Same-sex marriage legislation may not pass

08.08.03

The proposed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage may not pass due to a large number of opposed and undecided MPs. And the big debate these days seems to miss the point. A recent poll on the Globe and Mail’s site asked people whether they thought MPs should rely on their personal or religious views, or the views of constituents, when deciding on an issue like gay marriage. 84% said their constituents. But the truth is, neither of these options is right.

What if the issue was whether black people should have the right to attend the same schools as white people? What about a vote on whether women should have equal rights under the law to men? Would it make sense to have politicians adopt law in these cases based on personal views, religious blackmail, or angry groups of racist or sexist constituents? Of course not. Equality under the law is a basic right guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights. And even if an MP lived in a riding where there was a high level of racism and opposition to minority rights, he or she should still do the right thing.

Incidentally, there is a listing at the bottom of this article on where various MPs stand on the vote. And at least one MP is outspoken about her views that rights aren’t decided by a show of hands:

Others who endorse same-sex marriage say it is not a matter of public opinion.

“It is a fundamental issue of human rights,” Montreal MP Marlene Jennings said.

When human rights are decided by popular vote, then the whole notion of equality falls apart. A lot of people say that the supreme court has no place redefining marriage. But I disagree. This is an issue of law. It’s the most basic law we have. As stated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 15, article 1:

Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

Even if sexual orientation isn’t specifically listed as an “in particular” category, neither is it precluded from the definition. Every individual is equal before and under the law. It’s a right we cherish as Canadians. It’s time we started applying that like we mean it, even to people we may disagree with.

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