After more than two years of debate, Canada’s controversial same-sex marriage legislation was passed last night by a 25-vote margin in the House of Commons.

The bill redefines marriage as “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others” to “the union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.”

The bill also includes protection to churches and other religious groups, stating that they have the right “to refuse to perform a marriage that is not in accordance with their religious beliefs.”

But some legal experts and the Canadian bishops have already expressed their belief that such amendments are not sufficient to protect religious groups.

Most of the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP voted for the bill. The Conservatives and some Liberal backbenchers voted against it.

Hours before the vote, Minister of State Joe Comuzzi, responsible for Northern Ontario, surprised the House by resigning from cabinet so he could vote against the bill. While the bill was put to a free vote, Prime Minister Paul Martin’s cabinet was obliged to support it.

”In 2004, during the election, I promised faithfully to the people of Thunder Bay-Superior North, that I would defend the definition of marriage," Comuzzi explained.

After the vote, Prime Minister Paul Martin told reporters: "We're a nation of minorities and in a nation of minorities you don't cherry-pick rights. A right is a right."

The bill is not law yet. It will now go to the Senate for more debate. But it is expected to pass the Senate and receive the Governor General’s royal assent by mid-July. Once it officially becomes legislation, Canada will be the third country, after the Netherlands and Belgium, to give same-sex marriage legal status.
But the passage of the bill in no way means that Canadians agree with same-sex marriage or have stopped the debate, say Conservatives.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says his party will revisit the law if the Conservatives win the next election. He told reporters that same-sex marriage would be a definite issue in the next election.

In related news, four homosexual couples were married yesterday at Toronto City Hall. City Hall officials say a good number of homosexual couples who have already been legally married there in the last year are American.