OTTAWA (CP) - Liberal delegates at a weekend convention voted against
legalizing same-sex marriage but supported decriminalizing marijuana in a
policy debate that could form the backbone of the party's election platform.
The resolution on same-sex marriage was defeated by a vote of 468 to 365 on
the final day of the party's biennial convention Sunday. An attached motion
to broaden the definition of common-law spouse to gay couples in federal
legislation, however, passed handily.
Another resolution to include sexual orientation in hate crimes legislation
was also approved.
The government already has legislation before the Commons to extend benefits
to same-sex couples. But cabinet and a majority of MPs are reluctant to
delve into the politically charged realm of same-sex marriage. "For us and
for this government, marriage is a unique institution," said Justice
Minister Anne McLellan. "It is one man and one woman to the exclusion of all
"We also (want to ensure) that unmarried relationships, be they same-sex or
opposite sex, are treated fairly and treated the same.
Defence Minister Art Eggleton, and MPs Andy Scott, Jacques Saada, and Joe
Fontana voted against the marriage resolution. Others abstained or quickly
exited the convention hall.
The motion was widely supported by the Liberal youth wing, which often acts
as the left-wing conscience of the party. Queen's University student Jascha
Jabes urged delegates to be a party of social change by recognizing the
right of gay couples to legally marry. "There is a time and place for
government to step out of the way and allow for the only prerequisite for a
successful marriage to be love, not gender or sex, but love," Jabes told the
Linda Schultz of Calgary disagreed. "If we give all benefits to anything,
what is there to encourage the next generation to take on that
responsibility, that commitment, to live 25, 50 years of marriage?"
While legalizing gay marriage proved unpalatable to delegates,
decriminalizing possession of marijuana, so that it would no longer be a
Criminal Code offence, received a much easier ride. A further resolution to
legalize the drug entirely, so that selling it would be acceptable, did not