ask all of you, all over the country, to respond to the call for opinions ...
It does not have to be long but it should testify to the facts of your life situations
and to why access to marriage is important for you and for our community."
September 12, 2002
in Quebec: the story of our lives
Martin Cauchon said the issue of gay and lesbian marriages should not be solely
left in the hands of the courts. He said the government had to show "leadership"
on the issue.
The federal government announced September 9 that it will appeal the Quebec Superior Court Ruling that called the "one man and one woman" definition of marriage discriminatory [the appeal will be heard September 25-26, 2003]. Ottawa has been criticized coast to coast by the media and opinion-makers for the way in which it has avoided addressing the issue of human rights for gay and lesbian families. The Liberal government's communication on the issue of same-sex marriage has been dodgy at best. The party has done all it could to avoid the issue, only extending benefits to gays and lesbians when the courts forced them too.
So it is particularly strange to read that the government is going to show leadership at last. How? By dropping their defenseless and mean case? No. The stacks of documented evidence, arguments, and judgements produced already is not enough. Ottawa demonstrates leadership by forming a parliamentary committee to consider the government's binary choice: open marriage to same-sex couples or wait until the Supreme Court of Canada demands the change. There is no third choice, as the Quebec judgement confirmed.
"What makes the Quebec victory important for all of Canada is that (Judge Lemelin) had the chance to look at a civil-union law and to comment herself as to whether that would be enough of a solution for gay and lesbian couples," the lawyer representing Michael Hendricks and Rene Leboeuf told the Montreal Gazzette. "But Judge Lemelin said in very strong terms that a civil union, as wonderful as it is because of all the economic rights that it gives, is still not marriage."
The Parliamentary committee is travelling across Canada to gather more input into the decision making process.
"We ask all of you," Micheal Hendricks wrote in an email (Sept. 12, 2002), "all over the country, to respond to the call for opinions ... It does not have to be long but it should testify to the facts of your life situations and to why access to marriage is important for you and for our community. For example, a nurse in Quebec (Nathalie Ricard) wrote one about herself, her spouse and their kids. She explained that not being able to marry meant that gay and lesbian couples and their kids are isolated from the main stream of Canadian life, that we are infantilized by this discrimination. It was so simple, honest and truthful that a key part of it ended up being quoted in the judge's decision. We think that we can use Minister Cauchon's initiative to tell our stories, as a sort of tribune for the simple truth of our lives."