Canadian Groups Oppose Adding 'Sexual Orientation' to Criminal Code

By Lawrence Morahan | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

( - A coalition of family groups is calling on the Canadian Parliament to vote down a bill that would add "sexual orientation" to the list of protected categories of Canada's criminal code a day after the House of Commons narrowly defeated an attempt by conservatives to reaffirm the traditional definition of marriage.

Clauses in the new bill that propose to exclude Christians and others who object to homosexual behavior on moral grounds would not offer sufficient protection from prosecution, said Brian Rushfeldt, executive director of the Canada Family Action Coalition.

Canadian courts and human rights commissions have set a trend of overriding religious rights when they conflict with homosexual advocacy laws or sexual orientation legislation, Rushfeldt said.

"We've got five cases where Christians actually have been found guilty of doing everything from putting Scripture verses in an ad, to refusing to do printing, to teaching in a university... based on the fact that they are making statements and making their decisions based on their religious beliefs," Rushfeldt said.

Proponents of C-250, legislation sponsored by Member of Parliament Svend Robinson, said it was intended to protect those targeted for their sexual orientation from hate propaganda.

The bill proposes to add "sexual orientation" to Subsection 318(4) of the Criminal Code, which forbids hate propaganda against people on the basis of race, color, religion or ethnic origin. The criminal code expressly protects freedom of religious expression or religious texts in Subsection 319(3), proponents noted.

But the family coalition said its members are concerned because terms such as "sexual orientation," "inciting hatred," "propagating hatred" and other terms used in the legislation are undefined.

One Member of Parliament who was asked about the legislation believed it covered every kind of sexual behavior, including incest and bestiality, Rushfeldt said.

"There's no clarity in the sense of knowing whether you are breaking the law until somebody comes along and decides to lay charges against you," according to Rushfeldt.

The family groups also oppose the so-called religious argument clause.

"If you have a law that says you can't propagate hate against a particular group but exempts people who say they are religious, what that is really saying is that religion is a group or a cultural identity that propagates hate, but we're going to protect it.

"I and a lot of Christians find that quite offensive - that we would somehow have to have a clause that would protect us because somehow we are propagating hate," Rushfeldt said. "We also have a section in our charter that says everyone has to be treated equally under the law. Well, that clearly violates the charter in itself," he said.

Conservatives challenge same-sex marriage

The Canadian Alliance, the conservative opposition party, introduced a parliamentary motion Tuesday to reaffirm the traditional definition of marriage.

The motion, by opposition leader Stephen Harper, MP said: "That, in the opinion of this House, it is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to reaffirm that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that Parliament take all necessary steps within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada."

The Reform Party in the House of Commons originally introduced a similar motion in 1999, which passed with Liberal backbench and Cabinet support. However, the House defeated the measure on Tuesday in a 137-132 vote.

While the resolution had no legal weight, it was intended to force Parliament members from the governing Liberal Party to declare with their vote whether they support or oppose the government plan that has divided the country.

Courts in two Canadian provinces have already ruled that same-sex couples have an equal right to marry.

See Earlier Stories:

Canada's Homosexual Marriage Bill Imperiled by Liberal Defections
(Aug. 13, 2003)
Canada's Largest Protestant Church Endorses Same-Sex Marriage
(Aug. 18, 2003)

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