HOMOSEXUAL (SAME-SEX) MARRIAGES IN CANADA
Same-sex marriage (SSM) developments: 2003-AUG-12 to AUG-21
Civil Union option; Alliance Party motion; United
Church supports SSM; Appeal launched; Liberal Caucus meeting ends.
"Piece by piece, we're disassembling marriage." Derik
Rogusky, vice-president of family policy of Focus on the Family, Canada
-- a Fundamentalist Christian group, on 2003-AUG-21. 1
|"If you're so much in favor of family values, why would you prevent
people from creating families?" Gilles Marchildon, executive director
of Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE) -- a
gay-positive group, on 2003-AUG-21. 1|
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 during the first week after the government's decision was
Developments continued rapidly for the next two weeks.
Subsequent developments are described below.
2003-AUG-12: Opposition to same-sex marriage bill:
Referring to recent public opinion polls, the chairperson of the Liberal
caucus, Stan Keyes, said: "If the word 'marriage' is a problem, then why are
we as legislators using the word 'marriage?" He wants the federal
government to withdraw its reference to the Supreme Court and rewrite it.
He said: "If the government pulled the reference back and redrew the
proposal to acknowledge our responsibility of recognizing same-sex couples in a
civil union, I think, for the most part, most Canadians would agree with that
and support across the country would rise dramatically." Some unnamed
government strategists have suggested that such an arrangement has already been
rejected by various senior provincial courts. They have decided that "separate
but equal" arrangements are always separate but never equal. They failed to
provide justice in the American south who segregated school children on the
basis of race. They have failed to provide fair treatment in Israel who
segregates Jewish and Palestinian school children. Strategists believe that the Supreme Court of
Canada would probably view it as a halfway measure, and reject it as well. One
advisor said: "Some are still wondering if the courts would not allow for some
other alternative, a civil union or a separate track. But the advice we're
getting is [that the courts] would see this as a short of 'separate-but-equal'
arrangement which would not pass muster as equality." Another nameless official suggested that it might be a
possibility to submit the 'civil union' concept to the court merely as a political
move to bury the issue once and for all. Laurie Arron, director of advocacy
for the homosexual rights group EGALE denounced the "civil union" or
"registered partnership" options, saying it would "send the inescapable
message that the government sees us as second-class citizens... Registered
partnerships are no substitute for equal marriage. Imagine if the federal
government prohibited interracial couples or Jewish couples from marrying, but
said we'll let you register your partnership instead. The very idea if
offensive and demeaning." 2
2003-AUG-12: Alliance motion expected: The Canadian
Alliance party plans to force a vote on a motion which is an exact duplicate of
a 1999 resolution which said that "marriage is and should remain the union
of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others." At the time, this
motion was supported by the Liberal government, and was affirmed by all Liberal
Members of Parliament. One "source" said that "four years ago, the
vote was unanimous in cabinet and [the Liberal] caucus to reaffirm the
traditional definition [of marriage]." 2
2003-AUG-12: James Travers comments on SSM: Travers is a
national affairs writer whose column appears three times a week in the
Toronto Star. He made a number of points in his AUG-12 article:
The expected successor to the present Prime Minister, Paul
Martin, is a Roman Catholic. So is the present Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien,
and each of the previous prime Ministers back to Lester B. Pearson, who was the
son and the grandson of Methodist preachers.
No Prime Minster has ever been willing to invoke the
constitution's "not withstanding" clause in order to ram through
legislation that violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Canada "...should be celebrating one of those evolutionary
steps that together are making this a different, more gentle and enlightened
Referring to the most conservative section of the Liberal
party, Travers wrote: "...the most socially conservative Blue Grits will be
uncomfortable [with SSM legislation]. But even they will know that
...[their support of SSM] will reinforce the image of the [Canadian] Alliance [Party]
as the voice of intolerance, something that simultaneously solidifies narrow
support and limits broad growth."
"...this federal government is only moving on same-sex
marriage because courts are making continued foot-dragging impossible."
