Grits nix marriage

And age of consent? Mumble mumble mumble

The federal Liberals will continue to fight same-sex marriage should they be re-elected.

Justice Minister Anne McLellan – who’s battling to retain her seat in Edmonton West – has issued a statement to Xtra upholding the straight definition of marriage.

“Bill C-23 did not change the definition of marriage, which remains ‘the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others,'” reads the statement.

Asked if the Grits would use the notwithstanding clause to override the Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms, should the Supreme Court Of Canada strike down the straight definition, McLellan’s campaign office says only: “The government’s position is that this definition is constitutional.”

Privately, this reporter was told that sentence means the Liberals, if elected in the Mon, Nov 27 national poll, would fight gay marriage in the courts.

McLellan refused to give Xtra an actual interview; her staff sent written responses to submitted questions.

Bill C-23 was passed this summer and puts same-sex relationships on a par with heterosexual common-law couples.

It was only after she introduced the bill in the House Of Commons, however, that McLellan bowed to angry Liberal backbenchers and Reform (later Alliance) Party members and inserted an amendment to define marriage exclusively as between man and woman.

In a 1993 case, known as Layland and Beaulne, the feds argued against same-sex marriage at trial, and an Ontario court ruled that the prohibition does not violate the charter.

Then there’s age of consent.

In the law books, the age of consent for vaginal and oral sex is 14; it’s 18 for anal sex. Various courts have ruled that the age difference is unconstitutional and discriminates against gay men.

The Liberals are considering equalization, but have avoided the issue under cover of a lengthy consultation process. The Justice Department has said amendments would be forthcoming.

There is talk that the age would be moved to 16 for all sex.

But McLellan has avoided saying anything of substance. She’s kept that up in this election campaign.

“The government launched the Child Victims And The Criminal Justice System consultation paper in November 1999,” McLellan’s statement reads.

“Issues surrounding age of consent to sexual activity, including the relevant sections of the Criminal Code, are being examined as part of these ongoing consultations. This process is nearing completion, with consultations to be completed by the end of the year.”

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