"For opponents of same-sex marriage, the battle has been lost. But the skirmishes continue.
The Senate will soon pass the bill that extends the right to marriage to same-sex couples. After royal assent, it will become the law of the land.
The religious right, the Catholic Church, Muslims and other faiths fought expansion of the definition of marriage beyond the union of a man a woman. They didn’t care that most courts in Canada had ruled excluding same-sex couples was discriminatory. They fought hard, but they lost.
Canada will be one of four countries in the world to recognize same-sex marriages, a status befitting a country that is widely seen as accepting and inclusive.
Church and social groups that opposed this giant step forward still claim it infringes on religious freedom. But legislators took pains to ensure religious freedom will be protected.
A week ago, Roman Catholic Bishop Ronald Fabbro of London Diocese stripped a Southwestern Ontario MP of his church privileges for comments in the House of Commons while voting in favour of the same-sex legislation. Joe Comartin, the NDP member for Windsor-Tecumseh, is active in his church. He has provided marriage counselling, acted as an altar server and liturgical reader, has administered the Eucharist and he’s been active in church fundraising.
But Comartin crossed the line, according to Fabbro, when he said the following: "One of my visions is that some day my church will allow those couples (in marriage preparation) to not only be heterosexual but also to be homosexual.
In a message he sent to 49 parishes last weekend, Fabbro said Comartin’s statement “may cause confusion and scandal in the minds of some Catholics.”
He suspended Comartin’s parish duties “until (he) has a change of mind with regard to the moral status of homosexual activity.”
Fabbro continued: “I would urge Mr. Comartin, other Catholic politicians and other Catholics who share his views to take the necessary steps to form their consciences correctly on these issues according to the teachings of our church.”
Comartin was not being denied communion, but he was a marked man. A spokesperson for Fabbro said he and Comartin had agreed not to discuss the matter publicly.
Undaunted, Comartin issued a press release in which he said his faith was important to him and Fabbro’s actions had deeply hurt him and his family.
“My recent comments expressed my sincere hope that some day the leadership of the Catholic Church would embrace a fuller sense of inclusion. . . I hope Bishop Fabbro will reconsider his actions.”
On Sunday, Comartin’s pew was vacant in his home church. When the letter from Fabbro was read, about two dozen members of the congregation walked out in protest, one man rather noisily.
Then on Wednesday, Canada’s top Roman Catholic cardinal supported Fabbro’s action during his testimony at a Senate hearing into the bill. Cardinal Marc Ouellet said he agrees Comartin needs to change his mind before he can teach on behalf of the church.
The Comartin episode follows an incident in Timmins in which a Catholic priest refused to give communion to NDP MP Charlie Angus for backing the same-sex legislation.
These two actions highlight the contradictions between a socially conservative church and a socially progressive political party.
And it doesn’t end there. In Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Montreal riding, a priest insisted a while back that Martin should be denied communion and said he was praying Martin loses the next election.
Other outspoken opponents of the inclusive approach to marriage have been Muslims. That’s noteworthy because their community has benefited from Canada’s willingness to accept newcomers – in the name of inclusion.
Khalil Ramal, the MPP for London-Fanshawe, remembers coming to Canada in 1989 from his native Lebanon and being struck by how welcoming and accepting Canadians were. He decided to stay.
Today, the Muslim population in the London region is reported to be about 30,000 and politically they are a growing force. It’s ironic and sad they don’t embrace the same kind of inclusion that was bestowed on them.
We’ll no doubt see more grumblings from others about what will soon become law.
Acceptance has always been difficult for those who do not accept."
by CHIP MARTIN, London Free press, Sat. July 16