2003-AUG-13: United Church of Canada supports SSM:
At their General Conference in Wolfville, NS, delegates passed a motion
calling on Ottawa to allow same-sex marriages. Each of the 3,000 congregations
in Canada and Bermuda will be able to decide if they will marry gay and lesbian
couples. The United Church is the most liberal, and the largest
Protestant denomination in the country. They already have a ritual published
for same-sex unions. 4
Fred Braman of Montreal and the Ottawa Conference of the
Church opened the debate, saying: "What an opportunity this is to witness
tonight." He first asked the commissioners to replace the word "unions"
in the original Saskatchewan motion with "marriage." They passed this
amendment by a wide margin. Braman said: "This is not just a human rights issue.
This is about what we are, the church. It is an opportunity to show our faith
and meet our test--to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with our
Lord." The "calm, sometimes emotional debate...lasted less than an hour:"
2003-AUG-13: Prime Minister rejects civil unions: Prime
Minister Jean Chrétien shrugged off the threat
by a Roman Catholic bishop that his "eternal salvation" is at risk
because of his stand on SSM. Chrétien said
that he would push ahead to legalize same-sex marriage, not some other form of
civil union for gays and lesbians. He said: "We made a decision [in favor of
SSM] some weeks ago, at the end of June, and it is the policy of the
government." He added that the decision "was virtually unanimous in the
|2003-AUG-13: Interfaith Coalition... asks to appeal JUN-10
decision: The Interfaith Coalition on Marriage and Family
asked to appeal the ruling of the Court of Appeal for Ontario
-- the one that legalized SSM in the province on 2003-JUN-10 -- to the
Supreme Court of Canada. The Coalition is composed of four very
conservative religious groups: The Catholic Civil Rights League,
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, The Islamic Society of North
America, and The Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The Association has a number of concerns about the ruling:|
|Its legalization of same-sex marriage was "sudden and
|It "has created significant confusion in the Canadian polity".
|They believe that Court erred by treating marriage "as though
it were an ordinary common law rule." This may be a reflection
of their belief that the definition of marriage as between one man
and one woman is imbedded in the 1867 Constitution and cannot be
|The court decision will "unreasonably fetter Parliament's
ability to choose among alternative, constitutionally viable
legislative regimes". This is presumably based on the Court's
rejection of civil unions as an viable option.|
|They believe that religious freedom is at risk, because
clergypersons may be subject to a civil rights complaint if they
refuse to marry a same-sex couple. This appears to like a weak
argument, because churches have always been free to discriminate in
eligibility membership, ordination, and marriage. The right of
religious institution to hold racist, sexist and homophobic policies
while enjoying immunity from persecution under civil rights
legislation has been guaranteed in many Canadian laws. 7|
2003-AUG-14: Cauchon rejects civil unions: Justice
Martin Cauchon rejected any suggestion that the government should consider "civil
unions" as an alternative to allowing gays and lesbians to marry. He said
that the concept would not meet the requirement under the Charter of Rights
and Freedoms which requires that equal treatment under the law be expanded
to persons of all sexual orientations. Nor would it "make sure gay and lesbians are
entirely a part of our society...Marriage is an unique institution in our
society and I strongly believe to start creating other types of union around
marriage would just contribute in creating more discrimination.... The question
of equality and all the freedoms we have in the Charter -- I strongly believe
in all that." Two Liberal caucus members, MP Roger Gallaway and Senator
Anne Cools announced that they will seek intervener status at the Supreme
Court's hearings. They oppose same-sex marriage. 4
2003-AUG-21 & 22: Newspaper columnist discusses SSM and the
Liberal Party: James Travers, a columnist for the Toronto Star, wrote two
columns about SSM. On AUG-21, he compared the SSM debate with another intense
controversy which happened almost exactly four decades ago -- the selection of
a flag for Canada. This also raised great passions in the public. The nation's
opinions were split. But a flag was finally selected, the furor died down very
quickly, and the vast majority of Canadians today consider it a non-issue.
