Canada appears on its way to becoming the first county in the Americas to legalize same-sex marriage, a move that could prompt a rush across the border by U.S. homosexuals who want to get married, the Seattle Times said.

“It is unlikely those unions would give a couple everything associated with marriage in the U.S., but you can’t necessarily count on them being disregarded for every purpose,” said Jamie Pedersen, board chairman of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, a homosexual-rights group.

The Netherlands and Belgium are the only countries that treat a same-sex couple’s relationship exactly as one between a man and a woman. The closest the U.S. has come to same-sex marriage is Vermont’s civil-union law, a legal registration providing the same benefits and rights as married couples.

Pedersen emphasized, according to the Times, that one U.S. state allowing same-sex marriage would provide a stronger legal basis to challenge prohibitions in other states than a Canadian law.

Thirty-seven states have passed laws that bar them from honoring same-sex marriage from another jurisdiction. However, Massachusetts and New Jersey currently are challenging legislation, and some analysts believe if a marriage license were issued in one of those states, it would have to be recognized in all others under the U.S. Constitution’s “Full Faith and Credit Clause.”

Catholic bishops in Massachusetts are urging the state’s Catholics to lobby their legislature for a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage, according to a Boston Globe report.

Canada’s law defining marriage as a male-female bond has been struck down as discriminatory by three court decisions – in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

The government is appealing the Ontario and Quebec rulings amid hearings on the issue held by a Canadian House of Commons committee.

Activists on both sides of the issue are awaiting the release of the committee’s report, expected any day now.

Homosexual advocacy groups are confident they will prevail, the Seattle paper said.

“The question, at this point, is how much time and money our government is going to waste fighting what it knows is a losing battle,” Laurie Aaron, chairman of the equal marriage committee for the homosexual-rights group Egale Canada.

Opponents admit the country is moving toward same-sex marriage.

“When you have what seems like every court in the land ruling against you, there’s a lot to be discouraged about,” said Derek Rogusky, a vice president of Focus on the Family Canada, which intervened in the B.C. and Ontario cases.

Evangelicals are a tiny minority in Canada, and the country’s largest Protestant denomination, the United Church of Canada, favors same-sex marriage.

Vancouver’s Anglican bishop, Michael Ingham, has allowed six of his parishes to perform ceremonies blessing same-sex relationships, the Ottawa Citizen reported this week.

Ingham’s announcement came just one day after the world’s national Anglican churches reaffirmed their rejection of such blessings.

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