Same-sex marriage debate follows PM to India Last Updated Tue, 18 Jan 2005 13:14:08 EST CBC News source: http://www.cbc.ca/story/world/national/2005/01/18/martin-india.html NEW DELHI - The debate over same-sex marriage followed Prime Minister Paul Martin on his overseas trip Tuesday, prompted by an edict two days earlier by the spiritual leader of Sikhism in India denouncing the practice. Paul Martin talks with Indian PM Manmohan Singh, right. Included are Canadian parliamentarians Ruby Dhalla and Gurbax S. Malhi, top, in New Delhi, India, Tuesday. (AP photo) Joginder Singh Vedanti, the holiest priest of the Sikh religion, ordered all practising Sikhs to oppose same-sex marriage, saying it is the product of sick minds and anti-human. Vedanti criticized Canada's proposed legislation, saying he was concerned about the trend toward same-sex marriages in Western countries. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, when asked about Canada's proposed legislation after a meeting with Martin on Tuesday, said he wouldn't comment on internal Canadian affairs, but added: "Certainly, I think such a thing in our country would no have wide appreciation." Martin responded by defending the legislation Tuesday saying that Canada is a "country of ethnic and religious minorities." "And the purpose of the Charter of Rights is to protect minorities, to protect them against the oppression of the majority." Martin tried to reassure Sikhs back home that the legislation would not compromise religious rights and that religious institutions would not have to marry same-sex couples. The issue had become a focus of debate in the Indian press this month. One newspaper speculated that Martin had cancelled a planned visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar because of concerns over the controversy. But Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, who accompanied Martin on the trip, said Martin's change of plans came about because of his decision to tour tsunami-affected areas in Thailand and Sri Lanka. Dosanjh, who supports the same-sex bill, says Sikhs in Canada wouldn't be guided by any religious directive. "It will absolutely not have any impact whatsoever."