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HOMOSEXUAL (SAME-SEX) MARRIAGES IN CANADA

2004-September to October-04

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Topics covered:

Manitoba and Nova Scotia legalize same-sex marriage

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Sponsored link.


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Earlier developments are described in another essay

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Quotations:

bullet"I want to marry the person I love." A sign at a demonstration on Parliament Hill on 2004-MAR.
bullet"...preserving the heterosexual understanding of marriage is an important public policy decision that benefits all of society..." Focus on the Family (Canada)

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Background:

On 2003-JUN-10 the Ontario Court of Appeal determined that the federal marriage act was in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada's constitution. They ordered the Government of Ontario to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately. This was the ruling that made marriage available to all adult couples, both opposite-sex and same-sex, but only within the province of Ontario. On 2003-JUN-17, the federal government decided to create legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage (SSM) across Canada. They sent the proposed legislation and some questions in the form of a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada for a non-binding ruling.

By the middle of 2004-SEP, the territory of Yukon, and the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec had all legalized SSM within their jurisdictions. Lawsuits were underway in Manitoba and Nova Scotia. By 2004-SEP, about 80% of same-sex couples in the country were able to marry without leaving their province or territory of residence.

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Events:

bullet2004-SEP-16: Manitoba: Court OK's same-sex marriage: As expected, Justice Douglas Yard declared the marriage act in Manitoba to be unconstitutional. According to the CanWest News Service, this is the first case where the Federal Government "...has not opposed or asked for an adjournment of a same-sex marriage lawsuit." He wrote: "The cumulative effect and the overwhelming effect of that judicial authority is to the effect that the traditional definition of marriage is no longer constitutionally valid in view of the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms." This brings to five the political jurisdictions in Canada in which "marriage" has been expanded to include same-sex couples. Courts in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Yukon had previously legalized SSM. More details.

Jim Uttley, writing for the ASSIST News Service, stated: "There is sure to be reaction from churches and Christian organizations to this ruling. It will be interesting to see what kind of response will be given. This past summer, Canada's parliament passed a bill which makes speaking out against homosexuality a criminal offense." Actually, such speech is not a criminal offense if:
bulletIt is spoken during a private conversation, or
bulletIf the person can prove that the statement were true or,
bulletAs the law says: if, "in good faith, he expressed or attempted to establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject, " or
bulletIf the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, and if, on reasonable grounds, the person believed them to be true. 1,2
bullet2004-SEP-24: Nova Scotia: Supreme Court Justice Heather Robertson legalizes same-sex marriage: Justice Robertson handed down a decision in the morning of SEP-24 which upheld the marriage of the lesbian couple, Kim Vance and Samantha Meehan. They had previously registered their relationship in Nova Scotia. They went to Ontario to marry, and returned to continue living in Nova Scotia. Justice Robertson declared that "civil marriage between two persons of the same sex is therefore lawful and valid." More information.
bullet2004-SEP-26: New Brunswick: Appeal for help: New Brunswick Justice Minister Brad Green refused to follow the lead of New Brunswick by allowing SSM in his province. Gay marriage advocate Art Vautour-Toole issued an appeal for help in mounting a campaign for SSM. He and his partner, Wayne Toole are planning to join with a lesbian couple "A & T" in launching a lawsuit against the province.
bullet2004-SEP: Saskatchewan: Exact date unknown. To date, no province in Canada has operated pro-actively by granting same-sex couples marriage rights. However, the Justice Minister of Saskatchewan has indicated that he would not resist if a same-sex couple steps forward with a case in that province. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada mentioned on their web site that "A lesbian couple has challenged the definition of marriage in Saskatchewan." CFRA radio stated on SEP-30 that: "Two same-sex couples are going to court to challenge Saskatchewan's marriage laws. Lawyers will ask that the province's Marriage Act and the common-law definition of marriage are unconstitutional because they deny same-sex couples a marriage licence or a civil marriage ceremony. Three other same-sex couples may also enter the challenge." 3 More details
bullet2004-SEP: Manitoba: Negative reaction from some marriage commissioners: Some marriage commissioners in Manitoba objected to a letter that they received from the Vital Statistics office which ordered them to return their Certificates of Registration if they have problems marrying same-sex couples.
bulletGil Dube runs a trucking company and is also an authorized marriage commissioner. He said: "I will not perform a same-sex marriage, so based on that, I am left with no choice but to resign, back out or whatever."
bulletLeo Tolledo follows a religion which does not approve of same-sex marriage. He indicated that he will try to remain a commissioner and avoid conflict. He said: "If it's same-sex, then right now probably I'm going to say I'm not available right now, or it conflicts with my schedule."
Caroline Kaus of Vital Statistics is reported as writing: "When we appoint you, we assure all Manitobans will be treated in an equitable manner. As such, we want to make sure you're aware of that immediately."

