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Canada's Equality Bill Passes Second Reading
Liberal "God Squad" MPs Insufficient in Number to Block It
ONLINE:   THURSDAY FEBRUARY 24, 6:47 PM EST (GMT-5).

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THE federal bill introduced February 11th proposing to recognize same sex couples as common-law ones passed the second reading in parliament Monday with a vote of 160-61. Opposition from religious back bench liberals and calls for the bill's modification by the Reform party were insufficient to stop it from passing.

The bill is now on its way to the Commons Justice Committee for hearings.

Although not whipping his members of parliament into a party line vote, Prime Minister Jean Chretien announced February 15th that dissenting liberals could either be absent on the day of voting or abstain, Planet Out reported.

Since the bill's introduction Minister of Justice Anne McLellan's office has been described as inundated with letters, most of which are estimated as opposing the bill.  The national rights / lobby group EGALE has renewed its call for correspondence from members of the Canadian Community, preferably in writing, to their MPs as well as the Ministers of Justice, Citizenship and Immigration, and the Prime Minister himself, in support of it.

The Reform Party reportedly is continuing to seek amendments to the bill, rather than opposing it outright.  Changes to the bill desired by that party include the existing definition of marriage being included and benefits extended to couples with a relationship of dependency in addition to ones of intimacy.

Many of the opposing back bench liberals are reportedly referred to collectively as the "God Squad" by their less religion oriented colleagues.  The "Squad" stands united against equality for gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs concerning sin.