Moment of the Decade: #4 Same Sex Marriage Legalized

If you missed it, I asked readers to nominate, then vote, on Canada’s top political moment of the decade. Over the first two weeks of January, I’m counting down the top 10 vote getters.

If you want an example of how quickly the public mood shifted on the issue of same sex marriage, look no further than the House of Commons. In 1999, the House voted 216 to 55 in favour of the “traditional” definition of marriage – that is, the traditional “one man and one woman” definition, not the more traditional “one man and one woman of the same race and religion” definition, or the biblical “one man and many women” definition.

Anyways, in 2003 the Canadian Alliance introduced the same motion and it was defeated 137-132. In 2005, the Same Sex Marriage Act passed 158 to 133. Now, no one even talks about revisiting the issue.

Personally, I never really understood the opposition to same sex marriage. It simply doesn’t make sense to deny a right that won’t cause a harm, so it was only a matter of time before it became law.

Because of that sense of inevitability, it’s tempting to downplay the significance of the event. After all, thousands of same sex couples had been married by the time Parliament passed the law because of provincial court rulings. And the Supreme Court had basically forced Parliament’s hand on the issue. Even as Liberals were arguing in favour of the law, their support seemed to stem more from the Supreme Court ruling rather than a belief that equal marriage was the right thing to do.

But I do feel the moment still belongs in the top 10. We’ve seen court rulings overturned by representatives and referenda in the United States, so it was important for Parliament to pass the law. And we shouldn’t forget that parliamentarians and the public were both divided on this issue, prompting a genuine national debate about same sex rights.

This decision showed us something about how Canadian values had evolved. Being the 4th country to do it, the decision told the world something about Canadian values. That’s why this policy really stands out and is a worthy finalist for the moment of the decade crown.

No history book is ever going to talk about a 2-point cut to the GST. This is something that will make the history books.

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Political moment of the decade

About CalgaryGrit

A former Calgary Liberal, now living in Toronto. My writings on politics can be found at and online at the National Post.

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