HOMOSEXUAL (SAME-SEX) MARRIAGES IN CANADA
Same-sex marriage (SSM) developments: 2003-AUG-22 to SEP-7
Topics covered: Anti-SSM demonstration in Ottawa. Alliance Party motion
planned. Supreme Court hearing. Resolution in Parliament. Misc. verbal attacks on gays
and the government.
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 proceeded rapidly for the next two weeks.
They continued at a fast pace for the next month.
Subsequent developments are described below.
2003-AUG-22: Anti-SSM demonstration scheduled for Ottawa:
Religious conservatives and others who oppose allowing gays and lesbians to
marry are meeting in Ottawa to celebrate what they call "National Marriage
Day." Included will be "pro-family" groups, conservative religious
groups, and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto. Some comments
before and during the demonstration:
Tim Dooling, a Roman Catholic with the group Canadians
Against Same Sex Marriage helped organize
the meeting. He compared heterosexual marriage to a downtown city street: "Do
we stop using that road because it's under repair or needs repair? It's a road
that keeps on going. It's part of our history. It's not new that there's been
problems in marriage. It goes back centuries, thousands of years, so you don't
throw it out, you work at it." The Ottawa Citizen reported that he
later said at the demonstration: "We have one message here today and that
is: Don't mess with the definition of marriage." 1
We received an E-mail which commented on Dooling's earlier comment. The
sender liked the analogy between a government road in need of upgrade and the
institution of marriage. But he noted that city streets are funded by tax
dollars contributed by persons of all sexual orientations. They are made
available for all people; that's why they are called public roads. Christians,
Muslims, Jews, followers of other religions and of no religion; men and women;
gays and straights; -- all are free to use them. So too, marriage should be
available for all loving, committed couples, not a special right for couples
with a specific gender makeup.
Derik Rogusky, vice-president of family policy of Focus on
the Family, Canada -- a Fundamentalist Christian group -- said that SSM,
like common-law relationships and no-fault divorce, sends the message that the
institution of marriage is no longer important. "Piece by piece, we're
disassembling marriage." According to the Ottaws Citizen he said, at
the rally: "This really is a public-policy issue. It's not a human-rights
issue. Public-policy issues need to be decided either by our elected
representatives...or through a national referendum."
Gilles Marchildon, executive director of Equality for Gays
and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE) said that he expects thousands of people to
protest on Parliament Hill. He said: "Equal rights is not a popularity
contest. I'm sure there were large public outcries when slavery was abolished
or when women were given the right to vote...historically I see it in the same
perspective." He said that he does not understand the argument of the
anti-SSM groups: He asked: "If you're so much in favor of family values, why
would you prevent people from creating families?" 2
Dr. Gamel Soulamen, imam of the Ottawa Muslim community, said:
"We believe in the way established thousands of years ago about marriage as
a union between man and woman." 1
Only one federal politician addressed the crowd. The Ottawa Sun
reported that Canadian Alliance Member of Parliament, Cheryl Gallant,
said: "This [rally] is not about equality, or a woman's right to vote, or
about lifestyles, or about any other unrelated excuse that is intended to
confuse Canadians. This is about one thing, this is about protecting the
institution of marriage."
Participant Cyril Bagan of Windsor, ON, told the Globe and Mail
that marriage "is a faithful union between a man and a woman for the sake of
children, for the sake of the society, for the sake of our future. The gift of
marriage is the stability of the society, the growth of the society and the
life of the society and to begin to change that definition drastically is
beginning to tamper with the foundation."
Dennis Mok, a Chinese Christian from Toronto, ON, told CBC
Radio: "There is a silent majority that is concerned about this marriage
definition. Chinese tend to be very quiet, and we decided that we are going to
do something to bring them out, to help them to voice out their opinions."
