OTTAWA - Parliament prepared today to revisit last year's decision to make gay marriage legal in Canada, but with much less fanfare and with virtual certainty that the new definition of marriage will be maintained.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives, most of whom oppose same-sex marriage, have only a minority of seats in the House of Commons and were getting little support from members of other parties on the issue.
Harper's team itself seemed to be going through the motions, arguing less about why gay marriage should be rescinded and more about his promise to let Parliament have a second look.
"We made a promise to bring the issue forward and we are keeping the promise," spokeswoman Carolyn Stewart-Olsen said shortly before the start of debate on Wednesday.
Canada was the fourth country, after the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain, to legalize homosexual marriage.
Last year's vote in the House of Commons was 158-133 in favour of the new definition, with 32 Liberals voting against the new definition but some of those have now signalled they would oppose Harper's motion.
"The law has been settled," said one of them, Paul Zed. "I accept the fact that the law is now the law."
However, opponents of gay marriage say last year's vote may not have been a true reflection of the will of Parliament since then-Prime Minister Paul Martin forced his Liberal cabinet to vote in favour or lose their ministerial posts.
On the first day of the campaign for the January federal election, which Martin lost, Harper promised that he would ask the House of Commons if it wanted to re-examine the issue.
The vote, to take place on Friday afternoon, is on a motion calling on the government "to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages."
The head of the conservative Canada Family Action Coalition, Charles McVety, decried what he said were "secular fundamentalists" who had pushed through gay marriage without looking at possible effects on children, teachers and clergy.
"The people of Canada are not going to let this go, because marriage is too important an institution to just let it evaporate because of the emotions of a few people in Parliament," he told a news conference.
But many Liberals accused Harper of using phony and counter-productive tactics by returning to the issue.
"I think it's nothing other than another opportunity to divide the country again," said Liberal legislator Judy Sgro.
- REUTERSBy Randall Palmer