the campaign trail.

It is considered unlikely that the marriage legislation will be rescinded, and it is doubtful whether it will even be fully reconsidered in Parliament.

Sixty-six percent of Canadians say that they feel the marriage issue is closed, and should not be revisited.

To bring the matter back up, the Conservatives would need a majority vote, but they do not have a majority in Parliament.

In the January 23 election, the Conservatives won 124 seats, the Liberals 103.

The Bloc Quebecois, a predominantly left-leaning separatist provincial party, took 51 seats, and the liberal New Democratic Party came in with 29.

The Conservatives have a smaller minority than the Liberals did after the last election, and it is unlikely that they will be able to garner enough support among Liberals to bring marriage back to the floor.

The NDP more staunchly support same-sex marriage than the Liberals--they ejected the one member who voted against marriage last year. The Bloc Quebecois, meanwhile, had a rancorous feud with the Conservatives in this election. The Bloc also supports same-sex marriage.

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