Same-sex marriages (SSM) in Canada
2006: With the defeat of the anti-SSM
in Parliament, is the matter settled? Part 2
In this essay, "SSM" means "same-sex marriage." "MP" means
Member of Parliament.
Reactions by organizations of religious and social conservatives (Cont'd):
||André Gaumond. Archbishop of Sherbrooke, QC and president of the
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) wrote a letter to
political leaders. It calls on Canadian Catholics:|
||"To encourage the special relationship of man and woman in marriage
..." It is unclear whether this also includes the obligation to work against
||"To continue to look for ways to assist and support heterosexual
couples who, as the Supreme Court of Canada noted in 1997, 'have the
unique ability to procreate' and who are responsible for caring for and
nurturing most of the children of Canada." Again, it is unclear whether
working to support opposite-sex couples includes working against
same-sex couples, many of whom are proving the Supreme Court's statement false
by having their own children. Others are adopting
children of others or arranging for surrogate parenthood.
||"To urge federal politicians to undertake research and further
consultations on the long-term impact of the redefinition of civil
marriage on society and future generations." The short term advantages,
in terms of legal protection for same sex couples and their children are
obvious. However, many religious and social conservatives are concerned
about currently unseen disadvantages to SSM which they believe may take years to
||"To monitor provincial and territorial legislation as well as
policies to ensure full protection of freedom of religion and conscience
and also freedom of expression for all citizens in the private and
public spheres." This is apparently a reference to maintaining the
freedom of Canadians to refuse to marry same-sex couples and to continue
criticizing the widening of the definition of marriage to include
same-sex couples. A few marriage commissioners have been fired for
refusal to carry out SSMs.
||"To collaborate with departments of education and school boards to
ensure that classroom teaching and school resources respect the
traditional understanding of marriage." It is unclear whether the Church
wants schools to teach that opposite-sex marriage is the only true form
of marriage. Religious and social conservatives often use terms like
"respecting traditional marriage" to mean ridiculing or denigrating SSM.
It would be a strange situation if schools were to teach that SSM, which
are now allowed by law are not real marriages.
"To respect the dignity of all persons, whatever their sexual
orientation, by avoiding every sign of unjust discrimination toward men
and women with same-sex tendencies (Catechism
of the Catholic Church, no. 2358)." This section of the
Catechism implies that there are both just and unjust forms of
discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation.
||"To guard against further changes to the definition of civil
marriage, including polygamy." Polygamous marriage has been a fact of
life among some fundamentalist Mormon families in Canada for many
decades. Provincial governments have decided to not prosecute them.
||"To urge political parties to allow their members a free vote on
basic ethical and moral questions that shape our society, particularly
those issues that impact on the fundamental rights of freedom of
religion and conscience, such as the definition of marriage." This
raises the thorny question of whether a political party has the moral
right to instruct its MPs to vote against stripping fundamental human
rights from groups of individuals and families by a simple majority vote in
"To urge the federal government to safeguard faith groups that do
not accept the redefinition of marriage from being penalized with
respect to their charitable status." This seems to be a red herring.
Canadian churches have refused to marry couples on the basis of their
religion, disability of one partner, intent to remain childless,
attitudes toward the institution of marriage, race, gender, and probably other
grounds that we have missed. It is
unlikely that the government will suddenly start to deny churches
charitable status because of their policies towards SSM. 9
Pat O'Brien, as spokesperson for Vote
Marriage Canada said:
"The battle's not over, there will be an
election ... soon, and fortunately we live in a democratic society where
people can make this an issue. The goal is to elect men and women who
share our values." 11
As of early 2012, there have been federal elections in 2006, 2008 and 2011. The same-sex marriage issue did not play a significant role in any of them.
William Gairdner of Enshrine
Marriage Canada stated:
"Canadians have been lulled into acceptance
of same-sex 'marriage' by interventionist courts, biased national media
and unscrupulous politicians. ... Since the Trudeau era, ... Canada has
wholly surrendered itself to the crassly materialistic and egalitarian
mentality of the welfare state, where all public debate is reduced to a
kind of internal civil war over equality and rights. ... We must realize
that a 'right' to homosexual 'marriage' is not really aimed at elevating
the status of homosexuality as much as it is aimed at dissolving the
deep historical sense of privilege and status of true marriage and the
heterosexuality that has always been one of its four conditions." 11
Gairdner is factually in error with his final sentence. Bisexuals have always married persons of the opposite gender.
