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Equality Bill Anti-Marriage Amendment Proposed
Government bows to right wing pressure
UPDATED:  9: 45 PM EST (GMT-5)

Justice Minister Anne  McLellan
Justice Minister Anne McLellan
IN a move Member of Parliament Svend Robinson is calling "caving in to her own Neanderthal backbenchers" Canada's Justice Minister Anne McLellan has proposed an amendment to her own equality bill.

The amendment will read:  "For greater certainty, the amendments made by this act do not affect the meaning of the word 'marriage,' that is, the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of others."

Minister McLellan rationalized the move as responding to the concerns of Canadians that the bill, entitled 'An Act to Modernize the Statutes of Canada in Relation to Benefits and Obligations,' threatens the institution of marriage.

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She told Canadians on the day of the bill's introduction:  "We don't need to change [the definition of marriage]."  On February 29th she defended not including such a definition to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights by saying:  "There is no ambiguity.  Marriage is clear.  It is clearly defined in the law of this country.  The common law in this country is equally authoritative with legislation."

Minister McLellan insists that she's not saying anything different.  "From my point of view it's a small thing to do to provide that reassurance [to Canadians on marriage]," she stated.

Bill advocates are condemning the move as undermining the bill and threatening to alienate its supporters.

"If the amendment says this bill is not about marriage, and then goes on to define marriage, then what this minister is doing is in a very shameful way precisely what she said she wasn't doing," Mr. Robinson told the press upon leaving the Committee hearings this afternoon.

"Instead of a bill which is described as modernizing benefits and obligations . . . if this proposed amendment goes through it will transform the bill into a defence of marriage act," the president of Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE), Kim Vance, said in a statement.

John Fisher, Executive Director of that rights / lobby group, said simply "I think it's outrageous."

Ontario Member of Parliament Carolyn Bennett said the idea hadn't been debated at committee and witnesses who testified did not have a chance to make submissions on it.  Supporters of the bill might be driven away, she added.

The Justice Committee is expected to debate the amendment tomorrow.

EGALE has issued an action alert this evening asking everyone to call, fax, or e-mail the Minister of Justice, the Prime Minister and Committee Members tonight.  The vote on the amendment will not occur until 9:30 tomorrow morning.  Methods of reaching MPs can be found at Parliament's website at

Mr. Fisher wrote:  "Let them know that we are tired of being relegated to second-class status, and urge Committee members to vote against the proposed amendment.  The Government has made a political calculation that they stand to gain more by compromising for the benefit of the anti-gay members in their caucus than by treating gays and lesbians equally.  They need to know that they are wrong."