Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Conservatives to shaft the religious right?

The Globe & Mail reports on the growing number of Conservatives who are getting headaches over the prospect of bringing back same-sex marriage for a vote in the House.

Like all those nervous Tories quoted in the piece, I hope, really hope, that the issue just goes away. But the reason Harper and his MPs are have gotten so sketchy on fulfilling this particular campaign promise is that, if C-38 does get reopened, they lose. From the Hill Times:

A few weeks ago, the [Defend Marriage] coalition took part in a multi-group lobby day on the Hill, in which interest groups, including lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry, a firefighter's union and an environmental group, rented rooms for visiting Senators and MPs. The Defend Marriage Coalition "had one of the biggest rooms on the Hill, but was the most sparsely attended," The Lobby Monitor reported last week.

...Lining up against the Defend Marriage Coalition is Canadians for Equal Marriage, and according to its research, it says it currently has a majority of support in the Commons.

"Our numbers show that this motion is going to be defeated if it happens in this Parliament," Laurie Arron, national coordinator of Canadians for Equal Marriage, said in an interview. He said that their research shows that 158 are in favour of same-sex marriage, 137 are against, and 12 are undecided. "If you add 12 to 137, you get 149. It still gets defeated," he said. also finds enough support to keep C-38.

As well, two polls in the last six months by Environics Research found about 66 per cent of Canadians considered the issue settled and/or did not want to see the Tories re-open the same-sex marriage debate. Only 2% of voters identified it in a CBC/Radio-Canada poll before the election as their most pressing concern. Depending on wording, slim to sizable pluralities of Canadians have generally supported gay marriage over the past decade, and the support is concentrated among the young. As in the U.S., the trends are bad for anti same-sex marriage advocates.

This, from the G&M is also kind of nice:

...During the last Commons vote on the issue a year ago, only three Conservative MPs voted in favour of same-sex marriage: Jim Prentice (now Indian Affairs minister), James Moore and Gerald Keddy.

Mr. Keddy said his caucus colleagues should take him as example of what happens when you support gay rights: absolutely nothing.

His Nova Scotia riding is predominantly rural and socially conservative, but he was re-elected with a bigger majority.

“Now, people have moved on, it's just not an issue. It is for a very small minority of people,” Mr. Keddy said.

My take (feel free to disagree) is that Harper can't win by reopening the debate. Voters will dislike it. If he wins his free vote, it's a national embarrassment out of step with popular opinion and gives the Libs (surely all the leadership candidates will support keeping C-38) a made-to-order campaign issue next election. But in fact he's almost sure to lose the vote and to get trashed in the press as a demagogue in the process. And it's not like losing is going to make these freaks give up the battle and go home either, or make them into stronger Conservatives than they are. No wonder the Tory caucus is mumbling and shuffling its feet.

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