A recent National Post poll of 1,000 Canadians revealed a marked shift of support away from legalizing gay unions - possibly giving way to the preservation of the traditional definition of marriage, and to the creation of a new category of “marriage” specifically for homosexuals.
"Those are very, very different numbers than we have seen, " said Bob Gallagher of the Canadians for Equal Marriage group. “It doesn't coincide with what I perceive, in terms of there being a tremendous amount of activity on the issue that has somehow changed opinion."
The poll, conducted on the audience between October and November, showed that a solid majority was opposed to the notion of same sex “marriages.” Just 4 months ago, the same poll showed an almost even split on the issue, with a greater support to recognizing gay and lesbian “marriages.”
A new COMPAS Inc. survey also reflected the shift; of those polled, only 31 percent agreed to opening marriage to gays. In the same poll, 30 percent said marriage should include only heterosexuals and 37 percent said a new category of legal gay unions should be created rather than breaking the traditional definition of marriage.
According to the leader of the Canadian Alliance, the poll is consistent with the party’s beliefs.
"The position that most Canadian Alliance MPs have taken and most Tories have taken is that we are prepared to recognize in law non-traditional relationships, including gay unions, but that does not mean dismantling the traditional definition or institution of marriage," he told a meeting of the National Post editorial board yesterday.
"That position -- preserving traditional marriage, while broadening legal recognition -- is and has been the public consensus in this country."
Gallagher however, seemed baffled by the results.
It doesn't make sense," said Gallagher, an ardent gay rights supporter. Gallagher worries that should a separate category for homosexual unions be created, an unequal segregation reflective of the split between blacks and whites during 1950s may reoccur.
With courts in British Columbia and Ontario having ruled that same-sex couples have a legal right to marriage, the federal Liberal government has promised to bring in legislation allowing the practice across Canada.
Stephen Harper, the Canadian Alliance leader, said the poll is consistent with soundings done by his party.
Bob Gallagher of the group Canadians for Equal Marriage said he cannot understand the apparent increase in opposition to same-sex marriages.
Paul Martin, the Liberal leader and soon-to-be prime minister of Canada, indicated that he endorsed gay marriages in the summer because his duty as a member of the Parliament outweighed his personal beliefs. However, in the fall, Mr. Martin said he would consider several other options viable to the situation.
"I am a practising Catholic and I have responsibilities as a legislator and those responsibilities must take in a wider perspective," Mr. Martin said in July.
In September, he said that he would consider "a number of other options that have been put on the table," as long as they comply with the Charter of Rights.
The bottom line is that Canadians remain deeply divided on the issue, said Conrad Winn, the president of COMPAS.
However, Mr. Martin hinted in the fall that he would consider alternatives to the draft same-sex legislation that has been sent to the Supreme Court of Canada for a legal opinion and would be voted on sometime next year.