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Hamlet says no to gay marriages

Council votes to tell MP to reject same-sex union lobby

Chris Puglia
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Aug 20/03) - Rankin Inlet council became one of the first municipalities to weigh in on the same-sex marriage issue last week.

The political firestorm generated by the controversial push by the gay and lesbian community to change the definition of marriage has stayed largely within the federal and provincial arenas.

But, last week, Coun. Justin Merritt set the precedent for municipal involvement in the issue.

Merritt moved that hamlet council to write a letter to Nunavut Liberal MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell, asking her to vote against same-sex marriage.

Merritt said his consultation with the community revealed that a majority disagree with same-sex marriage.

"My problem is they are forcing the churches to go against their beliefs and allow same-sex marriage," said Merritt.

The federal government has already decreed that a change to the definition of marriage would be strictly in the legal domain.

That means churches would not be forced to marry same-sex couples if it went against their beliefs. The change would merely allow gays and lesbians the opportunity to have legal married status.

The motion generated another unique circumstance within Rankin council. The vote resulted in a tie that had to be broken by Mayor Lorne Kusugak.

Seven councillors voted on the issue, three voted in favour, three voted against and one abstained, resulting in the tie.

"Having talked to many churches in our community and a lot of elders they are opposed to same-sex marriages. So, I am in favour of the motion," Kusugak said, breaking the stalemate.

Deputy Mayor Levinia Brown did not agree with council's decision and was one of the three opposing votes.

"I represent all of Rankin Inlet and I have been involved in politics for a long time. I like to be inclusive and represent the needs of all people," she said.

Brown said being inclusive means respecting the views and interests of all her constituents.

"I believe in peace in the community and the country and I believe one way we might have peace is by respecting each other," she said.

"I do believe the elders might disagree, but we can't ignore the fact they exist any more."

Brown plans to run for MLA in Rankin South come February. She believes her stand on the same-sex marriage issue may hurt her chances, but added she is prepared to stand by her beliefs.

"I might lose support for that. I just like to be open minded," she said.

Karetak-Lindell said she has not received correspondence from any other municipalities.

She added that a majority of the letters she had received have been in opposition to same-sex marriage.

But, she said that is not surprising.

"Most people that are in support of something don't take the time to express that view," she said.

Karetak-Lindell said she doesn't know how she will vote on the issue and has been taking the summer to poll her constituents on their views.