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Veteran Conservative MP Jason Kenney, one of the party's most vocal critics of same-sex marriage, has questioned the "social benefit" of homosexuals marrying because they can't naturally have children.

Mr. Kenney, the party's deputy house leader, said yesterday that a "potentially procreative relationship" is the societal "model."

". . . I think most Canadians recognize that there's something about the complementarity of the sexes, a man and a woman together which creates a setting for, an ideal setting for the regeneration of society, and there's a social interest in that," Mr. Kenney told CTV's Question Period.

". . . It's nice that people will love for each other, care for each other and live together, but frankly I'm not quite sure where the social benefit is in that as clearly as it is in a procreative, potentially procreative relationship which creates a model in society for continuing society into future generations."

The NDP's Bill Siksay, an openly gay MP who was part of the CTV panel, challenged Mr. Kenney's remarks: "Marriage isn't just about procreation, it's about a loving relationship between two people. . . . I hope that Mr. Kenney isn't suggesting that people who choose not to procreate, or who can't procreate, have any less than a valid marriage than other Canadians."

Last week, Mr. Kenney touched off a firestorm when he talked about two court cases that found that homosexuals were not being discriminated against because there was no law saying they couldn't marry, provided they married someone of the opposite sex.

This was followed by reports that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's office was to vet MPs' speeches to ensure the debate remained respectful. Later in the week, however, Mr. Harper found himself in hot water with anti-racism groups for trying to score political points with the Holocaust while attempting to illustrate that the Liberals do not hold a monopoly on the protection of minority rights.

"Let us not forget, it is the Liberal party that said 'None is too many,' when it came to Jews fleeing from Hitler," he said in his speech to the Commons.

Some Conservative MPs have said privately that they are trying to move their members away from the same-sex issue to concentrate on the party's strengths, such as fiscal and economic issues.

But Tory Senator Marjory LeBreton, who came from the Progressive Conservative wing of the party and is considered a moderate, says she is "not uncomfortable" with her leader's position on same-sex marriage. She would not say how she will vote in the Senate on the legislation.

"I'm not uncomfortable with the position that Mr. Harper's taken," she said. "You'll have people like [Conservative]Jason Kenney or Tom Wappel on the Liberal side that will express their own views. I'm not troubled by that."

Mr. Wappel, a Liberal backbencher from Scarborough, Ont., is strongly opposed to legislation redefining marriage to include same-sex couples.

Ms. LeBreton said it's "an issue that I don't care about one way or the other.

"I think we should be dealing with things that are far more important than same-sex marriage."

She said she listened to Mr. Harper's speech in the House of Commons last week and was not taken aback by his references to minority rights, Jews and Hitler. "He was just simply citing the human-rights record and that the Liberals don't need to give anyone any lessons on human rights. I guess you're not allowed to bring any Liberal skeletons out of the closet," she said.

"Well, it happens to be a historical fact and Mackenzie King wrote in his own diaries some very complimentary things about Adolf Hitler. So that's part of history."