"It is unbelievable that Martin would seriously consider destroying the option of civil marriage in Canada for all couples, heterosexual and homosexual, in order to exclude gay and lesbian couples from equal marriage rights. Ironically, this would mean that a gay couple could marry in a church that celebrates gay and lesbian marriages, but a heterosexual couple that are not religious would be denied the right to marry. Is this really Martin's concept of equality?"
Adovcacy News - Svend Robinson
January 16, 2004
condemned for waffling
OTTAWA- Svend Robinson MP (NDP Burnaby-Douglas) condemned the recent waffling and backtracking by Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin and Justice Minister Irwin Cotler on the issue of equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.
Robinson called on Martin and Cotler to respect the recent decision of Ontario Superior Court Judge Ellen Macdonald extending equal CPP survivor pensions to gay and lesbian people. In comments released yesterday, Robinson noted that Martin has stated that he is open to considering abolishing civil marriage in Canada and replacing it with "civil unions".
"It is unbelievable that Martin would seriously consider destroying the option of civil marriage in Canada for all couples, heterosexual and homosexual, in order to exclude gay and lesbian couples from equal marriage rights," said Robinson. "Ironically, this would mean that a gay couple could marry in a church that celebrates gay and lesbian marriages, but a heterosexual couple that are not religious would be denied the right to marry. Is this really Martin's concept of equality?"
Robinson noted that lower court judges have already rejected "civil unions", and said that they are "second class citizenship", and would violate the Charter of Rights. He also slammed the Justice Minister's call for more consultations and hearings on the issue, noting that the House of Commons Justice Committee last year already held cross-country hearings at the request of former Minister Cauchon. The Committee voted to support equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples last June.
"This is just a stalling tactic by the Liberals to avoid taking a stand on this issue. Gay and lesbian people in Canada will not accept this betrayal. The Supreme Court reference must go ahead as planned in April," said Robinson.
Robinson noted that before next Monday, the Liberal government will announce whether they are appealing the recent Ontario Superior Court decision extending equal CPP pension rights to gay and lesbian survivors. "This decision recognized the right of equal treatment to survivors like 76 year old lifetime gay activist George Hislop, whose partner of 27 years Ron died in 1986, and Gail Meredith, whose partner Judy died after a 15 year relationship."
Robinson called on Cotler to respect this decision. "An appeal would show contempt for the Charter of Rights and for equal treatment for gay and lesbian couples. They paid into the CPP for many years, and their relationships are just as loving and committed as heterosexual relationships."
Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton said that this is the first test of the new Martin government's commitment to equality for gays and lesbians, and will be closely watched by the community. "An appeal of this decision, and backtracking on equal marriage rights, will send a clear signal to gays and lesbians that the right-wing Martin government is betraying the earlier promises of Chretien on this as on so many other issues. They will pay the price in the coming federal election. New Democrats are the only national party that stand solidly in support of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual Canadians."
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