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Canada Bracing For Onslaught Of Gay Americans

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(Ottawa) The Canadian government is preparing for a gay migration from the US following Tuesday's election. Already Canadian consulates in Chicago and New York have been approached by dozens of same-sex couples enquiring about immigration.

Same-sex marriage is legal in five of Canada's ten provinces and in the Yukon territory. Judges in two other provinces are considering petitions to allow gay marriages.

A spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Minister Judy Sgro said that it is difficult to say how many of the gay and lesbian couples inquiring about moving to Canada will actually do it.

"We're seeing a lot of anxiety by gay Americans," Lucille Way told 365Gay.com. "But, asking about immigration and actually leaving your homeland are two different things."

It is estimated there are about a million Americans living in Canada about a quarter of them in Ontario. The number of gays and lesbians is not known. In addition many Americans who began eying a more liberal life in Canada that began with the draft dodgers of the 1960s are not registered.

Moving to Canada, though, it is not as easy as packing up the camper and heading north.

Unregistered foreign nationals could be deported and Canadian immigration law has some stringent requirements. Because the country is seen as a haven for refugees there is a long lineup of people trying to get in. Gays and lesbians, said Way, would have to lineup like everyone else.

Perspective immigrants must apply at a visa mission outside the country, usually at a Canadian embassy or consulate.

You also would need a work permit and to get it, you would need to show you have a skill, trade, or profession that is needed in Canada.

Without a guaranteed job from a Canadian company it could take up to a year to get a permit. In order to remain in the country while you wait to work you would need to prove to the government you have enough money to survive.

And, work permits are based on a point system. You get higher points if you have special skills, such as a medical or law degree, or are fluent in French, Canada's second official language.

If you want to move up the line faster, it helps to be rich. Immigrants wanting to live and invest in Canada must have a net worth of $662,000 and be ready to put up at least $331,000. Those wishing to start a business must have a net worth of $248,000.

But, some immigration lawyers are suggesting a different approach: Applying for refugee status. It is one which has not been tested. But the government is suggesting it could be tried. The test would be is it dangerous for gay and lesbian couples to live in the US under laws which do not recognize them. Usually, people who come to Canada claiming refugee status are from regimes where their lives would be in jeopardy.

But, Citizenship and Immigration says that any same-sex couple arriving at the Canada US border and claiming refugee status would have their case heard.

"Anyone who seeks Canada's protection is eligible to have their case examined by a refugee board official," department spokesperson Maria Iadimardi told 365Gay.com.

Iadimardi said that under the immigration law same-sex couples have the same rights as opposite-sex couples and are considered "family class".

If a refugee board official decided that an American same-sex couple had a legitimate argument the case would then be turned over to a refugee tribunal.

"They would then go to a hearing which makes case by case decision," said Iadinardi.

If the tribunal ruled the couple ineligible they would have to return to the US.

Iadinardi said that since the US election Tuesday the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website has had unusually high traffic from the US. On Wednesday it hit an all time high she said.

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"Thank you" Bush Suporters!

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Religious leaders prepare demands

For backing Bush, the groups want action on abortion and gay marriage.

America's conservative religious leaders, credited with providing the margin of victory for President Bush's re-election, are ready to present the White House with a bill for services rendered.

The list, they say, is a lengthy one, beginning with the nomination of U.S. Supreme Court justices who will overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision on abortion, increased support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and a larger role in policing decency for the Federal Communications Commission.

The Rev. Steve Smith, spokesman for First Baptist Church of Orlando, said Bush's election and his support among conservative Christians shows large portions of the electorate are "grounded in traditional family values."

On abortion, for example, "there's no question" there will be pressure from Christian conservatives to appoint judges who "value the sanctity of human life," Smith said. Conservative groups will continue to push for an end to abortion or, at the very least, legislation "greatly limiting" the practice.

Paul Scroggins, the executive director of the Christian service agency Vision Orlando, said social and cultural matters important to evangelicals may become more of a priority for all lawmakers if the group continues to flex its political muscle at the polls.

"I think many evangelicals in the past have been either too busy or too apathetic or even too lazy to get involved," Scroggins said. "I sense though that people now have a greater understanding of their responsibility -- a willingness to express those convictions through voting."

Although Republicans supported faith-related causes during the past four years, expectations have increased.

"You always want more," said the Rev. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. "One of my jobs is to never be satisfied."

Land, a strong Bush supporter, predicted the proposed amendment banning gay marriage would be added to the Constitution. With White House backing, he said, it will pass the U.S. Senate by the required two-thirds majority -- it has already passed in the House by a simple majority--- and will be ratified by three-fourths of the nation's state legislatures.

Nor was the Southern Baptist leader daunted by the demonstrated ability of the Senate's Democratic minority to block judicial nominations by filibustering.

With an increased margin, Land said, Republicans intend to change Senate rules, preventing the minority from using unlimited debate to block court appointments. This would open the door to new justices who could reverse the Roe v. Wade decision permitting abortions.

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, said confirming such nominees is now more likely. However, he is not so certain that enough justices could be appointed in four years to reverse the landmark decision.

New judges could overturn other close decisions defining church-state relations, such as permitting prayer at high-school football games and graduation ceremonies, Sekulow said. They also might uphold another congressional ban on partial-birth abortions, which the federal court rejected earlier.

Conservative religious leaders also want to further limit federal support for stem-cell research, increase "abstinence-only" sex education, and ban human cloning and international population programs that include abortion.

However, religious leaders and activists are realistic about what they can expect from the Bush administration and the GOP-controlled Congress. They acknowledge that gains may come with policy decisions and executive orders, which do not require congressional approval.

One area dear to conservative Christians involves television and radio.

Some advocate that even tighter decency standards be imposed on broadcast media by the FCC. Others are raising the possibility of bringing some cable television -- where sex, nudity, violence and profane language are common -- under the FCC.

"We strongly support both of those," said the Southern Baptists' Land. Freedom of expression, Land said, "does not mean freedom to assault the public airwaves" or to use telephone lines to transmit offensive cable programming.

Tom Minnery, vice president of public policy for Focus on the Family, a powerful Christian media organization, agreed.

"Whatever the Congress can do to lessen the garbage kids are exposed to would be a wonderful advance," he said. "That's what makes Tuesday's election such a sweet victory for conservatives; Michael Moore and his Hollywood pals have been sent packing. That indicates the public's growing distaste for Hollywood values."

Some activists think what the president says for the next four years is as important as what he does.

Erwin McManus, a Los Angeles author and pastor who is in Orlando to speak at this weekend's Promise Keepers rally, said the president "does establish a cultural context, the values he personifies and the values he communicates. He has tremendous influence on cultural norms."

Charles Colson, former Nixon adviser and now head of Prison Fellowship, said the president "has a moral mandate, clearly." But Colson cautioned against going too far.

"Evangelicals should not be triumphal," he said. "I don't view this election as signaling a sudden change in American culture, or settling all the issues. It's strictly a window of opportunity."

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