TORONTO (AP) - Canada's Parliament voted Thursday not to reopen the gay marriage debate, letting stand a law passed last year that legalized 'marriage' for same-sex couples.
During the last election campaign, Conservative leader Stephen Harper — now the prime minister — had promised to hold a vote in the House of Commons on whether Parliament should reconsider the issue.
Harper's government, which draws most of its support from the conservative west, was seeking to appease its base, even though Christian activists acknowledged this week the law would stand.
"We didn't expect it to carry, but it was defeated by a higher margin than we thought," said Charles McVety, head of the Defend Marriage movement.
Twelve Conservative members of Parliament, including several members of Harper's Cabinet, joined Liberals and other opposition parties to defeat the motion to reopen the debate, 175-123.
Harper said the vote would likely put the issue to rest. "I don't see reopening this question in the future," he said after the vote.
Gay marriage became legal in Canada last year under the previous Liberal government in response to a series of court rulings that gave gay people the right to marry. Thousands of gay Canadians, as well as foreign visitors, have gotten married.
Laurie Arron, national coordinator for Canadians for Equal Marriage, which led the effort to legalize gay marriage, said Thursday's vote reflects a growing consensus among Canadians that it is time to move on. Last year's vote to allow gay marriage was 158-133.
"It's clear that this issue is now settled. The vote today was quite overwhelming," Arron said.
Same-sex marriage is legal in four other countries: Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and South Africa. In the United States, only the state of Massachusetts allows gay marriage. Vermont and Connecticut permit civil unions, California grants similar status through a domestic-partner registration law, and more than a dozen states give gay couples some legal rights.
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