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Canadian religious wingnuts rise up against gay marriage as vote nears

Left: Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. Right: Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, archbishop of Toronto. The cardinal is using the talking points right out of the Falwell handbook.

The Canadian “Right” is trying the same tactic as the American Taliban, going after religious minorities for support, and attacking judges. The difference here is that legislative leaders opposed to redefining marriage are not against recognition of equivalent rights for same-sex couples. That’s obviously a position light years ahead of most politicians in the U.S., and most of the country’s provinces and territories have already adopted gay marriage without incident. (AFP):

Prime Minister Paul Martin is staring down a backlash over his plans to legalise gay marriage, as Roman Catholics, Sikhs and his domestic political foes mobilise to thwart him. The Roman Catholic archbishop of Toronto, who represents more than a million believers here, warned Martin, himself a Catholic, that his plan would trigger serious, and unpredictable shocks to society.

“The conjugal partnership of a man and woman is the beginning and basis of human society,” Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic wrote in an open letter to Martin Wednesday. “Tampering with marriage and family poses significant social risks.” The Cardinal, who heads the diocese of Toronto which boasts 1.4 million adherents, argued that the voice of the people expressed through parliament, and not judges should decide such a fundamental issue.

The Supreme Court last year gave the government the constitutional go-ahead to change the definition of marriage, and seven of the country’s provinces and territories have authorized such unions. Canada would follow the Netherlands and Belgium in authorizing same-sex marriage. Spain is moving in a similar direction.

But the Cardinal argued Wednesday that “judges are not elected, and are ultimately not accountable for their decisions,” using a secular argument to advance his faith-based position. “Fundamental social change should only occur with the consent of the people through their democratic institutions,” he wrote. The government had taken the unusual step of asking for a Supreme Court ruling on draft legislation last year.

The bill is expected to be introduced into parliament early this year, where it is expected to pass, despite Martin’s perilous position atop a minority government. Martin has said there will not be a free vote, meaning that cabinet ministers are obliged to support his bill. Some members of the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) and the bulk of the separatist Bloc Quebecois are also expected to back same-sex marriage.

Government plans would see the definition of marriage changed to the “lawful union of two persons,” rather than the “lawful union of one man and one woman.”

It is not only Roman Catholics that are mobilizing in the gay marriage debate — opposition came this week from an unusual quarter, a top Sikh spiritual leader, who embarrassed Martin during a tour of India. Sikh spiritual leader Joginder Singh Vedanti directed his followers around the world to reject gay marriage — saying it was the product of a “sick mind.”

The same television station reported on Wednesday that the opposition Conservative Party was targeting multicultural publications and religious newspapers with its campaign against legalising gay marriage.

Party leader Stephen Harper has said he will vote against Martin’s bill, arguing that the traditional definition of marriage should stand, though he has also pledged to safeguard the rights of same sex couples.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding