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The Liberal government's plan to legalize gay marriage left a deeply divided House of Commons after MPs narrowly defeated a Canadian Alliance motion last night that called on Parliament to preserve the definition of marriage as "the union of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others."

The outcome of the vote, though the motion was largely symbolic, was a clear indication of the discord in Parliament and across the country over this emotional issue. Although Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's government supports national legalization of same-sex marriage, more than 50 Liberal backbenchers voted in favour of the opposition motion.

"It should send a warning signal to them that they've got some big problems on this issue," Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper said after his party's motion was defeated 137 to 132.

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Mr. Harper, who said the vote was closer than he had expected, appeared to have achieved at least one goal: to embarrass the government by revealing the deep split in its ranks.

Justice Minister Martin Cauchon brushed aside the narrow margin of victory, saying that Parliament was moving in the right direction on the issue.

"It sends a clear message that Parliament supports the course of action that we have chosen as a government," he told reporters.

The narrow victory for the government came only after Speaker Peter Milliken broke a tie on a previous vote to defeat an Alliance amendment to the motion that would have it more palatable to Liberal MPs.

Mr. Milliken was forced to cast the deciding vote after MPs were deadlocked 134-134.

The original motion was identical to one introduced by the Alliance's predecessor, the Reform Party, in 1999.

It read: "That in the opinion of this House, it is necessary, in light of public debate around recent court decisions, to reaffirm that marriage is and should remain the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that Parliament take all necessary steps within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada to preserve this definition."

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The amendment proposed eliminating the reference to "all necessary steps," which MPs viewed as a reference to the use of the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to override court decisions on gay marriage.

A few MPs switched their vote after the original amendment failed, concluding that they couldn't countenance the use of the notwithstanding clause on this issue.

House Leader Don Boudria said it is only the sixth tied vote in Parliament since Confederation.

Last night's vote sets the stage for a showdown over the government's bill legalizing same-sex marriage, which will not be tabled until September, 2004, at the earliest. The draft bill has been referred to the Supreme Court of Canada for a determination of its constitutionality. The court is expected to hear arguments in April.

Mr. Chrétien swept by reporters without comment as he left the House of Commons after last night's vote.

Like Mr. Chrétien, Paul Martin, widely expected to be the next prime minister, voted against the motion. He declared that the national fabric was strong enough to withstand the marriage debate.

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Mr. Chrétien had declared a free vote on last night's motion though the Liberal cabinet was required to vote against it. Edmonton MP David Kilgour, the only cabinet minister to have expressed concern about same-sex marriage, was absent. In the end, about 30 per cent of Liberal MPs voted in favour of the Alliance motion.

Mr. Cauchon had a simple answer last night when asked to assess the importance of the massive swing in the Liberal vote compared to 1999, when the motion in favour of the traditional definition of marriage passed by a vote of 216 to 55. "Society evolved," he said.

"It's a pure reflection of the Canadian people," said Liberal caucus chair Stan Keyes, who voted against the Alliance motion but still remains undecided on how he will vote on the bill. "You had a 50-50 vote in the House of Commons that had to be broken by the Speaker. You have our elected Canadian citizens who are also very much down the middle."

He played down the narrow defeat. "This was a motion put forward by the Alliance. It was premature. It was totally unfair."

A total of 52 Liberal MPs voted with the Canadian Alliance, nearly one-third of the 170-member caucus.

Liberal backbencher Pat O'Brien, a vocal critic of the same-sex-marriage bill, said it's a warning sign the government can't ignore.

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"Canadians are far more divided on this than the government would like to let on," said the MP from London, Ont. "Quite frankly, I think with such a narrow decision . . . there can be very little comfort in the government that this is just some minor thing, changing the definition of marriage."

He said it would not have been defeated had it not been for Mr. Milliken's tie-breaking vote on the amendment.

"It just reinforces how split the country is on this," Mr. O'Brien said.

"If the amendment had passed, there were a few Liberals at least who would have supported the main motion. They felt uncomfortable with the idea of the notwithstanding clause."

Progressive Conservative Leader Peter MacKay said: "I think this vote is very indicative of where the country is. This was a historic view. I believe in my view the controversy is far from over . . . it would be my preference that we actually had legislation to vote on."

Supporters of same-sex marriage declared a victory. "Parliament has spoken and Parliament has said no," NDP MP Svend Robinson said.

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"Don't use the notwithstanding clause to override the most fundamental equality rights of gay and lesbians in Canadian."

The Canadian Alliance called the Liberal MPs hypocritical for voting against the motion, which they overwhelmingly supported in 1999.

Here is how MPs voted:

Note: Lack of a vote indicates an absence or abstention.

Where they stand

ABBOTT, James Yes
ABLONCZY, Diane Yes
ADAMS, Peter No
ALCOCK, Reginald B. No
ALLARD, Carole-Marie No
ANDERS, Rob Yes
ANDERSON, David No
ANDERSON, David L. Yes
ASSAD, Mark Joseph Yes
ASSADOURIAN, Sarkis Yes
ASSELIN, Gérard Yes
AUGUSTINE, Jean No
BACHAND, André No
BACHAND, Claude No
BAGNELL, Larry No
BAILEY, Roy H. Yes
BAKOPANOS, Eleni
BARNES, Rex Yes
BARNES, Susan (Sue) No
BARRETTE, Gilbert No
BEAUMIER, Colleen No
BÉLAIR, Réginald
BÉLANGER, Mauril No
BELLEMARE, Eugène Yes
BENNETT, Carolyn No
BENOIT, Leon Earl Yes
BERGERON, Stéphane
BERTRAND, Robert Yes
BEVILACQUA, Maurizio No
BIGRAS, Bernard No
BINET, Gérard No
BLAIKIE, William Alexander (Bill) No
BLONDIN-ANDREW, Ethel Dorothy No
BONIN, Raymond Yes
BONWICK, Paul No
BOROTSIK, Rick No
BOUDRIA, Don No
BOURGEOIS, Diane No
BRADSHAW, Claudette No
BREITKREUZ, Garry W. Yes
BRISON, Scott No
BROWN, Bonnie No
BRYDEN, John H. Yes
BULTE, Sarmite D. No
BURTON, Andy Yes
BYRNE, Gerry No
CACCIA, Charles L. No
CADMAN, Chuck Yes
CALDER, Murray Yes
CANNIS, John Yes
CAPLAN, Elinor No
CARDIN, Serge
CARIGNAN, Jean Guy No
CARROLL, M. Aileen
CASEY, William D. (Bill) Yes
CASSON, Rick Yes
CASTONGUAY, Jeannot No
CATTERALL, Marlene No
CAUCHON, Martin No
CHAMBERLAIN, Brenda Kay Yes
CHARBONNEAU, Yvon Yes
CHATTERS, David Cameron Yes
CHRÉTIEN, Jean Joseph Jacques No
CLARK, Charles Joseph (Joe) No
CODERRE, Denis No
COLLENETTE, David Michael No
COMARTIN, Joe No
COMUZZI, Joseph R. (Joe)
COPPS, Sheila Maureen No
COTLER, Irwin
CRÊTE, Paul No
CULLEN, Roy No
CUMMINS, John Martin Yes
CUZNER, Rodger No
DALPHOND-GUIRAL, Madeleine No
DAVIES, Libby No
DAY, Stockwell Burt Yes
DESJARLAIS, Bev
DESROCHERS, Odina
DEVILLERS, Paul No
DHALIWAL, Harbance Singh (Herb) No
DION, Stéphane No
DISCEPOLA, Nunzio (Nick) No
DOYLE, Norman E. Yes
DROMISKY, Stanley Peter (Stan) No
DROUIN, Claude No
DUCEPPE, Gilles No
DUNCAN, John Morris Yes
DUPLAIN, Claude No
EASTER, Arnold Wayne No
EFFORD, R. John Yes
EGGLETON, Arthur C. No
ELLEY, Reed Yes
EPP, Ken Yes
EYKING, Mark Yes
FARRAH, Georges No
FINLAY, John Baird No
FITZPATRICK, Brian Yes
FOLCO, Raymonde No
FONTANA, Joseph Frank (Joe) Yes
FORSETH, Paul Eugene Yes
FOURNIER, Ghislain
FRULLA, Liza No
FRY, Hedy No
GAGNON, Christiane No
GAGNON, Marcel No
GAGNON, Sébastien No
GALLANT, Cheryl Yes
GALLAWAY, Roger John
GAUDET, Roger Yes
GAUTHIER, Michel No
GIRARD-BUJOLD, Jocelyne No
GODFREY, John Ferguson No
GODIN, Yvon No
GOLDRING, Peter Yes
GOODALE, Ralph Edward No
GOUK, James William (Jim) Yes
GRAHAM, Bill No
GREWAL, Gurmant Singh Yes
GREY, Deborah C. Yes
GROSE, Ivan No
GUARNIERI, Albina Yes
GUAY, Monique No
GUIMOND, Michel No
HANGER, Art Yes
HARPER, Stephen Joseph Yes
HARRIS, Richard M. (Dick) Yes
HARVARD, John No
HARVEY, André No
HEARN, Loyola
HERRON, John Yes
HILL, Grant Yes
HILL, Jay D. Yes
HILSTROM, Howard E. Yes
HINTON, Betty Yes
HUBBARD, Charles Yes
IANNO, Tony No
JACKSON, Ovid L. Yes
JAFFER, Rahim Yes
JENNINGS, Marlene No
JOBIN, Christian No
JOHNSTON, F. Dale Yes
JORDAN, Joe Louis No
KARETAK-LINDELL, Nancy No
KARYGIANNIS, Jim Yes
KEDDY, Gerald Yes
KENNEY, Jason Yes
KEYES, Stan Kazmierczak No
KILGER, Robert (Bob) Yes
KILGOUR, David
KNUTSON, Gar No
KRAFT SLOAN, Karen No
LAFRAMBOISE, Mario
LALIBERTE, Rick
LALONDE, Francine No
LANCTÔT, Robert Yes
LASTEWKA, Walt Yes
LEBEL, Ghislain Yes
LEBLANC, Dominic No
LEE, Derek Vincent Yes
LEUNG, M. Sophia
LILL, Wendy No
LINCOLN, Clifford Yes
LONGFIELD, Judi Yes
LOUBIER, Yvan No
LUNN, Gary Yes
LUNNEY, James D. Yes
MACAULAY, Lawrence A.
MACKAY, Peter Gordon Yes
MACKLIN, Paul Harold No
MAHONEY, Steve No
MALHI, Gurbax Singh Yes
MALONEY, John Yes
MANLEY, John Paul No
MARCEAU, Richard No
MARCIL, Serge No
MARK, Inky Yes
MARLEAU, Diane No
MARTIN, Keith P. Yes
MARTIN, Pat No
MARTIN, Paul No
MASSE, Brian No
MATTHEWS, Bill
MAYFIELD, Philip William Yes
MCCALLUM, John No
MCCORMICK, Larry Yes
MCDONOUGH, Alexa No
MCGUIRE, Joseph Blair (Joe) Yes
MCKAY, John Yes
MCLELLAN, A. Anne No
MCNALLY, Grant Yes
MCTEAGUE, Dan Yes
MÉNARD, Réal No
MEREDITH, Valerie (Val) Yes
MERRIFIELD, Rob Yes
MILLIKEN, Peter Andrew Stewart
MILLS, Dennis Joseph
MILLS, Robert (Bob) Yes
MINNA, Maria No
MITCHELL, Andrew (Andy) No
MOORE, James Yes
MURPHY, Shawn Yes
MYERS, Lynn
NAULT, Robert Daniel No
NEVILLE, Anita No
NORMAND, Gilbert Yes
NYSTROM, Lorne Edmund No
O'BRIEN, Lawrence D.
O'BRIEN, Pat Yes
O'REILLY, John Francis Yes
OBHRAI, Deepak Yes
OWEN, Stephen
PACETTI, Massimo
PAGTAKHAN, Rey D. No
PALLISTER, Brian William Yes
PANKIW, Jim Yes
PAQUETTE, Pierre No
PARADIS, Denis No
PARRISH, Carolyn No
PATRY, Bernard No
PENSON, Charles Frederick (Charlie) Yes
PERIC, Janko Yes
PERRON, Gilles-A.
PESCHISOLIDO, Joe Yes
PETERSON, James Scott (Jim) No
PETTIGREW, Pierre S. No
PHINNEY, Elizabeth (Beth) No
PICARD, Pauline No
PICKARD, Jerry Yes
PILLITTERI, Gary Orazio Vincenzo Yes
PLAMONDON, Louis No
PRATT, David Yes
PRICE, David No
PROCTOR, Dick No
PROULX, Marcel No
PROVENZANO, Carmen Yes
RAJOTTE, James Yes
REDMAN, Karen No
REED, Julian Alexander Arnott Yes
REGAN, Geoff No
REID, Scott Yes
REYNOLDS, John Douglas Yes
RITZ, Gerry Yes
ROBILLARD, Lucienne No
ROBINSON, Svend Johannes No
ROCHELEAU, Yves
ROCK, Allan No
ROY, Jean-Yves No
SAADA, Jacques No
SAUVAGEAU, Benoît No
SAVOY, Andy Yes
SCHELLENBERGER, Gary Yes
SCHERRER, Hélène C. Yes
SCHMIDT, Werner Yes
SCOTT, Andy No
SERRÉ, Benoît Yes
SGRO, Judy Yes
SHEPHERD, Alexander James No
SIMARD, Raymond No
SKELTON, Carol Yes
SOLBERG, Monte Yes
SORENSON, Kevin Yes
SPELLER, Robert (Bob) Yes
SPENCER, Larry Yes
ST-HILAIRE, Caroline No
ST-JACQUES, Diane No
ST-JULIEN, Guy Yes
ST. DENIS, Brent No
STECKLE, Paul Daniel Yes
STEWART, Jane No
STINSON, Darrel Yes
STOFFER, Peter Arend
STRAHL, Charles (Chuck) Yes
SZABO, Paul John Mark Yes
TELEGDI, Andrew No
THIBAULT, Robert No
THIBEAULT, Yolande No
THOMPSON, Gregory Francis Yes
THOMPSON, Myron Yes
TIRABASSI, Anthony (Tony) Yes
TOEWS, Vic Yes
TONKS, Alan Yes
TORSNEY, Patricia A. (Paddy)
TREMBLAY, Suzanne
UR, Rose-Marie Margaret Yes
VALERI, Tony
VANCLIEF, Lyle No
VELLACOTT, Maurice Yes
VENNE, Pierrette Yes
VOLPE, Joseph Yes
WAPPEL, Thomas (Tom) William Yes
WASYLYCIA-LEIS, Judy No
WAYNE, Elsie Eleanore Yes
WHELAN, Susan No
WHITE, Randy A. Yes
WHITE, Ted Yes
WILFERT, Bryon Yes
WILLIAMS, John G. Yes
WOOD, Bob
YELICH, Lyn Yes
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