Canada becomes fourth country to legalize same-sex marriage

.- The Canadian Senate has passed Canada’s same-sex marriage bill late Tuesday by a vote of 47-21; three senators abstained in the late-night vote. Governor General Adrienne Clarkson is expected to give the bill royal assent today, the formal process that officially makes the bill become law in Canada. This will make Canada the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage after the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.

The passage of the bill in the Senate brings to an end the nearly three-year national debate, which saw dozens of organizations and individual citizens express their views on the issue.

The Canadian bishops made their final appeal against same-sex marriage before the Senate hearing committee last week. They argued that the majority of Canadians are opposed to the bill and that the proposed legislation did not provide enough assurances that Canadians’ freedom of religion and conscience would be protected. They warned that same-sex marriage would have negative and unforeseen consequences on children and on society as a whole. Their nine-page statement is available at www.cccb.ca.

Prior to the passage of Bill C-38, the courts in seven provinces had ruled that the traditional definition of marriage as the exclusive union of a man and a woman violated the Constitution. These court decisions opened the door to the solemnization of same-sex unions in these provinces.

Senators had rejected a Conservative amendment, which would have also recognized the traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman, and civil marriage as the union of two people.

"It would have brought a great deal of comfort to same-sex couples that they would not be perceived as having somehow gained their legitimate rights at the expense of those for whom the traditional marriage of a man and a woman was so terribly important," Conservative Senator Noel Kinsella, who supported the amendment, reportedly said.

CBC reported that B.C. Senator Gerry St. Germain expressed his fears that judges are determining policies that should be decided by conscience.

"If we don't stop this ... I know what the next steps are,” he predicted. “Euthanasia. Decriminalization of marijuana.”

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has said he will reintroduce the same-sex marriage debate if he's elected prime minister in the next election, which is expected to take place next spring.

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