8 On AUG-22 he wrote in his column: "On same-sex marriage, the
[Liberal] party is on the right side of a controversy that is destined to
inflame and then sputter out....Barring a seismic shift in the political
plates the next election will be fought to determine second place, not
first...The issue could be damaging locally. In ridings with a volatile
demographic mix, opposition to same-sex rights could make the difference
between winning and losing...If the public doesn't fully grasp why minority
rights must be protected, the government will have to better explain what
should be apparent. If a few votes or even a few seats are lost, Liberals will
have to accept those losses as the cost of doing the nation's business in the
national interest. If an unhappy party wants to find happiness, it will have to
take more pleasure in doing what is right because it is right, not because it
is easy or politically expedient." 9
2003-AUG-21: Badly needed humor injected into "the issue:"
"Slinger" is the author of a humor/sarcasm column that appears in the
Toronto Star three times a week. In his AUG-21 column he referred to the threat
by a Roman Catholic bishop that the Prime Minister might burn in Hell because
of his support of SSM. Slinger suggests, with tongue solidly in cheek, that the
list of people who would be sent to the flames for eternal torture might also
include those gays and lesbians who have married in Ontario and British
Columbia, all members of Parliament who vote in favor of SSM legislation --
perhaps even all members of Parliament. Conceivably all Canadians could be
tortured in Hell in a process that Slinger calls "Collateral damnation,"
because of the actions of a few gays, lesbians and legislators.
He suggests that public opinion be sampled using the question: "Would it be
okay with you if same-sex marriage is legalized as long as the Prime Minister
burns in hell for all time for it." He figures that there would be what
pollsters call a "bump" in support for SSM in the polls. It might become
a "great big bump" in support if the question ended "and the sooner
He concluded on a serious note: "Wouldn't it be a strange Creator that
condemned a Prime Minister (and maybe all the rest of us) to the everlasting
fire for allowing gays and lesbians to marry, but would let that same Prime
Minister (and maybe the rest of us) enter Paradise when he -- and we -- haven't
done one single thing to help all the poor children in Canada?" 10
2003-AUG-21: Liberal caucus concludes retreat: The four
day retreat by the Liberal caucus in North Bay, ON was almost completely
dominated by discussion of SSM. 6 Some support emerged for a
alternatives to Prime Minister Chrétien
proposed legislative. Several other paths were suggested:
Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette and Member of Parliament Dan
McTeague suggested that the hot potato of SSM be transferred from Parliament to
the general public by having a national referendum on the issue. Prime Minister
Chrétien squashed that suggestion by stating
that minority rights guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
are not subject to the tyranny of the majority. He said: "I'm not keen on
referendums. To have a referendum to decide the fate of a minority -- its a
problem. It's why we have constitutions to protect the minority. That's why we
have charters of rights. If it is always the majority vote, who will defend the
Others suggested that the religious and civil components of
marriage be disengaged. Committed couples, whether opposite-gender or
same-gender, could then obtain a license and register their partnership with
the government. They would be given all of the usual rights, obligations,
protections, and privileges that married folks have enjoyed in the past.
Meanwhile, churches and other religious organizations could hold weddings if
they wished. But a church marriage would have no significance in law. It would
be similar to a baptism: it would be conducted according to a religious ritual,
but devoid of any legal meaning outside of the religious group. Faith groups
could then refuse to marry couples, as they have in the past, on the basis of
the couple's race, degree of ability, genetic closeness, sexual orientation,
religious faith, past marital history, or any other grounds by which they might
want to deny marriage.
Unfortunately, adoption of this system would seem to require the unanimous
agreement of the Federal government and all of the provinces and territories.
Prime Minister Chrétien squashed that option
as well by stating that the Constitution of Canada currently states that
marriage is the responsibility of the federal government. "The reality is
the Constitution, and you have to change the Constitution to achieve that, to
transfer the responsibility that is federal to the provincial governments in
the Constitution would not be easy."
Still others suggest that the Liberal government invoke the "not-withstanding
clause" in the Canadian Charter. This is a loophole in the Constitution
which allows a government to pass legislation which violates the Charter, and
which strips rights from any group of people, as long as
the law plainly declares that the legislation is unconstitutional. They would
also have to renew the legislation every five years. To our knowledge, this
type of loophole is unique among the hundreds of countries in the world. This
procedure could be used to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry which they
now enjoy. It could even cancel the marriage licenses and registrations of
same-sex couples who have married in Ontario and British Columbia. This would
be similar to the American Congress passing a law making Roman Catholicism the
established religion of the US for the next five years and admitting in the
legislation that it violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Paul
Martin, the expected replacement of Prime Minister Chrétien
said that he has rejected this route.