The Canadian Broadcasting Commission reports that eleven commissioners have resigned in British Columbia since same-sex marriages became legal. It is not clear from the report whether all resigned over the same-sex marriage issue. 6
bullet2004-OCT-01: Canada: Focus on the Family Canada calls for prayer: In their Family Facts newsletter for 2004-OCT-01, Focus mentioned that the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada "calls all Christians to prayer during Sunday worship services" on OCT-03.
bullet2004-OCT-2: Ottawa: Leaked federal cabinet document: Liberal Party will stall same-sex marriage: The Toronto Star newspaper headlined the contents of a leaked federal cabinet document about SSM. The document reveales that the Liberal Party expects that the Supreme Court of Canada will deliver a quick decision on the federal reference, but that the Liberals will delay introducing a bill to Parliament for a year. An actual vote could be delayed until 2006. Their reluctance is understandable. There are probably many more voters in Canada who oppose equal rights for same-sex couples as there are same-sex couples. So introduction, debate, and passage of the bill will likely lose the governing Liberal party some votes. Also, the Liberal is in a minority position; the other parties combined have more members than do the Liberals. Under the Canadian parliamentary system, if a government bill fails, an election is normally called.

The document states: "As the issue of marriage between same-sex couples carries with it a certain polarization, it is likely that the media will continue to highlight every example of diverging opinions within the Liberal caucus and in cabinet over what approach to adopt."

The document contains the text of the proposed new marriage law. It would read: "access to marriage for civil purposes should be extended to couples of the same sex....officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs." 4
bullet2004-OCT-4: Former justice minister takes stand favoring SSM: The previous justice minister, Martin Cauchon, delivered a speech at Harvard University on OCT-4. He called for political leaders to tackle divisive social issues like SSM. He said that he had no personal difficulties with extending civil marriage to include same-sex couples. But he said that promoting elementary rights -- like the right to marry -- is a joint responsibility of the courts, public, and Parliament. He said: "Politicians should not run for the job if they are not prepared to face up to social challenges, and work them through, respectfully, with citizens. And then, at the end of the day, take a clear stand. Defend it., Move it forward. Fight for justice is what makes the job worthwhile. Politicians with an eye on re-election have lots of motivation to sidestep their duty to establish and preserve fundamental freedoms and to just leave it to the courts. Political leadership is important because not fulfilling your duty ultimately undermines democracy, and contributes to cynicism about politics and politicians." He rejected the suggestion that same-sex couples only be allowed to enter into civil unions. He said: "separate but equal doesn't exist in our country."  5

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Later developments

Possible paths forward to legalize same-sex marriage

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References used:

  1. Jim Uttley, "Manitoba court rules in favor of gay marriage. Province becomes fourth provincial jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriage," ASSIST News Service, 2004-SEP-16, at: http://www.assistnews.net/
  2. Michelle Macafee, "Manitoba legalizes same-sex marriages," Canoe, 2003-SEP-16, at: http://cnews.canoe.ca/
  3. Josh Pringle, "Same-sex marriage challenge in Saskatchewan," CFRA, 2004-SEP-30, at: http://www.cfra.com/
  4. Tonda MacCharles, "Same-sex bill stalled," The Toronto Star, 2004-OCT-02, Page A1 and A12.
  5. Tonda MacCharles, "Cauchon takes stand on social issues. Ex-minister backs gay marriage," The Toronto Star, 2004-OCT-4, Page A4.
  6. "Marriage commissioners resign over same-sex weddings," Canadian Broadcasting Commission, 2004-SEP-22, at: http://winnipeg.cbc.ca/

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Site navigation:

 Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Canada > here

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Copyright 2004 and 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-MAY-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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