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At least 48 Liberal MPs have publicly declared they are against legalizing same-sex marriage, the most opposition Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has faced from his caucus to one of his laws since coming into office 10 years ago.

A Globe and Mail survey of all Liberal MPs found 60 in favour of the government's proposed bill to legalize same-sex marriage, 48 opposed and 27 undecided. Twenty-nine refused to answer and seven could not be reached.

That Liberal opposition -- combined with MPs from other parties who are against the legislation -- throws into doubt whether the bill, to be decided in a free vote, will pass the Commons.

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When opposition MPs are taken into account, both sides can claim roughly the same levels of support, with opponents holding a slight edge. That places passage of the bill in the hands of a clutch of undecided Liberals who are being arm-twisted by vociferous constituents.

Many of those who are undecided said they believe their constituents could accept a marriage-like, legally sanctioned union for gays and lesbians but they don't want to call it marriage.

"Although they're not opposed to same-sex unions, they don't understand at all why we would change the definition of the term marriage," said Yolande Thibeault, a Liberal MP from the suburban Montreal riding of Saint-Lambert. "It's the word marriage that's the obstacle."

Liberal backbenchers can break party ranks because they have been promised a free vote.

Cabinet ministers, however, are required to vote for the government bill to keep their jobs. But even they are not solidly behind the bill, the survey shows.

Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal, a senior minister, said he is undecided and must consult his constituents.

Fisheries Minister Robert Thibault, Labour Minister Claudette Bradshaw, Veterans Affairs Minister Rey Pagtakhan and junior foreign minister David Kilgour are also undecided.

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But several other ministers refused to answer the question, a sign of the discomfort they face: Gerry Byrne, Atlantic Development; Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Secretary of State for Children and Youth; Paul DeVillers, Amateur Sport; and Jean Augustine, junior minister for multiculturalism and the status of women.

For the survey, reporters in The Globe and Mail's Ottawa bureau contacted the offices of all 171 Liberal MPs. Seven were out of the country or otherwise impossible to reach, while 29 would not answer or did not respond to repeated telephone calls.

Almost all the Liberal MPs are expected to gather for a three-day caucus meeting that begins Aug. 19, where many who have not met since the government proposed the bill promise an all-out confrontation.

To attempt to sway the undecided, Mr. Chrétien will argue for the bill when he meets the MPs, aides say.

"He's not going to preach. He's going to outline again what his position is, which is that there needs to be a separation between church and state, and that this is an issue of equality, and the government needs to protect the equality of all Canadians," spokeswoman Thoren Hudyma said.

"The Prime Minister will probably talk about the importance of the courts in the process. Also he's going to talk about the reality of the Charter of Rights."

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In recent months, courts in Ontario and British Columbia have struck down the traditional heterosexual definition of marriage as a discriminatory violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and same-sex marriages are already being performed in those provinces.

The federal government chose not to appeal, and instead proposed a bill to legalize same-sex marriages. But first, the Supreme Court of Canada is being asked whether that is constitutional. Then MPs will be allowed a free vote on the bill.

On the opposition side of the House of Commons, the vote is also split, but largely along party lines.

The Canadian Alliance (63 seats) and at least half the Tory caucus's 15 MPs are expected to vote against, giving opponents 70 to 75 votes. Most of the Bloc Québécois and NDP, and some Tories, will vote for, giving supporters 55 to 60 votes.

Many Liberal opponents of the bill say they are simply responding to their constituents' views. They said they have been flooded with complaints in their ridings since the government announced the move in June.

"I even hate to go to the grocery store. People just grab you by the arm and say, what is happening up in Ottawa? They cannot understand why this is an issue at this time," said Rose-Marie Ur, MP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.

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Some opponents argue that court rulings that struck down the traditional definition of marriage should have been appealed at the Supreme Court, however.

"We just laid down and said whatever the courts say," said Brenda Chamberlain, Liberal MP for Guelph-Wellington. "What about what the people say?" However, many who support the bill suggest the opposition is vocal but not the majority. Polls show a majority of Canadians -- 54 per cent in a June Ipsos-Reid survey -- favour legalizing same-sex marriage.

Others who endorse same-sex marriage say it is not a matter of public opinion.

"It is a fundamental issue of human rights," Montreal MP Marlene Jennings said.

The dissenters also note the government promised that same-sex-marriage legislation would not be introduced when the Commons overwhelmingly voted to retain the traditional definition in 1999. Anne McLellan, who was then the justice minister and made the promise, now supports the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Richmond, B.C., MP Joe Peschisolido, who was elected as a Canadian Alliance MP and switched parties, said he has received more than 3,000 letters, e-mails, and calls: and 80 per cent are against same-sex marriage.

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Where they stand The Globe contacted the offices of all 171 MPs to ask whether they are for or against the government's drat bill to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill changes the definition of marriage to include all unions of two people, regardless of sex, but does not force churches to marry same-sex couples.

