Same-sex amendment defeated
Gay, lesbian organization outraged

by Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 15/97) - Spouse still means someone of the opposite sex in the North -- something that isn't sitting well with a Yellowknife-based gay and lesbian organization.

MLAs voted Friday, by a two-to-one margin, against recognizing same sex couples.

"Instead of demonstrating the North truly is a place of enlightened, progressive thinking, government chose instead to come down on the side of prejudice and intolerance," Out North president Zoe Raemer said following the government's decision.

The government move runs counter to a national trend of extending rights to gay couples.

Friday's decision means same-sex spouses will not have rights to spousal support and division of property under the proposed Family Law Act.

It also means same-sex partners cannot adopt a child under the proposed Adoption Act.

The family law and adoption acts, as well as the children's law and child and family services acts, make up the family law bills currently before the legislature.

"Members of the legislative assembly squandered a perfect opportunity to show leadership and foresight," Raemer said.

"It is not the role of government to define what families are -- it is the role of government to protect them."

She added that government is engineering families by excluding gays, lesbians and their children.

Yellowknife North MLA Roy Erasmus, who proposed the amendment, said: "I have been told that by putting forward this amendment, it would likely mean I would not be re-elected.

"I have heard members being told that if we pass this, we would not be re-elected," he said.

But he said it is not about re-election -- it's about being fair. "I believe it is against the constitution. We will be challenged and it will be expensive."

Iqaluit MLA Edward Picco said he voted for the motion because it was not up to him to decide which lifestyle choice is correct.

"Allowing for spousal support (and) divisions of assets are all fundamental rights," Picco said.

Nunakput MLA Vince Steen, who voted against the motion, however, said partners in any relationship can still take their dispute to a civil court.

Property can be divided under civil law, according to law clerk Sheila MacPherson. But their is no legal right to receive spousal support in a same-sex relationship.

Inuvik MLA Floyd Roland, who also voted against, said: "To me, by agreeing to something like this, I would be telling my children that this would be the truth and this was the natural way things happen."

How they voted
Manitok Thompson, Aivilik
Jim Antoine, Nahendeh
Don Morin, Tu Nedhe
John Todd, Keewatin Central
Goo Arlooktoo, Baffin South
Vince Steen, Nunakput
John Ningark, Natilikmiot
Levi Barnabas, High Arctic
Tommy Enuaraq, Baffin Central
Floyd Roland, Inuvik
Roy Erasmus, Yellowknife North
Charles Dent, Frame Lake
Edward Picco, Iqaluit
Michael Miltenberger, Thebacha
Jake Ootes, Yellowknife Centre
Kelvin Ng, Kitikmeot
James Rabesca, North Slave