Just when you’ve lost confidence in Parliament to accomplish the simplest thing, it goes and accomplishes the simplest thing.
Last night, the Commons defied expectation by passing Bill C-32, legislation that both validates same-sex marriages under Canadian law and allows non-resident gay couples to divorce.
This will come as a relief to foreign couples who flocked here to marry after Canada legalized same-sex nuptials back in 2005, then found they were incompatible. Many were in marital limbo: they couldn’t get divorced at home because their countries didn’t recognize their marriages in the first place; they couldn’t do so here because Canada doesn’t grant divorces to people who haven’t lived in the country for at least a year.
The remedy was obvious: waive the one-year residency requirement for the people in this predicament. Yet the bill got stalled at second reading, raising concern Parliament wouldn’t push it through before the summer break. Adding to the worry was the spectre raised by some Conservative insiders of a prorogation, which would have wiped the legislative slate clean and delayed the fix indefinitely.
How the parties managed to drag out such an anodyne item so long is a good question (the NDP is blaming Conservative “foot-dragging” over its proposed amendments; but were its amendments so important?). So too is why politicians and federal lawyers overlooked the divorce issue when they amended Canada’s Civil Marriage Act in 2005.
But I’m happy set those misgivings aside and admit I underestimated our MPs. Turns out they’re able to do the least they can do.