Those who said they have not chosen which way they will vote are recorded as undecided, while those who were out of the country or otherwise impossible to reach are listed as unavailable. Overall results

For          60
Against      48
Undecided    27
Unavailable   7
Won't say    29

-*****

Adams, Peter                 For
Alcock, Reg                  Unavailable
Allard, Carole-Marie         Against
Anderson,David (Min.)        For
Assad, Mark                  Won't say
Assadourian, Sarkis          Against
Augustine, Jean (Min.)       Won't say
Bagnell, Larry               For
Bakopanos, Eleni             Unavailable
Barnes, Sue                  For
Barrette, Gilbert            Against
Beaumier, Colleen            For
Bélair, Réginald             Undecided
Bélanger, Mauril             For
Bellemare, Eugène            Against
Bennett, Carolyn             For
Bertrand, Robert             Against
Bevilacqua, Maurizio (Min.)  For
Binet, Gérard                For

Blondon-Andrew, Ethel (Min.).Won't say

Bonin, Raymond               Against
Bonwick, Paul                Won't say
Boudria, Don (Min.)          For
Bradshaw, Claudette (Min.)   Undecided
Brown, Bonnie                Won't say
Bryden, John                 Against
Buite, Sarmite               For
Byrne, Gerry                 Won't say
Caccia, Charles (Min.)       Won't say
Calder, Murray               Against
Cannis, John                 Against
Caplan, Elinor (Min.)        For
Carroll, Aileen              Undecided
Castonguay, Jeannot          Undecided
Catterall, Marlene           For
Caucho, Martin (Min.)        For
Chamberlain, Brenda          Against
Charbonneau, Yvon            Unavailable
Chrétien, Jean               For
Coderre, Denis (Min.)        For
Collenette, David            For
Comuzzi, Joe                 Against
Copps, Sheila (Min.)         For
Cotler, Irwin                Unavailable
Cullen, Roy                  Against
Cuzner, Rodger               Undecided
DeVillers, Paul (Min.)       Won't say
Dhaliwal, Herb (Min.)        Undecided
Dion, Stéphane (Min.)        For
Discepola, Nick              For
Dromisky, Stan               Won't say
Drouin, Claude               For
Duplain, Claude              Against
Easter, Wayne (Min.)         For
Efford, R. John              Against
Eggleton, Art                Undecided
Eyking, Mark                 Won't say
Farrah, Georges              Won't say
Finlay, John                 Against
Folco, Raymonde              Unavailable
Fontana, Joe                 Won't say
Frulia, Liza                 For
Fry, Hedy                    For
Gallaway, Roger              Against
Godfrey, John                For
Goodale, Ralph (Min.)        For
Graham, Bill (Min.)          For
Grose, Ivan                  For
Guarnieri, Albina            Against
Harb, Mac                    For
Harvard, John                For
Harvey, André                Unavailable
Hubbard, Charles             Against
Ianno, Tony                  For
Jackson, Ovid                Against
Jennings, Marlene            For
Jobin, Christian             Undecided
Jordan, Joe                  For
Karetak-Lindell, Nancy       Won't say
Karyglannis, Jim             Against
Keyes, Stan                  Won't say
Kilger, Bob                  Against
Kilgour, David (Min.)        Undecided
Knutson, Gar (Min.)          For
Kraft Sloan, Karen           For
Laliberte, Rick              Won't say
Lastewka, Walt               Against
LeBlanc, Dominic             For
Lee, Derek                   Undecided
Leung, Sophia                Undecided
Lincoln, Clifford            Undecided
Longfield, Judi              Against
MacAulay, Lawrence           Won't say
Macklin, Paul Harold         For
Mahoney, Steve (Min.)        For
Malhi, Gurbax                Against
Maloney, John                Against
Manley, John (Min.)          For
Marcil, Serge                Won't say
Marleau, Diane               Won't say
Martin, Paul                 For
Matthews, Bill               Won't say
McCallum, John (Min.)        For
McCormick, Larry             Won't say
McGuire, Joe                 Won't say
McKay, John                  Against
McLellan, Anne (Min.)        For
McTeague, Don                Against
Milliken, Peter (Speaker)    Won't say
Mills, Dennis                Against
Minna, Maria                 Unavailable
Mitchell, Andy (Min.)        For
Murphy, Shawn                Against
Myers, Lynn                  Undecided
Nault, Robert (Min.)         For
Neville, Anita               For
Normand, Gilbert             Against
O'Brien, Pat                 Against
O'Brien, Lawrence            Won't say
O'Reilly, John               Against
Owen, Stephen (Min.)         For
Pacetti, Massimo             Against
Pagtakhan, Rey (Min.)        Undecided
Paradis, Denis (Min.)        For
Parrish, Carolyn             For
Patry, Bernard               For
Peric, Janko                 Against
Peschisolido, Joe            Against
Peterson, Jim                Won't say
Pettigrew, Pierre (Min.)     For
Phinney, Beth                Undecided
Pickard, Jerry               Against
Pillitteri, Gary             Against
Pratt, David                 Undecided
Price, David                 Undecided
Proulx, Marcel               Undecided
Provenzano, Carmen           Against
Redman, Karen                Undecided
Reed, Julian                 Against
Regan, Geoff                 Won't say
Robillard, Lucienne (Min.)   For
Rock, Allan (Min.)           For
Saada, Jacques               For
Savoy, Andy                  Undecided
Scherrer, Hélène             Undecided
Scott, Andy                  For
Serré, Benoit                Won't say
Sgro, Judy                   Against
Shepherd, Alex               Undecided
Simard, Raymond              Won't say
Speller, Bob                 Against
St-Jacques, Diane            For
St-Julien, Guy               Against
St. Denis, Brent             For
Steckle, Paul                Against
Stewart, Jane (Min.)         For
Szabo, Paul                  Won't say
Telegdi, Andrew              Undecided
Thibault, Yolande            Undecided
Tirabassi, Tony              Won't say
Tonks, Alan                  Undecided
Torsney, Paddy               For
Ur, Rose-Marie               Against
Valeri, Tony                 Undecided
Vanclief, Lyle (Min.)        For
Volpe, Joseph                Against
Wappel, Tom                  Against
Whelan, Susan (Min.)         For
Wilfert, Bryon               Against
Wood, Bob                    Against
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