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Harper says he'll protect traditional marriage

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OTTAWA - Federal Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says his party will protect the traditional definition of marriage.

  • INDEPTH: Same-sex Rights

Harper said Tuesday that the Conservatives will introduce amendments to the government's same-sex marriage legislation if the proposed law doesn't conform to the party's vision.

Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Ottawa has exclusive jurisdiction to decide who has the right to get married in this country – but that religious groups are not obliged to perform unions against their beliefs.

  • FROM DEC. 10, 2004: Supreme Court OK's same-sex marriage

stephen harperOn Tuesday, Harper told reporters that he's aiming for a consensus recognizing traditional marriage without taking away from the rights of same-sex couples. It's unclear exactly how Harper plans to achieve this.

Harper said he also wants the legislation to ensure that religious officials won't be required to perform same-sex marriage.

The Liberal government is expected to introduce legislation in January.

Harper said he will allow Conservative MPs to vote according to their conscience. Liberal backbenchers will also be allowed to vote freely, but cabinet ministers must support the legislation.

But Justice Minister Irwin Cotler slammed Harper's proposals, saying he's trying to have it "both ways."

He said Harper would have to invoke the notwithstanding clause to push his amendments through.

"You cannot have it both ways, Mr. Harper. Come clean on where you stand."

Cotler also said civic officials will also not be mandated to perform gay marriages if doing so is against their religious beliefs.

Read more info on: CBC.ca

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Page last updated December 16 2004.

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