Bill C-38, THE CIVIL MARRIAGE ACT received first reading in the House of Commons on February 1st, 2005. The bill codifies a definition of marriage for the first time in Canadian law, expanding on the traditional common-law understanding of civil marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution.
Bill C-38 defines civil marriage as “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others,” thus extending civil marriage to conjugal couples of the same-sex.
Second reading debate on Bill C-38 occurred between February 16th and May 4th 2005, followed by Legislative Committee hearings from May 11th through June 14th. The Committee heard fundamentally divided testimony on the merits of the legislation from witnesses representing various religious institutions and affiliated organizations or groups, advocacy groups for lesbians and gay men, spokespersons for traditional marriage, academics and legal experts.
The bill was reported back to the House of Commons on June 16th, with one substantive government amendment and one opposition amendment to the bill’s preamble. Bill C-38 was adopted at report stage on June 27th with one additional substantive opposition amendment, and passed the House of Commons on June 28th by a vote of 158-133, with 32 government Members opposing.
Introduced in the Senate on June 29th, Bill C-38 underwent second reading debate from July 4th through July 6th. In hearings before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs from July 11th through July 14th, supportive and opposing witness testimony essentially echoed that given before the House Committee. Bill C-38 was reported back to the Senate July 18th with no further amendments, and passed the Senate on July 19th by a vote of 47-21.
The Civil Marriage Act came into effect with Royal Assent on July 20th as Chapter 33 of the Statutes of Canada for 2005. With its enactment, Canada became the fourth country to legislate same-sex marriage, the others being the Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2003) and Spain (2005).
And thus Canada takes one step further to recognizing that the world is changing and people should no longer need to hide their sexual preferences and if they decided to get “married” then any couple should be entitled to the same benefits under the laws of Canada.
Well done, Canada!