Canada’s conservative government could introduce legislative changes to enhance protections for those who oppose same-sex marriage on religious or moral grounds if Members of Parliament don’t pass a motion to re-open the contentious debate.

According to The Calgary Sun, the motion, which stems from an election pledge by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is expected to give MPs a clear-cut question on whether or not Parliament should revisit the issue-not poll the moral stand of each MP on gay marriage.

The motion is slated to be tabled the second week after Parliament resumes this month, according to a Canadian government source.

“I do think there’s a general feeling that it is time to move on,’” said Gerald Keddy, a Nova Scotia Conservative MP who was one of four Tories to side with the Liberal government’s 2005 legislation legalising gay marriage, reports CanWest News Service.

“I believe that people will not vote to reopen debate. There are a number of my colleagues who may not have changed their position on same-gender marriage, but are really satisfied that the debate has been thorough and the debate is over.”

Pressure from Christian-based lobby groups is expected to mount in the run-up to the vote.

But if the motion is lost, as is widely expected, legislative measures could be tabled to enhance protections such as freedom of speech on religious or moral grounds, reports The Calgary Sun.

Conservative and Liberal MPs will have a free vote, while NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs must toe the party line and oppose any move to revisit the same-sex marriage law.

Brian Rushfeldt, executive director of the Canada Family Action Coalition, said opponents will be revving up a campaign to sway MPs who are still undecided.

Full-page ads and radio spots will urge citizens to lobby their MP to help restore the traditional definition of marriage.

Gay-marriage opponent Gwen Landolt, national vice-president of the group Real Women, acknowledged that the nature of the motion could prove daunting.

“It’s a different kind of vote it’s whether you want to reopen the debate, not whether you’re in favour of same-sex marriage and that changes the whole dynamic,” she said.

“Some of them are afraid of the issue; some of them don’t want to get into it when there is going to be another election, certainly in the spring or summer of next year, and they don’t want to be caught up in it.”

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