HOMOSEXUAL (SAME-SEX) MARRIAGES IN CANADA
AMENDMENTS TO LEGISLATION CAUSED BY THE ONTARIO COURT CASE; PART
In this essay:
SSM means Same-Sex Marriage;
MLA means a Member of the Legislature.
The Ontario Court of Appeals issued a
decision on 2003-JUN-10 requiring the
province of Ontario to provide marriage licenses to, and to register the
marriages of, same-sex couples. However 73 pieces of existing legislation in
the province violated this court ruling by referring to wife, husband, widow, widower, and similar
sex-related terms. In order to bring the legislation in synchronism with the
court decision which legalized SSM, each of these laws had to be amended to
include gender-neutral language.
||2005-FEB-16: ON: Meeting to prepare for Ontario same-sex
marriage bill: The decision by the Ontario
Court of Appeal on 2003-JUN-03 which legalized same-sex marriages in the
province required the government to issue licenses to same-sex couples,
register their marriages, and eventually change various pieces of
legislation so that the definition of marriage would be altered. The
traditional definition of a union of "one man - one woman" was declared
unconstitutional. It is to be replaced by a union of "two persons."
The Liberal government is planning to introduce a bill in the near future which will amend
about 70 provincial statutes which touch on marriage. The bill will also
guarantee that clergypersons will be able to safely continue to discriminate
against same-sex couples by refusing to marry them -- clergypersons will be
protected from prosecution under Ontario's human rights legislation. The
Liberal government in Ontario is hoping to slide its same-sex marriage bill
through the Legislature in a single day with little fanfare. They held a
meeting on FEB-16 to grease the path for the bill. The previous Conservative
government was able to do this some six years ago with a similar bill.
Although the bill is expected to pass with no real difficulty, an
arrangement to process it in a single day requires the concurrence of every
MLA (member of the legislature). This will probably not happen. Two
conservative MLAs have indicated that they plan to withhold their agreement:
||Bill Murdock (Conservative-Bruce/Grey/Owen Sound) is a strong
opponent of same-sex marriage. Ignoring the needs of same-sex couples,
he said: "It's not going to hurt us [the Conservatives] to prolong
it, so why would I do that."
||Jerry Ouellette (Conservative-Oshawa) is still distressed about an
incident six years ago over a previous human rights bill which granted
partial equality to same-sex couples. MLAs who opposed the bill were
sent on out-of-town assignments so that they would not be in the
Legislature to disrupt proceedings. Ouellette plans to vote against the new
||Pay Hoy (Liberal-Chatham/Kent/Essex) expressed a desire to vote in favor of
preserving the right of clergypersons to discriminate against same-sex
couples, but wants to vote against granting equal rights to gays and
||2005-FEB-22: ON: Same-sex legislation tabled in
Ontario Legislature: The Government of Ontario has tabled Bill 171 in the
legislature. It consists of a series of amendments to 73 provincial laws which have
references to "spouse" "marriage," "husband," "wife," "widow," and similar
words. Attorney General Michael Bryant said: "The bill removes references
to gender and gender-specific language from Ontario definitions of spousal
terms, and uses one term, 'spouse', to include opposite-sex couples and
same-sex couples who are married or who live together in conjugal
relationships outside of marriage." The bill would protect clergy from
having to solemnize marriages that run counter to their beliefs. But it does
not extend the same protection to civic officials who might be required to
marry same-sex couples against their religion. Bryant told reporters: "There
isn't anything in the bill about that. I'm aware of no instance where a
couple was denied the solemnization, so there has not been a problem in over
1,000 [same-sex] ceremonies that have taken place in Ontario. There is no
problem...Same-sex marriage is part of the fabric of Ontario life." The
three parties in the Legislature -- Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic
-- have negotiated a limitation to the debate in order to minimize
controversy. John Baird, a Conservative Member of the Legislature (MLA),
said that some members "...will vote for it, some will vote against. I'll
be one members who will be voting for it. The debate is not about [allowing]
same-sex marriage. The debate is about some housekeeping amendments to deal
with the [court] decision and the protections for religious officials in
sacred spaces -- something that we fought for." Howard Hampton, a New
Democratic MLA, said: "All we're doing is bringing some Ontario laws into
line with a court decision that's already been made. This is housekeeping
amendments of several bills." The amendments will be voted on during
Jim Hughes, National President of Campaign Life Coalition, a
conservative religious group, said: "This pre-emptive move by the Ontario
legislature looks suspiciously like an attempt to strengthen the faltering
federal legislation. At least on the federal level most MPs are being given
an opportunity to debate, but in Queen’s Park they plan to proceed without
any debate and even without a recorded vote. This is an affront to democracy
and every MPP should be told that." Mary Ellen Douglas, Ontario
President of Campaign Life Coalition, said: "We urge every Ontario
resident to contact their MPP today and express their strong objection to
this heavy-handed move by the McGuinty’s Liberals. We encourage people to
tell their MPPs to vote against this Bill and demand a recorded vote." 2,3
||2005-FEB-23: ON: Ontario Conference of
Catholic Bishops support Ontario legislation; some Protestant groups are
displeased: The Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops (OCCB)
issued a press release titled "Ontario Catholic Bishops support
protective legislation." It said in part that the OCCB "...commends
Premier Dalton McGuinty and his government for proposing this legislation."
