Canadian high court schedules gay marriage debate

BY admin

September 02 2003 11:00 PM ET

Canada's supreme court will hear arguments on the federal legalization of gay marriage at a tentatively scheduled hearing set for April 16, the Ottawa Citizen reports. The hearing could put the divisive issue fresh in the minds of voters if a federal election is called next spring, while other signs that same-sex marriage will erupt as a ballot box issue have been making news. On Monday, a coalition of religious groups said it plans to take aim at individual national politicians whom the organizations believe are vulnerable to electoral defeat if they vote for same-sex marriage. The coalition will hold a news conference this week to name about 30 southern Ontario MPs whom they will target for supporting gay marriage. "We believe their constituents do not want them to support it, and we believe they can be defeated in the next election," said spokesman Charles McVety, president of the Canada Christian College in Toronto.

Alberta, British Columbia, and Quebec all served notice by last week's deadline that they want to present arguments when the nine judges consider a federal bill that legalizes same-sex marriage while allowing religious institutions the right to refuse to perform ceremonies, the Citizen reports. Alberta, which has warned that it will do everything in its power to prevent gay marriage, will be the only province to oppose the legislation. Quebec will remain neutral, but the province wants to appear to
ensure that it will retain responsibility for marriage licensing and the particulars of the marriage ceremony, said Jacques Tetreault, a spokesman for justice minister Marc Bellemare. British Columbia is expected to take a similar position, but it is still formulating its stand.

The hearing is tentatively booked for one day, unlike the hearing on the legality of Quebec's unilaterally seceding from Canada, which took a week in 1998. A provincial challenge to the federal firearms registry was held over two days in 2000. An Alberta political scientist predicted that the timing and duration of the hearing is good news for Liberal leadership hopeful Paul Martin, who could call an election for late spring after the quick one-day hearing has faded from voters' minds and long before the supreme court will likely hand down its opinion. "If you're Paul Martin, you don't want this to explode in your face during an election campaign," said David Taras of the University of Calgary. Taras speculated that the nine judges on the supreme court do not want to draw out the arguments in their court and are therefore holding a short hearing that he said will be "efficient and contained."

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