SAME-SEX MARRIAGES (SSM) IN CANADA
Initial reactions to the federal government's decision to
Information about the
government's decision to legalize SSM
Initial reactions to the government decision to implement
On 2003-JUN-17, the federal government decided
to create legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage (SSM) across
Canada. This decision stirred up a hornets' nest of
controversy. The following comments appeared in the media during
the initial week following that decision:
||The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced the
||Gary Buseck, executive director of Gay and
Lesbian Advocates and Defenders in Boston, MA said: "It's
extraordinary that Canada appears to be recognizing human rights in such a
powerful way. This is a country with a similar system and certainly
similar values to ours, and they have decided to take this momentous step.
It's tremendous." 1
||Revenue Minister Elinor Caplan said: "The court has spoken."
||The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has a popular phone-in
radio program called Cross Country Checkup every Saturday. The
2003-JUN-22 program asked the question: "What's your reaction to
Ottawa's decision to recognize same-sex marriage?" The program is
available online at:
||Environment Minister David Anderson expressed frustration at his lack of
freedom to express his beliefs because of the necessity for cabinet
solidarity. He said that he has "no personal opinion because I'm a
cabinet minister...Freedom? Freedom? What is that when you're a cabinet
||Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical
Fellowship of Canada said: "The Court unilaterally has altered an
institution of vital social significance, and the government apparently
has conceded the issue to the Court by not appealing...It is not the role
of the Court, nor an appropriate use of the Charter, to redefine
pre-existing social, cultural and religious institutions. Despite the
existence of bills of rights in most western countries, not one has ruled
that the recognition of marriage as being the union of one man and one
woman to the exclusion of all others is unconstitutional or in violation
of any norm of human rights....By not appealing the federal
government has pre-empted its own process of public consultation. As one
of many who in good faith participated in the Justice Committee's cross
country hearings, our collective efforts have been rendered moot and
irrelevant. This does not contribute to a healthy democracy."
||Multicultural Minister Jean Augustine said: "I think we should just
go for it [and] support equality rights."
||New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord said: "I've asked our department
of justice to look at all the legal options that we have."
||Svend Robinson, a gay NDP (socialist) member of Parliament commented:
"It's a great day for gay and lesbian people in Canada. I commend the
prime minister. I think he has shown great leadership today."
||Alliance House leader John Reynolds said: "If the bill says
marriage is for everybody, I would certainly vote against it and I think a
majority of my colleagues would, too." The Alliance Party is
Canada's extreme right wing political party.
||Progressive Conservative member Gerald Keddy said: "Every family
has a brother or sister, a niece or nephew, a cousin, or a parent who is
gay or lesbian. We can't live in a bubble and it's time society caught up
to the courts." 2
||Alliance justice critic Vic Toews said: "This vote will be
meaningless in every sense of the word. Same-sex marriages are
constitutionally imbedded in Canada whether Parliament votes Yes or No to
the proposed legislation. This is simply a cynical communications exercise
by the Liberals to try to hide the fact that they've let unelected judges
make the laws of this country." 2
||Evan Wolfson, executive director of the "Freedom to Marry"
organization said that "Americans now have the chance to see [that] a
society can treat gay people with respect. Families are helped, and no one
is hurt." 3
||Darrel Reid, president of Focus Canada, a fundamentalist
Christian social action and educational group headquartered in Colorado, said that the Prime
Minister has capitulated to the "undemocratic demands" of
un-elected judges. He wrote: "During the Justice Committee
consultations --commissioned by the minister himself --thousands of
Canadians participated in good faith, expecting their views to be debated
in the House of Commons. Instead, their views have been ignored by judges
in a court room...Canadians demand leadership from government on this
crucial issue, which will have measurable effects on society in years to
come." He feelt that invoking the Charter's
notwithstanding clause might be needed "to ensure that both
marriage and the democratic process are well-served." 4
||On 2003-JUN-20, The Massachusetts Family Institute issued a "MFE
E-Alert" in response to the Federal Cabinet's decision. Same sex
marriage is a critical item in that state, because their Supreme
Judicial Court is expected to rule in mid-2003 on Goodridge v. the
Department of Public Health which might expand marriage in
Massachusetts to include same-sex couples. In their news release, MFE
stated, in part: "Marriage has always been something that was a
dependable and unchangeable staple of human life. MFI Public Policy
Director Evelyn Reilly added, 'Same-sex marriage negates the biological
reality that marriage unites an individual with XX chromosomes and one
with XY chromosomes capable of producing the next generation. If marriage
can be anything other than the union of a man and a woman, it can mean
anything and consequently, will mean nothing at all....The Canadian
decision is not an example of government legislating for the common good.
This is an unfortunate and decisive moment in the weakening of society. I
can only hope these lawmakers will come to their senses before the damage
is done." 5
||The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Ottawa, Marcel Gervais, suggested in
a letter to the Justice Minister that "Other ways of supporting and
recognizing stable homosexual or non-sexual unions could be found. Certain
European nations have recently enacted legislation on 'Civil Unions' or
'Cohabitation' but they are not called marriages. It is our firm belief
that the marriage covenant can only take place between a man and a woman,
not two persons of the same sex, and that this union establishes a
partnership of their whole life and which, of its own very nature, is
ordered to the well-being of the spouses and for procreation and the
bringing up of children." 6
||A lawyer specializing in divorce, Gerry Sadvari, said that in large
measure, the right to marry is "a moral victory" for same-sex
||Unnamed Justice department lawyers believe that with same-sex marriage
"nothing is taken away" from heterosexual married couples. In the
same way, the decision years ago to allow interracial marriage did not
affect the marriages of same-race couples. Similarly, allowing interfaith
marriage did not impact same-faith couples. 7
||Liberal member of parliament John McKay isn't convinced that allowing
same-sex couples to marry will not adversely affect opposite-sex married
couples. He said: "I don't know whether there'll be a 'loss' column for
heterosexual marriage, but it's disingenuous to argue there'll be no
change whatsoever." 7
||Robert Knight director of the Fundamentalist Christian Culture and
Family Institute said: "Americans will see this as a corrupting
influence just north of the border and will see Canada as a country which
has lost its moral moorings. Any country that tosses out 5,000 years of
Judeo-Christian tradition to chase the latest fad is not a very serious
country." [Mr. Knight appears to be unaware of the
diversity of marriage and family structures in ancient Israel].
