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MARTIN, HARPER EXCHANGE BARBS OVER SAME-SEX LEGISLATION

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OTTAWA - Prime Minister Paul Martin says Conservative Leader Stephen Harper lacks leadership and courage when it comes to the same-sex marriage issue.

  • INDEPTH: Same-sex Rights

Martin's tough talk came after Thursday's cabinet meeting in Ottawa.

stephen harperNoting that court decisions in six provinces and one territory have already paved the way for same-sex marriages, the prime minister said Harper doesn't have the courage to say he would use the only tool available to him to turn things around: the notwithstanding clause in the Constitution.

"Where he's coming from is not the kind of thing that political courage or political leadership is made of," said Martin.

The comments are more fallout from last week's ruling by the Supreme Court that Ottawa has jurisdiction to decide whether gays and lesbians across Canada should be allowed to marry, and that allowing gay marriage is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The court declined to answer a question about whether banning homosexual Canadians from marrying would be unconstitutional.

Martin's position is that Harper is afraid to admit he'd have to actually override the Charter of Rights to prohibit specific legislation on same-sex marriage.

"He refuses to say he would utilize the notwithstanding clause," Martin said.

The prime minister received a form of support from an unlikely ally on Thursday: Alberta Premier Ralph Klein.

Klein says Harper should "instruct his caucus to either vote against it [the same-sex legislation] or introduce an amendment to invoke the notwithstanding clause."

Martin said: "Mr. Klein is being intellectually honest when he says the only way you can change the law of the land is to use the notwithstanding clause. I don't believe you should use the notwithstanding clause."

For his part, Harper said the attack was "political cowardice" on Martin's part. In his view there's no need for drastic legal manoeuvres anyway.

"We're not going to propose the notwithstanding clause. My judgment is that this does not require it. It's a question for Parliament to decide: Does it want the traditional definition of marriage, or does it want to change that definition?"

Harper is opposed to same-sex marriage but has suggested he would support same-sex unions. He also says the changes his party will propose are not unconstitutional.

Read more info on: CBC.ca

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Page last updated December 16 2004.

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