Alberta PC Caucus approves changing definition of marriage

EDMONTON – The Alberta Tories have approved a proposal to change the province’s definition of marriage to include same-sex unions.

Associate Minister of Family and Community Safety Sandra Jansen, as well as spokesperson for the premier’s office confirmed the Caucus’ decision to Global News.

“We’re moving forward in a direction that I think is important for the province,” said Jansen.

The amendments would replace the definition of marriage in several provincial laws as being a union “between a man and woman” with gender-neutral language.

The PCs plan to introduce legislative amendments in the spring session.

“I’ve met some wonderful people over the last eight or nine months in the LGBTQ community and I feel a sense of responsibility that I owe it to them to help and to advocate for them,” added Jansen.

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Dr. Kristopher Wells, director of the University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, believes the decision marks a milestone for the province.

“I think we’ll look back at this and see this as one of those profound moments when Alberta grew up,” he said.

“It’s a message to Canada that the old stereotypes of Alberta being the redneck, roughneck, oil executive province have changed.”

“I think we’re seeing a change, and the change is being led by the people. And perhaps our legislators are finally actually listening and responding and know those tired old stereotypical attitudes are not going to keep people elected,” Wells added.

“We have had legal same-sex marriage in the country for well over a decade,” said Wildrose opposition leader Danielle Smith. “Bringing Alberta laws into compliance with federal laws is just the right thing to do.”

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Alberta’s Marriage Act preamble, passed in 2000, has never been updated even though the federal government made same-sex marriages legal in 2005.

“If you’ve got reasonable changes that make sense to ensure equality for all Albertans, you will absolutely get the support of the Wildrose MLAs on those changes,” Smith added.

“I’ve been campaigning for this for a long time,” said Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, “especially the use of words like ‘mother, father, husband, wife,’ because they’re not inclusive. So this is a good day for me – it’s a good day for all of us.”

Caucus also approved possible amendments to Alberta’s Vital Statistics Act to make it easier for transgender people to change their gender on their birth certificates.

The changes would mean transgender Albertans would not have to provide proof that they’re going to have gender reassignment surgery in order to change or remove the gender on their birth certificate.

The decision comes days after some Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose party were criticized for joining forces to defeat a non-binding motion to urge all Alberta schools to bring in Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA).

“They’re obviously in full damage control mode,” said NDP leader Brian Mason, referencing backlash over the GSA vote.

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He added that the approvals made Thursday are a good step, but that they need to go further.

“Nothing but complete equality will do,” he added.  “We need to take a step further and repeal Section 11 of Bill 44 that allows teachers to be brought before the Human Rights Commission if they teach about sexuality in the classroom.”

 With files from The Canadian Press