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Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae delivers a speech to party officials in Ottawa on Jan. 12, 2012. (Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae delivers a speech to party officials in Ottawa on Jan. 12, 2012. (Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Sudden legal stand against same-sex marriage defies logic, Rae says Add to ...

Bob Rae calls the Justice Department's refusal to recognize same-sex marriage “illogical” and “ludicrous.”

Measured in his tone, the Interim Liberal Leader would not go as far as to suggest the Conservative government is trying to surreptitiously change Canadian law through a Toronto test case.

Instead, he simply said he doesn’t understand what Prime Minister Stephen Harper is up to. He also doesn’t understand the legal argument put forward to the courts by Justice Department lawyers.

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“It does not make sense to me,” Mr. Rae told reporters Thursday after speaking to party officials on the eve of the biennial Liberal policy convention. “I understand Mr. Harper said he didn’t know about it and he doesn’t see every legal brief that goes before the courts. Of all the people in Canada who could actually make that argument it’s a little hard for him to make the argument because my sense of that government is that he controls everything.

“... But I have to take the Prime Minister at his word when he says what he says.”

Asked Thursday morning about the Justice Department’s stand on the issue, which could affect the status of thousands of non-resident couples who were wed in Canada, Mr. Harper told reporters he was not aware of the details but does not want to reopen the issue of same-sex marriage.

“This I gather is a case before the courts where Canadian lawyers have taken a particular position based on the law and I will be asking officials to provide me more details,” the Prime Minister said.

Paul Martin’s government enshrined same-sex marriage in law in 2005. And Mr. Rae was incredulous at the possibility that some couples who were wed in Canada as a result could now see their marriages considered invalid.

“It’s quite clear that we have enabled and allowed people to come to Canada to marry in Montreal, in Toronto and everywhere in the country. People came from the U.S. and elsewhere and that means very clearly they have the right to marry and have the right to divorce,” argued Mr. Rae.

He said the government cannot now turn around and say to couples that Canada is not “serious” about its law to allow same-sex marriages, which he says is “very clear” and has been affirmed by the Charter.

In addition, he said the Justice Department’s argument doesn’t appear to have any legal or practical logic. He says couples came to Canada, spent money, took out a license under the “full guise” of the laws of Canada. So to turn around and assert those relationships are not serious or recognized is “ludicrous,” he said.

“We have to recognize that marriages work or don’t work and when they don’t work we have a process called divorce that is covered by federal legislation,” Mr. Rae said.

Follow on Twitter: @janetaber1

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