VANCOUVER, B.C. — Canada now joins Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain as the fourth country in the world to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. On July 19, the Canadian Senate passed Bill C-38 that gives same-sex couples the same right to marry as opposite-sex couples.

Eager to get the measure passed, the Liberal government invoked closure to avert a drawn-out debate, allowing senators only 15 minutes to offer their opinion on the legislation. Liberal senators defeated amendments proposed by a Conservative Party senator that would have delayed a vote on the bill for six months. The bill passed in a 47-21 vote, with 26 senators absent and three others abstaining. The following day, a Supreme Court judge gave royal assent, allowing the legislation to become law.

Bill C-38 extends marriage rights across the country to same-sex couples. Before its passage, over 90 percent of Canadians lived in provinces that allowed same-sex unions as a result of Supreme Court victories. On July 21, the provinces of Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Nunavut and the North West Territories, where same-sex marriage had not been legalized, made marriage licenses available to gay and lesbian couples. The legislation also protects the rights of churches that refuse to marry same-sex couples.
Across the country, gays and lesbians, bisexuals and equality supporters are celebrating Bill C-38’s passage into law. “In a generation, Canadians will look back on a time when lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identified people were denied full citizenship, just as we look back on the days when women or Aboriginal people could not vote or times when Canadian citizens were interned because of ethnic origin,” said Alex Munter of Canadians for Equal Marriage. “We will talk about these days and this battle. We will be proud, as Canadians, that we rejected rejection, that we ended exclusion, that we said to LGBT people: there are no second-class Canadians, you are full members of the community, without caveat or exceptions.”

However, the Conservative Party has vowed to carry on its fight against same-sex marriage. They state that they will make same-sex marriage a key issue in the next federal election, promising that if they form the next government, they will deny gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. Instead, the Conservatives propose allowing civil unions that they claim would give same-sex couples the same rights as opposite-sex couples.

The passage of Bill C-38 is a landmark victory for the gay and lesbian community in Canada, where same-sex relations were only legalized in August 1969.