Deputy Prime Minister John Manley happened to be walking on the
Hill just before the rally started. He commented on the need to have a uniform
definitin of marriage across Canada. According to the Ottawa Citizen, he said:
"We...have decisions, including the Ontario Court of Appeal decision, which
has legalized same-sex marriage in the province of Ontario. It's legal in the
province of British Columbia. Shortly, it will be legal in the province of
Quebec. That's about 80% of the Canadian population. So if we do nothing, it's
legal for 80% of the population." Manley told the Globe and Mail that "at
the same time [we're] protecting the rights of faith communities to define
marriage as they are comfortable with doing." 1
2003-AUG-26: Alliance Party to propose a non-binding motion:
On 1999-JUN-8, Canada's extreme right wing Reform Party introduced a
non-binding motion which stated that: "marriage is and should remain the
union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, and that
Parliament will take all necessary steps to preserve this definition of
marriage in Canada." The phrase "take all necessary steps" appears
to refer to the use of the not-withstanding clause
which would allow the federal government to retain the present marriage act,
even though it has been declared unconstitutional by the most senior courts in
three provinces. The motion passed by a vote of 216 to 55. There are rumors
that the successor to the Reform Party, the Canadian Alliance Party,
is planning to reintroduce an identically-worded motion on 2003-SEP-17. This
would force members of parliament to make public their support or opposition to
same-sex marriage. A number of changes have occurred since mid-1999:
Three senior courts in Canada have ruled that the present
marriage act is unconstitutional and that homosexuals must be allowed to marry.
The Liberal Party has decided to support same-sex
marriage legislation. In 1999, it opposed SSM. Anne McLellan, who was Justice
Minister at that time, said: "I fundamentally do not believe that it is
necessary to change the definition of marriage in order to accommodate the
equality issues around same-sex partners which now face us as Canadians."
A majority of Canadian adults now support same-sex marriage.
Support is particularly strong among women, young adults, and middle-aged
SSM has become an extremely volatile, hot-button issue.
Gay and lesbian couples by the hundreds have been marrying in
Ontario and British Columbia. The sky has not fallen. The nature of the debate
is now changed. It is not a matter of whether we should extend marriage to
include same-sex couples. That has already happened. It is whether we should
tear up hundreds of marriage licenses and deregister hundreds of marriages that
2003-AUG-28: Marriage Canada tabulates MPs intent:
Marriage Canada is a organization recently founded by David Mainse,
former host of the 100 Club, a fundamentalist Christian television program.
They are attempting to maintain a list of Members of Parliament, with their
current stance on SSM. As of AUG-28, they believe that 129 members are in favor
of excluding gays and lesbians from marriage; 111 favor including them, and 61
are undecided. The totals were unchanged on SEP-9. 4
2003-AUG-31: Roman Catholic attack on SSM: Father
Alphonse de Valk is a Roman Catholic priest and editor of the Canadian monthly
publication, Catholic Insight. He wrote an essay in opposition to SSM
which was published in the Toronto Star newspaper. 4
He made a number of points:
"Homosexuality activity rages against God's will." He
apparently accepts that homosexual orientation is not a sin, because it is not
chosen. However, the Church expects all gays and lesbians to remain celibate
and not be sexually active.
Loving and committed opposite-sex couples rise above the sexual
and paternal instincts which are shared by all animals (including humans). They
subordinate "natural instinct and individual impulse to the common social
good." They are freed from slavery to their own passions.
Loving and committed same-sex couples exhibit none of the
Homosexual activity, even within a committed relationship, is
unnatural and pathological.
SSM corrupts the law.
The ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal that gays and
lesbians have a right to marry is false.
At this point, Fr. de Valk's logic is a little difficult to
follow. He seems to imply that:
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees
freedom of discrimination for certain protected classes, including race,
gender, ethnic origin, etc. These are all factors that a person is born with.
The Supreme Court of Canada decided in 1995 that sexual
orientation is also a protected class.
Homosexual activity is an act of free will, not
something that one is born with.
