Paul Tuns
Editor-in-chief, The Interim

1969: Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau passes Bill C-150, an amendment to the Criminal Code that decriminalizes homosexuality.
1982: Parliamentarians debate, but ultimately do not include, special protection for individuals based on sexual orientation within the Charter of Rights.
Late 1990s: Charter challenges are launched in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, claiming that the definition of marriage (the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others) is discriminatory.
June 8, 1999: The House of Commons reaffirms the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, by a vote of 216-55. The Liberal government, led by Justice Minister Ann McLellan, says that the Reform party resolution is unnecessary, because no judge or politician has the intention of altering the definition of marriage. The majority of Liberals, including Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Justice Minister McLellan, vote for it.
April 11, 2000: The Liberal government passes Bill C-23 (Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act), which extends the same social and tax benefits to same-sex couples that common-law couples have.
Oct. 1, 2001: The British Columbia Supreme Court refuses to allow same-sex couples to marry. Justice Ian Pitfield rules that Canada does discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to allow them to marry, but the discrimination is justified under the Charter of Rights. He also says that any attempt to alter the definition of marriage must come from Parliament and not the courts, if it all. He notes the definition of marriage precedes Confederation in Canadian law and might fall outside even Parliament’s purview to redefine.
July 12, 2002: In Halpern et. al. v. Canada, the Ontario Superior Court rules that banning same- sex “marriage” is unconstitutional, because it violates the Charter or Rights and Freedoms as it pertains to homosexual couples.
Sept. 6, 2002: In Hendricks v. Quebec, the Quebec Superior Court rules that the opposite- sex definition of marriage violates the Charter of Rights.
Early 2003: The House of Commons standing committee on justice and human rights begins a formal study of the issue of same-sex “marriage,” including public hearings across the country.
May 1, 2003: In Barbeau v. British Columbia, B.C.’s Court of Appeal says limiting marriage to heterosexuals violates equality rights and it gives Ottawa two years to recognize same-sex couples before the judgment takes effect.
June 10, 2003: Ontario’s Court of Appeal upholds the Superior Court’s Halpern ruling that allows same-sex “marriage.” It orders Toronto city clerks to immediately begin issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples. Two of the litigants, Michael Stark and Crown attorney Michael Leshner, are “married” hours later.

(Lawyers close to the case indicate to The Interim that the federal government did not fight the case as vigorously as one might have hoped. Among the complaints was the failure of the Justice Department to cite B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Pitfield’s ruling that the definition of marriage might not be malleable.)

June 12, 2003: NDP MP Svend Robinson, an avowed homosexual, asks the House of Commons standing committee on justice and human rights to end its public hearings and endorse the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision. Two pro-traditional marriage Liberal members of the committee are replaced at the time of the vote, which was tied. The committee chairman, New Brunswick MP Andy Scott, breaks the tie and the committee, by a 9-8 vote, ends its proceedings by effectively recommending that Parliament pass a law extending marriage rights to homosexual couples.
June 17, 2003: Justice Minister Martin Cauchon announces that the Liberal government will introduce legislation changing the definition of marriage to include homosexual couples.
July 16, 2003: Prime Minister Jean Chretien sends a three-part reference question to the Supreme Court of Canada. The three questions are: Is a draft bill to allow same-sex “marriage” within Parliament’s jurisdiction? Does the draft legislation respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Must all religious institutions perform same-sex “marriages?” Critics claim this is a tactic to provide judicial cover to actions the government is intent on making anyway.
Sept. 16, 2003: A Canadian Alliance motion reaffirming the traditional understanding of marriage is defeated in the House of Commons by a close 137-132 vote. Prime Minister Jean Chretien, and Paul Martin, Ann McLellan and Allan Rock are among the former and current cabinet ministers who supported an identical Reform motion in 1999, but who voted against this Canadian Alliance motion. More than 20 Liberal MPs who voted for the 1999 motion did not attend the vote. Chretien is rumoured to have pressed these backbench MPs to not show up for the vote to help him save face in his final months in office.
Nov. 14, 2003: Paul Martin becomes leader of the Liberal party. On Dec. 12, 2003, he becomes prime minister.
Jan. 26, 2004: Prime Minister Paul Martin adds a fourth question to the Supreme Court reference case: Is the traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman constitutional?
June 2004: The issue of same-sex “marriage” is hardly an issue during the federal campaign. Some pro-family organizations make public their concern that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper did not forcefully present the case for traditional marriage, which they claim could have helped the Conservative leader attract new religious and “virtue” voters.
Nov. 8, 2004: Conservative MP Rob Moore introduces C-268, a private member’s bill that would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. The committee that decides which private members’ business will be debated and voted upon deems C-268 non-voteable, but permits one hour of debate on the issue. Justice Minister Irwin Cotler says there is no need to rush the issue and that Parliament should wait for the Supreme Court to hand down it’s reference decision.
Dec. 9, 2004: The Supreme Court of Canada announces that Ottawa has the power to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, but, contra to claims by some Liberal cabinet ministers and MPs, does not direct them to redefine marriage to include homosexual couples. The court also finds that the redefinition of marriage to include homosexual couples is constitutional. It also indicates that religious officials will not be forced to marry homosexual couples, but also admits that particular cases may be litigated in the future.
Dec. 14, 2004: Justice Minister Irwin Cotler says religious officials opposed to same- sex “marriage” will not be forced to preside over them. Cotler also says the government’s legislation will be introduced soon in the New Year and passed swiftly.
Jan. 21, 2005: While travelling in southern Asia, Prime Minister Paul Martin says same- sex “marriage” is so important, he is willing to call an election over the issue, in order to uphold the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Jan. 27, 2005: Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler says he will introduce legislation extending marriage to include same-sex couples when Parliament returns from its winter break on Jan. 31.
Feb. 2, 2005: Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler introduces Bill C-38 (An Act Respecting Certain Aspects of Legal Capacity for Marriage for Civil Purposes).
May 4, 2005: Bill C-38 passes second reading by a 164-137 vote. The bill now goes to an ad hoc committee for review. The committee is composed of a majority of pro-gay “marriage” MPs who have indicated their hearings will be limited to witnesses who are lawyers and bureaucrats. It is expected that they will attempt to conclude their proceedings quickly, to allow the bill to receive its third reading and vote before an anticipated June election.

Since the June 10, 2003 Ontario Superior Court decision extending same-sex couples the right to marry, seven other jurisdictions have similarly redefined marriage by judicial dictate:

* July 8, 2003: B.C.

* March 19, 2004: Quebec

* July 14, 2004: Yukon Territory

* Sept. 16, 2004: Manitoba

* Sept. 24, 2004: Nova Scotia

* Nov. 5, 2004: Saskatchewan

* Dec. 21, 2004: Newfoundland and Labrador