Alberta Tories plan to renew marriage law

Alberta Conservatives plan to renew using notwithstanding clause to block same-sex marriages.

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein says he will renew legislation to prevent same-sex marriages in the province, despite saying a day earlier he didn't think it would hold up in court.

The province's Marriage Amendment Act defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The five-year statutory limitation on the use of the legislation's notwithstanding clause expires next week, unless it is renewed.

On Thursday, Klein's Conservative Party caucus voted to bring the legislation back to the legislature for renewal despite warnings from the province's justice minister that it likely won't work.

After the vote, Klein said his caucus believes it is important to take a strong political stand on the issue.

"They bought the political argument that even if it is moot, and even if it can't be used, we ought to leave it as it is. That is, to leave it in the legislation and wait and see what the feds do," Klein said.

"The vote of caucus overwhelmingly was to proceed with keeping that clause in our own legislation and dealing with the matter, if we have to deal with it, if and when the legislation is passed," he said.

On Wednesday, the premier had a much different message.

He said there was no point in continuing to say Alberta would use the clause, when all legal advice says it can't. The definition of marriage is under federal jurisdiction, and the province can't affect that, he said.

The federal Liberals have introduced legislation that would change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

Klein said Wednesday that if the legislation passes, Alberta would have little choice but to recognize same-sex couples. He also said fighting it would be costly and wouldn't succeed.

Alberta is one of three provinces that hasn't already had a court ruling allowing same-sex marriage. The provincial government has been vocal in opposition to any change to the definition.