Thus the Supreme Court's decision is wrong. Homosexual
orientation should not be a protected class because it is chosen and not
However, his argument seems in error for three reasons:
When discussing the Charter, Fr. de Valk referred to
sexual orientation. In referring to free will, he referred to sexual activity.
Religion has always been a protected class; it is a chosen
behavior. Thus there appears to be no reason why homosexual activity cannot be
considered another protected class.
Essentially all human sexuality researchers and
mental health professional associations agree that
sexual orientation, whether heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual, is not
chosen. Free will is not present in an adult's sexual orientation. If free will
were involved, then a sexual orientation would be chosen and changeable. It is
"The Church is right: The homosexual condition is a
disorder, and homosexual acts are grave moral aberrations." By "The
Church," Fr. de Valk apparently is referring to the Roman Catholic
Church. The United Church of Canada, the country's largest Protestant
denomination, recently passed a resolution
in support of SSM. Earlier resolutions accepted that homosexuality is a normal,
natural, and fixed orientation for a minority of adults.
Gays and lesbians have no right to have their relationship "...enforced
in law. Wrongdoing and sin do not have rights."
Stealing and adultery cannot be a right. Neither can homosexual
behavior. "Virtue has rights; vice does not." 5
2003-SEP-3: Coalition of religious and social conservatives
attack government: Charles McVety, president of Canada Christian College,
said that the federal Liberal government has no right to breach "the
separation of church and state and attempt to redefine a religious term as
sacred as marriage." He has been joined by one socially conservative group,
REAL Women, and several conservative religious groups: Quebec's
francophone evangelical Protestant community, the Canada Family Action
Coalition and a clerical group called the Evangelical Association.
The coalition called for Canadians to attend prayer rallies on SEP-7. They have
three concerns about SSM:
They believe that SSM is undemocratic, because it violates the
will of the majority of Members of Parliament. The latter passed a resolution
in 1999 which promoted exclusive marriage rights restricted to opposite-sex
couples. At the time, the ruling Liberal party favored retaining the historical
Canadian definition of marriage, and so an overwhelming number of Liberal
members voted for the resolution.
They are concerned that the government will eventually force
churches to perform SSMs against their will.
They believe that the legislation could allow genetically
related individuals to form incestuous marriages.
The group has targeted a number of Liberal members of
parliament, and one member each from the Canadian Alliance, the New
Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservative Party. All of the
targeted members won the last election with a slim majority. 6
2003-SEP-4: Supreme court sets a date for hearing: The
Supreme Court of Canada has tentatively selected 2004-APR-16 to hear arguments
about the reference recently sent to the Court by the federal government.
According to CanWest News, "The decision means the divisive issue would be
fresh in the minds of voters if a federal election is called next spring."
Many conservative religious groups are planning to intervene in the case. The
province of Alberta is intervening on the negative side; Quebec is intervening
to protect its legislation which created civil unions. British Columbia filed
notice of intent to intervene, but hasn't decided whether to actually become
involved. 7 [The federal government
later asked that the hearings be delayed until
the fall of 2004.]
2003-SEP-4: Alliance Party to force vote on SEP-16: The
Alliance Party, Canada's most conservative political group, is planning to
force a vote on a resolution excluding gays and lesbians from marrying. A "senior
government source" has indicated that the Liberal party will allow its
members to vote according to their conscience on this resolution. The Toronto
Star newspaper states that "...the Alliance wants to....exploit divisions in
the Liberal ranks." 8
2003-SEP-6: Editorial blasts leader of Canadian Alliance
party: The editor of the Toronto Star criticized Alliance leader
Stephen Harper for his earlier comments which allegedly suggested that the
federal Liberal government was involved in a conspiracy. Harper is
reported as stating that the Liberal government had been quietly stacking the
courts in Canada with liberal judges in a massive plot to introduce same-sex
marriage. The government's motivation was allegedly to deflect the controversy
from Parliament to the courts when the law was modified. The editor wrote: "If...Harper's
paranoid outburst about a vast conspiracy to 'fix' same-sex marriage weren't so
appalling, it would be hysterically funny." The editor pointed out that
many of the senior judges had been appointed by governments led by the
Progressive Conservative party. He continued: "The last thing Canada
needs is someone who calls himself a national leader tarring those who disagree
with his point of view as somehow corrupt....Harper's disgraceful outburst is a
slap at the honesty of our justice system. He owes all judges an apology."