Finally, Mauril Bélanger,
Member of Parliament for Ottawa, ON suggested a "sooner-rather-than-later
approach." It appears to be based on a number of assumptions:
The Supreme Court of Canada is currently bogged down
A hearing on the issue could not start until the fall of 2003
and would occupy many months. This would be followed by many months of waiting
for the court's ruling.
Thus, a court ruling on the reference would probably be delayed
There is a consensus among constitutional experts that the
Supreme Court would agree with all three provincial Courts of Appeal and
require the legalization of SSM.
There is a growing feeling that SSM is inevitable for Canada.
Parliament reconvenes on 2003-SEP-15.
There will probably be a federal election in early 2004.
Liberals would probably lose many seats in Parliament if the
SSM controversy was fresh in people's minds on election day.
The best strategy would be to introduce legislation allowing
SSM across Canada as soon as possible, have it approved in parliament, endure
the storm of adverse opinion from conservative citizens, and expect that much
of the controversy would die down by election time.
In the event that the Supreme Court finds a defect in the
reference, then the law could be amended sometime in the future.
The suggestion has some powerful support:
Paul Martin, who is widely anticipated to replace Jean Chrétien
as Prime Minister in late 2003 or early 2004 said: "I think the debate is
now fully engaged." He called the early introduction of legislation "an
option that should be open. As to how to deal with an issue, this caucus was
really the kind of example that I think Canadians would feel very proud of.
What we've now got to do is take it into Parliament."
Liberal caucus chair Stan Keyes said: "The idea of the first
Monday back, [Justice Minister Martin] Cauchon stands up and introduces the
legislation...appeals to me, because then we can begin the debate on the issue."
Government House Leader Don Boudria initially preferred waiting
until the Supreme Court "charter proof[ed]" the bill before it was
introduced to Parliament. But by AUG-21, he seemed somewhat receptive to the
sooner-rather-than-later-approach. He said: "Time is not elastic. You move
one bill up, you move one bill down." 1,11,12
- Susan Delacort & Les Whittington, "Same-sex bill gains momentum. Push
on to introduce legislation in the next few weeks. 'I think the debate is now
fully engaged," Martin says," Toronto Star, 2003-AUG-22, Page A16.
- Tonda MacCharles & Les Whittington, "New gay marriage bill faces
challenges. Caucus expected to discuss issue next week. Top court seen as
unlikely to accept 'civil union' option," The Toronto Star, 2003-AUG-12,
Pages A1 & A8.
- James Travers, "Liberals follow right course," Op-ed piece, The
Toronto Star, 2003-AUG-12, Page A19.
- Tonda MacCharles, "Same-sex marriage vote likely a year away. Justice
Minister says opposition to bill will soften. Two Liberals want to challenge
policy at Supreme Court." The Toronto Star, 2003-AUG-14, Page A6.
- John Asling, "Council Tells Federal Government to Legalize Same-Sex
Marriages," United Church of Canada, 2003-AUG-14, at:
- Tonda MacCharles & Les
Whittington, "It's marriage, PM insists. Won't waver despite warning he's
risking 'eternal salvation.' 'I'm a Catholic...but I am the Prime Minister of
Canada'." The Toronto Star, 2003-AUG-13, Page A1, the front page.
- "Blind Faith: Faith-based bigotry seeks state support,"
2003-AUG-20, SameSexMarriage.ca, at:
- James Travers, "This too
shall pass. Those things that most deeply divide us can also unite. Remember
the great flag debate of 1965? Thought not," The Toronto Star,
2003-AUG-21, Page A31.
- James Travers, "Right side
of controversy," The Toronto Star, 2003-AUG-22, Page A17.
- Slinger, "We could all burn
in hell if gays are free to marry," The Toronto Star, 2003-AUG-21, Page
- Les Whittington & Susan
Delacort, "Same-sex marriage causing caucus rift," Toronto Star,
2003-AUG-21, Page A25.
- James Travers, "Martin
shifts same-sex debate to familiar ground," The Toronto Star, 2003-AUG-20,
- "Pro-Homosexual Bill Called 'Serious Threat to Marriage',"
Charisma, posted by Maranatha Christian Journal at:
Copyright © 2003 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2003-AUG-30
Author: B.A. Robinson