They remain opposed to allowing same-sex couples to marry, but appear
pleased that the legislation will protect clergy who wish to continue to
discriminate against same-sex couples. The release states that: "Priests
will have some protection, they won’t find themselves in court. The Bishops
wanted to be sure that religious bodies could not be compelled to allow
their properties to be used for purposes associated with same-sex unions if
such are contrary to their teachings, as is true for the Catholic Church.
The Bill clearly provides this protection and the Ontario Bishops
accordingly support it." |
Rev. Tristan Emmanuel, Executive Director of Equipping Christians for the
Public Square said: "It’s not about protecting ourselves as
individuals, not about protecting our collection baskets or buildings, it’s
about defending a sacred institution....The church needs to show leadership
in this area and many of us believe it’s a sacrament and we must speak as
one." Apparently referring to Ontario Premier McGuinty, a Roman
Catholic, Emmanuel continued: "Which means we don’t commend Christian
politicians, Catholic or otherwise, who compromise the integrity of marriage
and think they can buy us off." 4
||2005-FEB-24: ON: Same-sex marriage enshrined in law: The
Ontario Legislature easily passed Bill 171. There was considerable
controversy over the manner in which the vote was recorded. The leaders
of the three main parties: Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic,
arranged in advance to have a voice vote. There is on record of how
individual MLAs voted. Observers speculate that this was done in order
to avoid repercussions at the next election from that minority of
Ontario voters who oppose SSM. Three MLAs, all members of the
Conservative Party, asked that a recorded vote be taken. 5 However, a minimum of
five MLAs is required.
||Attorney-General Michael Bryant said that the amendments were
required because the laws, as originally written, violate the Charter
of Rights and Freedoms. He said: "I'm very pleased that we have
aligned our statutes with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the
subject of same-sex spouses and same-sex marriage."
||Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes of the Metropolitan Community Church of
Toronto married the first same-sex couples in 2001-JAN-14. Their web
site encourages same-sex couples to schedule their: "...wedding at
MCC Toronto and stand on the exact same spot that the first same-sex
couples who were legally wed stood! For our community, that spot is
truly 'holy ground'." 6
Hawkes sat in the legislature gallery during the vote. He said: "This
province of Ontario...is probably one of the few jurisdictions anywhere
in the world whose laws have been totally brought into conformity for
protection of gays and lesbians."
||The Toronto Star newspaper reported that MLA Bill Murdock
(Conservative - Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound) "...filibustered for almost an
hour in opposition of the bill and was one of the three Tories
[Conservatives] demanding a record vote..." Murdock said: "There
are a lot of people in Ontario that are against the bill. Democracy is
dead in Ontario" because the individual MLA's vots were not
recorded. He apparently voted against the bill, thus violating his oath
of office in which he had promised to uphold the Charter of Rights
||Frank Lkees (Conservative - Oak Ridges) also spoke against the bill.
He asked that other MLAs rise after the voice vote to request a recorded
vote. Only two others stood.
||Peter Kormos (New Democrat - Niagara Centre) said that a permanent
record of the vote should have been taken. He said: "I find it
embarrassing as a member of the Legislature that legislators, members of
provincial parliament, would flee from putting themselves clearly on the
record by way of a recorded vote." He criticized the ruling
Liberal party by saying: "What's more
fascinating even than the failure to vote on the record was the
failure of people to stand up and put their position on the record.
Especially those Liberals who, when they get back home, figure it's
politically convenient to say 'I don't support that bill'."
