The Canadian Alliance motion to reaffirm the traditional definition of marriage# was narrowly defeated in parliament on Sept. 16, by a squeaker vote of 137-132, with 30 MPs absent for the important vote.

The motion could very well have passed had the few pro-marriage NDP MPs not stayed away and several Liberals not switched their vote at the last minute. Pressure from the Liberal party whip was intense. CTV’s Mike Duffy stated after the vote, “Were it truly a free vote, it probably would have passed.”

The motion, a near replica of a 1999 motion which passed with Liberal backbench and Cabinet support by an overwhelming vote of 216-55, read:

“That, in the opinion of this House, it is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to reaffirm that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that Parliament take all necessary steps within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada.”

Pro-family voters are certain now to call to account the many Liberals who reversed their position this time on what is considered a matter of fundamental principle and handing over of parliamentary representative government to unaccountable courts. As well, the 30 MPs who missed the vote are likely to be castigated for reneging on their duty to be present for such a critical vote.

Prior to the vote on the main motion, an amendment was introduced to make it more palatable to Liberals. Passage of the main motion could have forced use of the Charter’s of Rights notwithstanding clause which the Liberal elite adamantly opposes.

The amendment would have dropped the section in the motion calling on Parliament to take “all necessary steps” to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. However, even the amendment was defeated, after a tie vote was broken by the Liberal speaker ofthe House, Peter Milliken, who voted against the amendment.

During the debates Alliance leader Stephen Harper strongly questioned the legitimacy of the marriage redefinition effort to include those involved in a homosexual lifestyle. He stated, “Regarding sexual orientation or, more accurately, what we are really talking about, sexual behaviour, the argument has been made . . . that this is analogous to race and ethnicity…(For) anyone in the Liberal party to equate the traditional definition of marriage with segregation and apartheid is vile and disgusting.” He continued that “It’s obvious now that this will be an issue in the next federal election”.

The Globe and Mail reported that Liberal MP John McKay (Scarborough East), who supported the Alliance motion, indicated that this was anything but the free vote that Prime Minster Chretien originally promised it would be. McKay told the Globe, “There was heavy pressure on quite a number of MPs to vote the way the government saw things to be voted so, you know, how free that vote was is maybe a bit of a de-construction.”

As well, all cabinet ministers were ordered to vote against the motion under pain of immediately losing their cabinet positions. Unfortunately, all of them chose to place their party appointment above principal.

Gay activist MP Svend Robinson (NDP, Burnaby Douglas) was disturbed by the strong support that the motion received. He said, “I have to say that it was far too close – it should have never been this close”. He blamed Paul Martin for the result although Martin voted with Robinson against the motion and has indicated several times that government must go along with what the courts have decided.