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Canadian Government Loses Courage
Government itself to propose anti-marriage amendment to equality bill
ONLINE:  WEDNESDAY MARCH 22, 3:47 PM EST (GMT-5).

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The national rights / lobby group Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE) confirmed at 2:40 PM this afternoon that an anti-marriage amendment to Canada's equality bill will be proposed to the Justice Committee currently studying it.

The amendment will not come from the Reform Party, as was expected.  It's coming from the government itself.

Hearings started at 3:30 PM EST.  An update is expected when they're through.

Following is the press release issued by EGALE this morning concerning the proposed anti-marriage amendment.

EGALE Denounces Anti-Marriage Proposals As Justice Committee Concludes Consideration of Omnibus Same-Sex Legislation

The omnibus Bill to recognize same-sex relationships will be given clause-by-clause consideration by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights this afternoon.  EGALE, the national organization committed to equality and justice for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people, today expressed concern at threats by the Reform Party to introduce amendments to ban same-sex couples from marriage.

"An amendment to ban same-sex couples from marrying would be fundamentally offensive," said Kim Vance, President of EGALE.  "Bill C-23 simply does not deal with marriage, and there would be no purpose to such an amendment except to send the message that our relationships are seen as inherently inferior.

"In Bill C-23, the Government has gone to great lengths to address matters of government policy in a non-discriminatory way without opening up subjects such as the definitions of 'spouse', 'family' or 'marriage'.  Any marriage amendment would effectively transform the Bill from the Modernizing Benefits and Obligations Act to the Defence of Marriage Act.

"An amendment to ban same-sex couples from marriage would have no legal effect," added Vance.  "Same-sex couples are already unable to marry - saying it twice will not make it any more unlawful.

"The amendments proposed by the Reform Party would accomplish nothing and would simply open Bill C-23 up to constitutional challenge.  The Government is striving to fix the problem of its unconstitutional laws.  It would be irresponsible to replace one unconstitutional régime with another, and would simply invite further legal challenges."

"Such an amendment could totally undermine support for the Bill," said Ron Chaplin, Chair of EGALE's Political Action Committee.  "The Reform Party's position of consistently opposing any statutory recognition of the equality rights of the gay and lesbian community is a matter of public record.  The legislation as currently drafted is supported by a substantial majority in the House of Commons, a broad coalition of representatives of every party other than Reform.

"This amendment risks derailing this support for the Bill, while accomplishing nothing -- those who oppose equality rights for gays and lesbians will continue to be opposed.  I cannot imagine these MPs nor the Liberal Government giving serious consideration to discriminatory amendments which are clearly antithetical to the Bill's principles of equality and justice.

"We call upon the Prime Minister to demonstrate that he is capable of showing leadership and of advancing a coherent vision, by firmly rejecting these anti-gay amendments."