Kormos was not present for the
||2005-FEB-28: ON: Toronto Star newspaper
raises concerns: In an editorial, the Toronto Star expressed
concern that the legislation remains silent on the rights and obligations of
civic officials who perform weddings at city and town halls across Ontario.
In Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, marriage commissioners had been
ordered to perform same-sex marriages on request. This has led to human
rights complaints and resignations on the part of commissioners who wish to
discriminate against same-sex couples by not performing marriages. The
Star notes that thousands of gays and lesbians have married in Ontario
since SSM became available in 2003-JUN without difficulty. But the newspaper
suggests that Bryant should issue a written directive instructing
municipalities to accommodate staff who wish to discriminate against
same-sex couples by refusing to marry them. "As we break historic ground
in this area, Ontario should serve as an example that expanding human rights
needn't conflict with freedom of conscience." 10
Adam Quinan of Toronto wrote a letter to the editor of the Star in reaction
to this editorial. He said, in part: "Would you offer the same suggestion
to those who did not wish to marry black people, or perhaps disabled people?
This isn't accommodation of conscience, it's condoning discrimination of the
worst sort." 12|
||2005-FEB-28: ON: Toronto Star columnist:
Newspaper columnist comments on bill: Ian Urquhart contrasts the
bloodletting being displayed in the federal parliament with the smooth
passage of enabling legislation in the Ontario Legislature. He attributes
thelatter to the desire by all three parties in the Legislature to avoid a
messy debate "that would exacerbate divisions within society on this
||In the Progressive Conservative provincial
party leader John Tory favors SSM. However, almost all of his 23
MLAs oppose it. A recorded vote would have publicized the split between
the leader and his own caucus.
||Premier Dalton McGuinty, leader of the
Liberal provincial party also favors SSM as do the overwhelming majority
of his MLAs. Urquhart speculated that some of the liberal MLAs from
rural or small town riding would "get caught in a squeeze between
their constituents and their consciences if they were forced into a
recorded vote." There is a geographical split in the province with
rural and small towns generally being opposed to SSM.
||All eight MLAs of the New Democratic Party
supported the bill. But Urquhart suggests that the gay and lesbian
community asked that the party not press for a recorded vote; the
community did not want the bill to become a political football.
The three parties agreed to consider the bill
with a minimum of debate and no recorded vote. Urquhart suggests that there
will be some political fallout from the voting. Only three conservatives
stood after the vote to ask for a recorded vote. Five would have been
needed. Jim Hughes of Campaign Life referred to the voice vote as "an
end run around democracy." Urquhart writes that Hughes "vowed to take
it out on the members who refused to stand with..." the three Conservatives."
||2005-MAR-04: LifeSiteNews charges political
scheming and cowardice: LifeSiteNews, A Fundamentalist Christian agency
suggested three conflicting explanations why Bill 171 was dealt with quickly
and without a recorded vote.
||One scenario is that: "...the
Ontario Liberals pushed their same-sex marriage bill in response to a
deal with the federal Liberals who needed the rushed Ontario same-sex
entrenchment to help their faltering same-sex marriage Bill C-38. In
exchange for the deed, the source reports, the Ontario Liberals received
promises of billions from the feds."
||A second is that "...the leaderships of all three parties
conspired to ram the bill through in three days, without a recorded vote
and without either the public or MPPs being given reasonable opportunity
to address the dramatic changes to marriage that would result.
[Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic] Party leaders brow-beat their
Members to go along with the scheme."
||A third is that the bill was the result of a conspiracy by
homosexuals at Queen's Park. A Liberal MLA allegedly told LifeSiteNews
that he was astonished about the "large number of homosexuals that
work in Queen’s Park [who]...take these things (Bill 171) very
They quote to editorials on Bill 171:
||Christina Blizzard of the Toronto Sun favors same-sex marriage
rights. She wrote in her column on MAR-04, "What I find truly
disgraceful is the weasely way the vote to amend provincial statutes
to fit with new federal same-sex marriage legislation happened."
||An Ottawa Citizen editorial for FEB-28 stated: "All but three
of Ontario’s MPP’s acted in a cowardly fashion on Thursday, by not
requesting a recorded vote" on the bill.
They also quote excerpts from the
speeches of two Progressive Conservative MLA's:
||Bill Murdoch stated: "Will we see that members have true
democracy in this House, or do we make deals in this House and
we don't have true democracy any more?...it's my right to come
here and debate. I know there are some people in our party and
some in the other two parties who don't want that to happen.
They don't want us to stand up here and debate this. They've put
pressure on some of our guys and said, 'Oh, you can't do that'."
