Brushing aside threats of eternal damnation, Prime Minister Jean Chretien promised Tuesday to push forward with legislation that would allow gays and lesbians to marry.
Chretien appeared unfazed by a warning from a Roman Catholic bishop that his government's same-sex marriage plans will jeopardize his eternal soul.
If he has issues to settle with God, Chretien suggested he won't be resolving them inside the House of Commons.
"I'm a Catholic and I'm praying," the prime minister said, smiling, after a cabinet meeting.
"But I'm the prime minister of Canada. When I'm the prime minister of Canada, I'm acting as a person responsible for the nation.
"And the problem of my religion, I'll deal with it in other circumstances."
He said the government will proceed with its original plan: wait while the Supreme Court examines the draft marriage legislation, then create a bill and put it to a free vote in the House of Commons.
The legislative process is not expected to begin until after Chretien retires next year and perhaps not until after a federal election.