Keeping In Touch - Same Sex Marriages
Rob Nicholson, M.P., Niagara

Over the last several weeks, I have received letters, phone calls and emails from constituents urging me to vote against the Government's same sex marriage legislation. Indeed, the vast majority of constituents writing to me are against any government attempt to change the traditional definition of marriage. I agree with them.
While my views on this issue have been widely reported, I think it is important to restate why I will not be supporting the government's legislation.

I believe the institution of marriage has been one of the bedrocks of society for centuries. I do not believe the state should take it upon itself to change the definition that has worked in our society. I believe that marriage is an institution that joins one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

To say that the same-sex marriage debate is contentious would be an understatement. But what exacerbates this issue even more is a growing belief across the country that the Government is giving democracy a black eye by not allowing all of its MP's to vote freely on such an important issue.

The Conservative Party is committed to a free vote. We believe this is a matter that must be decided by elected MPs who represent you, our constituents. We respect the supremacy of Parliament.

The Supreme Court refused to rule on whether the traditional definition of marriage violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What this means is that the Court has sent the issue back to Parliament for the final say. This is a clear victory for democracy. The Court's decision shows clearly what we have said all along: Marriage legislation should be created in Parliament.

Despite the Government's attempts to avoid having to face this issue, there is now no constitutional roadblock for the government, or any Member of Parliament, to put forth legislation to enshrine the traditional definition of marriage and have it come to a free vote. Indeed one of my colleagues, Rob Moore, a Conservative M.P. from New Brunswick has put forward a Private Member's bill that would protect the traditional definition of marriage.

I am also very adamant that the principles of religious freedom must be preserved, including the right of churches to preach and teach their beliefs related to marriage. While the Supreme Court made assurances about respect for religious institutions to maintain the definition of marriage, many Canadians remain skeptical in the current political climate. In 1999, for instance, the now Deputy Prime Minister said that the government had no intention to redefine marriage.

It was also in 1999 that Parliament, with the support of the Prime Minister and senior cabinet officials, voted to support a motion to take "all necessary steps" to preserve the traditional definition of marriage which is defined as "the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all other persons." Five years later, we now know that assurances from the Government that religious freedom will be protected may not be enough.
The same sex marriage legislation, otherwise known as Bill C-38, is now before Parliament at second reading. I have made it clear where I stand on this issue. I will oppose it.

In the coming weeks I hope to have an opportunity to discuss other important matters facing Parliament and residents of Niagara.