After the second reading vote, he said: "...there were three
people who stood up to want democracy -- only three people. How
many are there here -- 103? So 100 people in this House
yesterday on second reading didn't care about democracy --
didn't care. You'd think there would be a few Liberals who want
some democracy, wouldn't you? You would think there would be at
least one Liberal. You got elected to come here to vote. You
didn't get elected to come here to be told what to do. That's
what's happening to you. It happens here all the time. Don't
feel bad. The other governments weren't any better."
||Frank Klees said: "What are we hiding? What is the
problem? Why, if they consider themselves so committed to this
bill, will people not stand in their place and simply identify
their vote in Hansard for everyone to see? People at home and
people in the galleries must be asking themselves, "What is
going on in this place?" What is wrong with this bill that
you're not prepared to identify with it? What are we afraid of?"
||2005-MAR-06: John Tory terminates internal
dissention: John Tory is the leader of the Progressive Conservative
Party of Ontario. During a recent Ottawa convention, at a closed-door policy
session of his caucus, Tory terminated a heated debate on SSM. He allegedly
said, in a booming voice: "That's been decided by the courts. There's no
need for further discussion on that." A reporter from the Toronto Star's
Queens' Park Bureau wrote: "In other words, confided one shaken
eyewitness, he was saying it was his way or the highway." 14|
Finis -- for now:
From the marriage of two same-sex couples on 2001-JAN-14 to the passage of
Bill 171 on 2005-FEB-24 took a little over four years. Loving committed couples,
whether opposite-sex or same-sex have been able to marry since mid-2003 and have
the full protections and obligations that marriage brings to themselves and
their children. Now, they see that right enshrined in Ontario law.
The right of same-sex couples to marry was further reinforced by the federal
Bill C-38 which legalized SSM across Canada. It was proclaimed on 2005-JUL-20.
SSM is not necessarily secure. It is the federal
government which decides who can marry across Canada. The Federal Conservative
Party will undoubtedly win some future election. They might be able to pass
legislation that will activate the "notwithstanding
clause" in Canada's constitution to redefine marriage as being
restricted to one man and one woman. The clause is only effective for a period of five years. This
redefinition can be repeated indefinitely into the future -- at least until a
Liberal government is voted in. Although this would violate the Charter of
Rights and Freedoms, according to the unanimous decisions by many courts, it
is quite legal and constitutional for the federal government to overrule the
constitution. In Canada, non-constitutional laws can be implemented and not
overturned by courts.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Ian Urquhart, "Anxious MPPs prepare for same-sex vote,"
Star, 2005-FEB-16, Page A17.
Robert Benzie & Hicham Safieddine, "Ontario same-sex legislation exempts
clergy," The Toronto Star, 2005-FEB-23, Page H7.
"Urgent Ontario Action Item – Call MPPs Today Urging Vote Against
Same-Sex Marriage Bill
Demand Recorded Vote," News release, Campaign Life Coalition, 2005-FEB-23.
"Pro-Marriage Groups Disappointed with Ontario Bishops' Support for
Ontario Same-Sex Bill
Bishops 'Commend' Catholic Premier and Liberal Government for Legislation,"
News release, LifeSiteNews.com, 2005-FEB-23.
Robert Benzie, "Voice vote approves same-sex marriage,"
Toronto Star, 2005-FEB-25, Page A8.
The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto has a web site at:
"All Party Collusion to Avoid Accountability Succeeds as Ontario
Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill," LifeSiteNews, 2005-FEB-24 news
"Ontario Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill - All Party Collusion to
Avoid Accountability Succeeds," LifeSite.net, 2005-FEB-24, at:
"Ontario redefines 'spouse'," Today's Family News, Focus on
the Family Canada newsletter, 2005-FEB-25.
Editor, "Avert same-sex hassles," The Toronto Star, 2005-FEB-28, Page
Ian Urquhart, "Same-sex bill passes quietly," The Toronto Star,
2005-FEB-28, Page A17.
Adam Quinan, "This is condoning discrimination," Letter to the
Editor, The Toronto Star, 2005-MAR-02, Page A19.
" 'Democracy is dead in Ontario;' Bill 171 - a tale of political scheming
and cowardice, LifeSiteNews, 2005-MAR-04, at:
"Tory lays down law on same-sex debate," The Toronto Star,
2005-MAR-07, Page A7.
Copyright © 2005 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-NOV-20
Author: B.A. Robinson