||Tom Minnery, spokesperson for the American Fundamentalist Christian
organization, Focus on the Family, does not feel that the Canadian
decision will impact American legislators. He said: "We see Canadian
legislators ducking the tough ones. They are leaving this to the unelected
judicial branch and we are very disheartened by the people's
representatives in Canada." 8
||Ken Choe, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian
and Gay Rights Project said: "We would like to think that Canadian
decision is an opportunity to talk to our fellow citizens about what this
means for our society. But at the same time, we are realists and we know
this could trigger a backlash because there is still a lot of fear and
ignorance in this country." 8
||John McKellar is the founder and either the national director
9 or executive director 10 (sources differ) of
Homosexuals Opposed to Pride Extremism (HOPE). HOPE is a loosely
knit Canadian group of unknown size. They do not have a membership roll,
and apparently have on web site or office. McKellar has endorsed
reparative therapy and appears to be undecided
on whether homosexual acts can be moral. He feels that it is "selfish
and rude" for gays and lesbians to seek the right to marry, and thus "redefine
society's traditions and conventions simply for our self-indulgence."
He applauds the decision by the Alberta government to oppose same-sex
marriages. He believes that "less than 1% [of adult gays and lesbians]
are interested in same-sex marriage or even domestic partnership
legislation. In other words, federal and provincial laws are being changed
and traditional values are being compromised just to appease a tiny,
self-anointed clique." Paraphrasing a famous statement by former
Justice Minister and Prime
Minister Trudeau, McKellar said: "We don't want the state in our
bedrooms. We don't want to be shackled by rules, legislation and
||Stephen Lock, Alberta director for the homosexual lobby group Egale
Canada, says that there are "a significant number [of homosexuals]
who don't want to be engaged and be married because they see it as
mimicking heterosexual standards." But he also told the Calgary Herald
that "there are others who do want to get married. Who has the right to
say to these individuals that they can't get married because [others]
don't believe in it?" 11
||Derek Rogusky of Focus on the Family Canada, a Fundamentalist
Christian group, said: ''The federal government has abdicated its
leadership role. This matter has far-reaching consequences nationwide, and
the nation's highest court should be permitted to consider the fundamental
Colin Nickerson, "Canada will amend federal law to allow same-sex
marriages," The Boston Globe, 2003-JUN-18, at:
"Same-sex marriage bill expected to pass easily," Toronto Star,
"Chretien to support same-sex marriages. 'There is an evolution of
society,' prime minister says," Associated Press, 2003-JUN-18, at:
"Canadians' views on marriage 'ignored,' says Focus," Focus on
the Family Canada, 2003-JUN-18, at:
"Cold North Wind: Canada to Sanction Same-sex Marriage,"
Massachusetts Family Institute MFE E-Alert, 2003-JUN-20.
"Christians stand firm on marriage definition," Today's Family
News, Focus on the Family, Canada, 2003-JUN-20.
Tonda MacCharles, "Divorcing gay couples have plenty to fight for.
Property rights now enter the mix, lawyers say. 'Means more business'
divorce specialists admit," The Toronto Star, 2003-JUN-23, Page A19.
Tim Harper, "American activists encouraged by Ottawa's decision;
Foes lash out at 'corrupting influence;' Say Canada's lost its 'moral
moorings'," The Toronto Star, 2003-JUN-23, Page A19.
"John the Baptist," The Interim, at:
Mario Toneguzzi, "Gay lobbyist rips decision on same-sex marriage,"
CanWest News Service, The Kingston Whig-Standard, 2003-JUN-20, Page 12.
"Few homosexuals want to marry, says gay group," Today's Family
News, Focus on the Family Canada, 2003-JUN-23.
"Gay couple fighting Alberta for marriage licence," The
Kingston Whig Standard, 2003-JUN-21, Page 17.
"Homosexual weddings cause controversy," Today's Family News,
Focus on the Family Canada, 2003-JUN-30.
"British Columbia court allows same-sex marriage," MSNBC News,
Alexander Panetta, "Same-sex legislation expected," Canoe.ca,
"Same sex marriages bill goes to supreme Court. Government asks for
Supreme Court opinion on draft bill," Canada Online, at:
"Here come the brides: 'Gay Marriage' announcements," Family
Research Council Washington Update, 2003-JUL-25.
"Coalition to battle same-sex marriages. Family, religious groups seek
right to appeal ruling," AlterMedia.info, 2003-JUL-8, at:
Valarie Lawton, "Bishops take gay-marriage issue to court. 'Keep
traditional definition' Catholics say. Will ask Supreme Court for right to
press their case," The Toronto Star, 2003-JUL-30, Page A4.
Copyright © 2003 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2003-JUL-30
Author: B.A. Robinson