Ottawa, Canada, Feb 17, 2005 / 22:00 pm
Prime Minister Paul Martin kicked off the debate on the Liberal same-sex marriage bill in the House of Commons yesterday.
Martin, who has promised a free vote on the issue, told Members of Parliament that the bill is a matter of protecting minority rights, reported the Canadian Press.
He emphasized that the bill respects religious rights by not forcing churches to perform same-sex marriages.
He rejected the notion of holding a national referendum on the issue, stating that it would contradict the very purpose of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.