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Same-sex marriage is being pushed to the top of Ottawa's agenda as lobby groups from both sides of the argument try to win over MPs on Parliament Hill before a free vote on the issue, expected later this year.

The United Church of Canada took an early stand Tuesday morning, calling on politicians to vote against reopening the debate on same-sex marriage.

Right Reverend David Giuliano said the current Civil Marriage Act struck a good balance between protecting the rights of gay and lesbian people while not interfering with religious rights.

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"To reopen the debate and deny the right to equal marriage would be a violation of the religious freedom of faith communities, such as ours, who wish to recognize same-sex marriage as part of their religious practice," Rev. Giuliano said.

But dozens of religious and socially-conservative groups have formed the Defend Marriage Alliance and will hold an all-day caucus on Tuesday, asking politicians to closely study the bill before holding the free vote.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Alliance spokesman Brian Rushfeldt said Bill C-38 was being used to "hammer in homosexual teaching in public education" and urged Parliament to reopen the debate.

Another spokesman, Carles McVety, cited French law as a more preferable resolution, allowing for 'civil union' for same-sex couples, marriage and common law unions.

"This gave all people rights, but in this country of Canada, we had this rush to judgment. We had bill C-38 passed in a very short order of time and it's caused many problems," Mr. McVety said.

"We have the little black book curriculum paid for by the Canadian government and different levels of government. This book is now curriculum designed for 14-year-olds... and it is deeply, deeply offensive. It puts forward terrible pornographic statements, wrongful statements that 80 per cent of our country is bisexual. This is wrong, and it should not be taught to our children."

"Nature creates children, a marriage between a man and a woman. If you allow same-sex marriage, you take away this right," said a third spokesman, Louis de Serres.

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However, Gilles Marchildon, executive director of gay-rights organization Egale Canada, said the Defend Marriage position was "completely false"

"Canadians have had enough of this debate. More than two thirds think that the issue has been resolved. It's now high time that Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper realizes this," Mr. Marchildon said.

"The religions of one person should not be imposed as the law for everybody. Of course, several religions refuse to marry homosexuals, gay people. This is their right. Civil law allows this. It also allows people who want to celebrate marriage among people of the same sex. The law has to protect everyone."

Same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada last year when Parliament passed Bill C-38. That followed individual court rulings in most provinces on the issue. More than 10,000 same-sex marriages have been conducted in Canada.

During the federal election campaign in January, Mr. Harper promised to reopen the issue and allow a free vote that could overturn the legislation. A parliamentary vote is expected before December.

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