Following two months of public hearings on the subject, a parliamentary committee issued a draft report Thursday stating that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry in Canada. Justice minister Martin Cauchon is awaiting the final report before deciding whether the federal government should lift its ban on gay marriage. The all-party parliamentary committee based its controversial recommendation on testimony from dozens of witnesses who testified at often-fractious hearings in Ottawa and across the country, sources told the Edmonton Journal. But committee members remain personally divided over gay marriage. "We're all over the map," said Liberal MP John McKay, who opposes gay marriage. Some members plan to lobby for a final report that takes a "more nuanced" approach, giving legal recognition to same-sex couples but not calling it marriage. The only unanimous position among committee members is that they agree that the status quo--which defines marriage as "the voluntary union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others"--is no longer acceptable under Canadian law.
Courts in Ontario and British Columbia, ruling that a prohibition on gay marriage is a grave infringement of the equality guarantees in the Charter of Rights, have given the federal government in Ottawa until July 2004 to allow same-sex couples to marry. An internal Liberal document recently warned Liberal committee members that they had little legal choice but to adopt gay marriage, in light of court rulings that "in all likelihood" would be upheld by the supreme court of Canada.