Canadian Senate to hear bishops, experts on same-sex marriage bill

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has been given one last chance to argue its case against the legal redefinition of marriage before a Senate hearings committee tomorrow.

Canada’s same-sex marriage legislation, Bill C-38, was passed in the House of Commons June 28 and is now in the Senate.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec and primate of the Catholic Church in Canada, and Hélène Aubé, a lawyer and mother from Gatineau, Que., will present the Canadian bishops’ breif before the 12-member Senate committee, chaired by Liberal Senator Lise Bacon.

With this intervention, the CCCB has taken public position against same-sex marriage almost 30 times since the debate began in Parliament in the fall of 2002.

The bill has already passed second reading in the Senate by a vote of 43-12, with six abstentions. The Senate invoked closure after only four hours of debate at second reading.

However, the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs is holding three days of hearings on the bill, July 12-14. Several organizations and individuals were invited to participate in the hearings, after which the bill will have its third reading. The bill is expected to pass the Senate by a majority vote.

Iain Benson, executive director for the Centre for Cultural Renewal, is scheduled to present his arguments against the bill at the Senate hearings today. He also presented before the parliamentary hearings committee last month.

“There is a vast democratic deficit in Canada and at times like these, when so many are cynical about the ability of politics to respond to the big issues rather than the knee-jerk pulling of noisy elite groups, the actual performance of the institutions is on public view,” Benson commented.

Benson added that he is appearing before the committee, “trusting in its ability to do the right thing, to consider the legislation and the problems with it. I shall not be impressed if ‘the fix is in’ and we are not truly heard.”

Some of the amendments he suggested regarding the protection of religious freedom and charitable status were reportedly added to the bill before passage in the House.

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