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Canada's Justice Minister Defends Not Legislating Marriage Definition
Liberal backbenchers and Reform MPs grill McLellan in equality bill's committee hearings

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FEDERAL Minister of Justice Anne McLellan was grilled during a Commons Justice Committee meeting yesterday by opposition MPs and some Liberal backbenchers who want the definition of marriage to be included in Canada's same sex relationships equality bill, the Canadian Press reported.

Legislating the definition of marriage, as opposed to leaving it defined in common law, would prevent the courts from ordering it changed, or so reportedly argued Reform social affairs critic Eric Lowther.

"If in fact the courts can change the definition of spouse at a whim and [Minister McLellan] does not appeal it . . . why should this committee or any Canadian believe that the courts can't change the definition of marriage at a whim and then she would again say, 'Well, the courts told us to do it?', " he was quoted as asking.

Liberals pressed the Justice Minister similarly:  "There is in fact no compelling legislative or charter reason why the definition of marriage could not have been put in this bill," said Ontario Liberal John McKay.  "I really can't understand why you didn't use this opportunity to clear up that legislative ambiguity," he added.

Parliament could define 'dog' or 'cat' if they wanted to in this legislation ... I don't know why you would, because [the bill] doesn't deal with that.
-Anne McLellan
Minister McLellan defended her stand on the issue.  "There is no ambiguity," she reportedly said.  "Marriage is clear.  It is clearly defined in the law of this country.  The common law in this country is equally authoritative with legislation.  The courts have said that over and over again.  Therefore there's no need to try and make it any clearer, because I don't think they can make it any clearer.  They have said it's the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.  Full stop."

She was reported later as stating "If Parliament chose, it could include definitions of anything ... they could define 'dog' or 'cat' if they wanted to in this legislation ... I don't know why you would, because [the bill] doesn't deal with that."

Canadian rights and lobby groups have not pressed that gay and lesbian legal marriage be included in the equality bill introduced February 11th, instead saying that that issue is "for another day."  The bill proposes federal recognition of same sex couples as common-law ones, as ordered by the Supreme Court M vs. H ruling in the spring of 1999.