Sanctity of Marriage.ca sponsors rally: Sanctity of Marriage
coordinated a series of Millions for Marriage rallies across Canada to
promote heterosexual-only marriage. They had hoped to attract 100,000
protestors. Attendance appears to have fallen very much short of expectations.
"In Montreal, for example, journalists outnumbered protesters in front of
Justice Minister Martin Cauchon's office." 10 Four people
rallied at Paul Martin's constituency office. Ten appeared outside of Liberal
MP Tony Lanno's office in Toronto. About 100 prayed outside of Alliance MP Jim
Cummin's office. About 300 gathered at Labor Minister Claudette Bradshaw's
office in Moncton, NB.
A large group turned out at Halifax:
Sanctity of Marriage's web site estimated attendance at
over 2,000; 11
Today's Family News, published by Focus on the Family Canada,
estimated in excess of 1,000 attendance.
We counted the number of attendees who were included in a
photograph of the crowd on Sanctity's web site. They totaled 276 people.
However, there were probably some individuals outside of the range of the
The Globe and Mail newspaper said that the prayer vigil
"drew only a handful of participants" across Canada 10
They interviewed some participants about SSM:
|Adassa Campbell, 61, of Toronto said it was "against the will of
God....I'm completely opposed. It's totally wrong. God created man and
woman to multiply and replenish the Earth. God created a woman for Adam
from his rib. He didn't make him a gay partner."|
|Fran Agugua, 52, also of Toronto said: "If two men are married,
they can't procreate. You've got to get an egg somewhere. And neither
one of them have it."|
|Jackie Borque of Ottawa dais that SSM is "completely opposed to
God, his principles and why he formed man and woman....He did not form
Adam and Steve, but Adam and Eve."|
CBC News reported "low turnout." Brian Rushfeldt,
executive director of the Canada Family Action Coalition, helped
organize the rallies. He said: "This is a first. Praying for marriage
and praying for all political leaders is a mandate of Scripture that was
fulfilled. Sunday was the beginning of a unity of prayer that I have not
seen before in this nation." He estimated that close 100,000 people,
including about 1,000 clergy, took part in the event. 12
- "Thousands rally in defence of marriage," Today's Family News,
Focus on the Family, Canada, 2003-AUG-26.
- 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.
- Jim Abbott, "Parliament, not the courts, should rule," 2003-JUN-26,
- "MP Record," Marriage Canada, at:
- "Same-sex marriage: Under false pretenses. Homosexual activity rages
against God's will, argues the editor of a leading Catholic magazine,"
Toronto Star, 2003-AUG-31, Page A17.
- Tonda MacCharles, "Gay-marriage foes plan prayer protests,"
Toronto Star, 2003-SEP-3, Page A17.
- "Today's Family News," Focus on the Family, Canada, 2003-SEP-4.
- Tonda MacCharles, "Alliance to force same-sex vote," Toronto Star,
2003-SEP-4, Page A25
- "Harper sees plotters," The Toronto Star, 2003-SEP-6, Page B6.
- Peter Cheney, "Vigil against same-sex marriage has poor turnout,"
Globe and Mail, 2003-SEP-8, Page A6. Online at:
- Sanctity of Marriage home page, as of 2003-SEP-9 at:
- "Low turnout at same-sex marriage rallies," CBC News, 2003-SEP-8,
Copyright © 2003 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2003-SEP-12
Author: B.A. Robinson