.- Canada’s draft legislation on same-sex marriage passed second reading in Parliament Wednesday because Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party do not recognize the significance of freedom of conscience and religion, said the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
The NDP members of Parliament, as well as Liberal MPs who are parliamentary secretaries and Cabinet ministers, were obliged to vote on Bill C-38 according to party lines, noted Archbishop Brendan O’Brien.
“The failure of political parties to respect freedom of conscience and religion is an ominous sign for the future,” the archbishop remarked.
In a written statement, the CCCB expressed its concern and disappointment that Bill C-38 passed second reading. The bill will now go to a special legislative committee before returning to the House of Commons for third and final reading. The bishops have urged the committee to hold public hearings across the country.
The CCCB has repeatedly called for the federal government to respect the definition of marriage as the committed and exclusive relationship of a man and a woman.
Failing that, the bishops have said the law must ensure that civil and religious officials can opt out of performing marriages that are not in line with their conscience and religious beliefs.
The law must protect the charitable status of religious organizations not in agreement with Bill C-38 and protect their right to refuse renting their buildings for wedding celebrations contrary to their faith, the bishops said.
The law must also protect the rights of all Canadians, including religious leaders, parents and teachers, to speak about sexual morality in light of their own conscience and faith.