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Canadian House of Commons Overwhelmingly Passes Equality Bill
All amendments proposed by MPs defeated

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AFTER having survived a rough ride in the Committee and Report Stages of the House of Commons, Canada's Equality Bill C-23 entitled 'An Act to Modernize the Statutes of Canada in Relation to Benefits and Obligations' passed third reading this evening by a wide margin.

Members of Parliament present from the Bloc Quebecois and New Democratic Party (NDP) were united in their support of the bill.  Seventeen Liberals and 4 out of 14 Conservatives voted in opposition to it, as did a united Canadian Alliance (formerly Reform) party.  The final vote was 174 - 72 in favour of passing the bill.

NDP MP Svend Robinson was absent, as was Bloc Quebecois MP Pierrette Venne - who had proposed a large number of amendments during Report Stage.

Calling it a "bittersweet victory" in a statement, John Fisher of Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE) described the government's last minute Committee Stage amendment to include the traditional definition of marriage as "shameless" and "taints the message of equality and acceptance which the Bill would otherwise have provided."

Noting, however, that the bill succeeds in granting the federal rights and responsibilities of married couples to same- and opposite-sex common-law ones, he conceded that its passing "represents a significant step forward."

Canadian Alliance MP Eric Lowther, a staunch opposer of the bill, proposed an ill-fated 11th hour motion to have it referred back to committee for consideration of more definition-of-marriage amendments.  Later he described the government as "intent upon removing any unique public policy recognition of the institution of marriage."

Liberals defended the bill as simply legislating equal treatment for all common-law relationships and having nothing to do with marriage.

Mr. Fisher concurred in his statement, saying  "These changes are part of a nation-wide acceptance that our relationships must be treated with equal dignity and respect, and there can be no turning back the clock.  Although governments all too often undermine the message of equality through political compromise, EGALE will continue its efforts to see full equality for [LGBT} people celebrated as an inherent right."

Earlier last week debate had proceeded on over 100 amendments, proposed mostly by MPs from the Canadian Alliance party, when the bill arrived in the Commons for Report Stage.

Voting finally occurred yesterday with all motions being defeated, including the two proposed by Svend Robinson to either remove or modify the definition of marriage, as well as those from opponent Liberal backbenchers.  A vote was then taken to move the bill on to third reading.

The bill now moves on to the appointed Senate where the Liberal majority is expected to pass it.