Canada Readies to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, June 18, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: O' Canada. Canada is ready to become only the third country ever to allow same-sex marriages. Prime Minister Jean Chretien (search) has filed a bill to permit homosexual couples to wed.

Our Heather Nauert is here with the details of what they're doing in the frozen north.

HEATHER NAUERT, FNC CORRESPONDENT: It has been a hot topic of conversation in the north, but until now the issue has only primarily been debated in the courts in Canada. The Canadian prime minister, though, is paving the way for Parliament to vote on it and it stands a good chance of passing. Earlier today, I asked Canadian MP Dick Toews (search) what's going on there.


DICK TOEWS, MP JUSTICE CRITIC: It's very puzzling given that the parliament in 1999 voted to affirm the traditional definition of marriage as being one man, one woman, to the exclusion of all others.

It seems to be not only [Chretien] pushing it, but there's a communications exercise going on that I think is frankly very misleading. He indicates that we'll be sending legislation to the Supreme Court on a reference, but that is simply to ask the court how to implement same-sex marriages. It has nothing to do with whether or not same-sex marriages are, in fact, the law. They are the law.

NAUERT: But why has this really come to such a head right now? Are gays treated poorly in Canada?

TOEWS: I don't think so. In fact, in all other respects under the law, they are equal. They essentially enjoy all the same civil liberties and benefits that any other Canadian does. The only difference is in respect to the institution of marriage. In this country, as in other countries, we have seen marriage as a heterosexual institution as opposed to a homosexual institution. But there seems to be a push on this will somehow legitimize those relationships.

NAUERT: How do the majority of Canadians seem to be feeling about this issue?

TOEWS: It seems that the longrt it's debated, the more against same-sex marriages the polling indicates. It is very similar to the state of Hawaii where there was initial polling done when that was brought forward. When it came to the eventual referendum, of course, that was defeated.

NAUERT: But some opinion polls there in Canada now suggest actually that a majority of Canadians actually support this.

TOEWS: Well, the most recent poll that I saw showed a slight majority, but that is quite down from prior polls back in 1999, where a greater number of people supported same-sex marriages. As I indicate, the longer this is debated and the concerns brought out, the support actually goes down.

NAUERT: Now Chretien's party has a majority in your legislature there. Isn't this just likely to pass?

TOEWS: Not only is it likely to pass, but the vote itself is meaningless. He calls it a free vote. It's a lot like being in the former Soviet Union where you can vote for anyone on the ballot, unfortunately, they're all communist.

In the same way, the substantive issue has already been decided. Chretien has decided not to appeal the decision so it means that same-sex marriages are, in fact, legal in Canada. The vote simply determines whether the legislature agrees with how it is to be implemented. It is really a meaningless vote.

NAUERT: What does that really mean then? Assuming this passes, what is that going to mean for the average Canadian?

TOEWS: In terms of the same-sex marriage?


TOEWS: Well, I think to those who have a fundamental religious faith and that marriage is a part of that, for them, marriage is a sacrament and to do this is a sacrilege to many of these individuals.

Others who don't approach it from a religious basis say that to change the fundamental cornerstone of society in this fashion will bring consequences that will not be apparent in this generation, perhaps not even in the next couple of generations. But it will alter society.

NAUERT: Now if gay marriages are legal in Canada, but illegal in the United States, are you concerned that Canada is going to basically become a Las Vegas for gays? From America?

TOEWS: Well, I don't have that concern. I think the fundamental issue is should there be same-sex marriages in Canada at all? Whether or not it then attracts people to come and get married here in Canada, well, that's certainly their right if they're entitled otherwise to come to Canada and qualify under all of the residency rules for marriage. That's certainly their right if that's the law.

NAUERT: OK, great, thank you. Good for tourism nonetheless, right?

TOEWS: That's right. We always like to see the American dollars come up here.


NAUERT: And here in the U.S. already, some gay rights advocates in the U.S. are saying that Canada will be the perfect example for America to follow, and that if it passes there in Canada it will make it even harder to continue to oppose gay marriage here in the United states — John.

GIBSON: It sounds to me like Canada is becoming more and more France every day.

NAUERT: You love that, don't you?

GIBSON: Yes, I do. Heather Nauert, thanks very much.

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