Phil Horgan, president of the Catholic Civil
Rights League (CCRL) said in a press release issued on 2006-DEC-07 that his
"...will continue to express its support
for traditional marriage in our work with Parliament, the courts, and
the media, and we will continue to help those who find themselves
penalized for the peaceful expression of views on marriage." 11
He did not indicate whether the League would continue to oppose SSM.
Gwen Landolt, spokesperson
for REAL Women issued a press release saying:
"Since the Canadian public has been denied
a voice on the issue of same-sex 'marriage,' a very persuasive argument
can be made for a referendum on the same-sex marriage issue." 11
Joseph Sinasac, editor of the Catholic
Register suggested that the debate over SSM will not end, just as the defeat
in 1991 of a restrictive abortion bill did not settle that matter. He said:
"Just because a particular vote has passed,
the subject is not closed, the debate has not ended. It has just
switched to a different battlefield." 11
Letters to the editor on SSM: During the two weeks following the
rejection of the motion, only one letter dealing with SSM was
published in the Toronto Star -- one of the largest newspapers in Canada. It
advocated SSM. Canadians seem to have accepted SSM as a permanent part of
|Angus Reid Internet poll: Angus Reid conducted a poll of Canadian Internet surfers
in the days following the vote on the motion. They were asked whether
they approved of SSM. Results were 60% in favor and 40% opposed. Although this
indicates strong support for SSM, the data should not be considered
to be particularly accurate:
||The poll was taken among Internet users,
who are probably not representative of all Canadians.
||If a referendum were ever held, the
minority of Canadians who want to prevent SSM would be highly motivated
to vote. Many of the majority who favor SSM might not be so highly
motivated. It is hard to estimate whether a referendum would allow SSM.
2007-MAY-07: Angus Reid Internet poll:
Angus Reid posted a poll on their website, asking Canadians "Should gay
and lesbian couples be legally allowed to get married?"
Results were 67% yes; 33% no; over 2 to 1 in favor.
They warn their site visitors: "Please note that these survey results are
of website visitors who voluntarily take the survey. These results are not
necessarily representative of the larger population."
2008-FEB-22: Gay civil rights worker receives
Order of Canada:
Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes, pastor of the Toronto
Metropolitan Community Church for over three decades, has been a leading
promoter of equal rights for persons of all sexual orientations and identities.
He has received Canada's highest civilian honor: the Order of Canada.
His main achievement was his contribution to the
same-sex marriage fight. In early 2001, he read the
"bans" for two same-sex couples: one gay and the other lesbian. He later
married them, but the city refused to register the marriages. This led to Hawkes
launching a court battle that eventually led to
legalization of same-sex marriage in Ontario in 2003. That was instrumental
in prodding the federal government to pass legislation
to make same-sex marriage available across Canada. He said during a phone
interview: "About 27 years ago, I was fasting to protest the police
actions around the bathhouse raids. And to see how far we've come, that Canada
is the first country in the world to give its highest award to a gay activist."
Current status of SSM in Canada:
Same-sex marriage has become accepted by most Canadians as one aspect of the
country's culture; they have become routine. By 2006-NOV, the "advocacy group
Canadians For Equal Marriage studied municipal records and reported that
12,438 marriage licenses had been granted to same-sex couples in Canada. 13,14
However, social and religious conservatives remain opposed to SSM.
Gairdner's statement (above) used a notation often found in
conservative religious writings. So did Gwen Landolt. When
referring to SSM, they often place the word marriage in quotation marks
when referring to SSM. This seems to indicate that they still do not view it as a real and valid marriage.
When social and religious conservatives stop using the quotation marks, perhaps SSM in Canada
reasonably secure. To get guidance on how long this might take, one would
have to go back:
|| About 15 decades to the time when marriage in the U.S. was first extended to all African Americans, or
To 1958 when that country extended marriage to mixed-race couples in a court action ironically called "Loving v. Virginia."
Changes in such a fundamental institution as marriage can take generations
Federal government renews attacks on same-sex marriage:
Six years after federal bill C-38 authorized same-sex marriage across the country, the federal Conservative Party obtained a majority of seats in Parliament. As expected, some 7 months later, the party under the leadership of Prime Minister Harper renewed its attack on SSM. They intervened in a divorce action and are attempting to nullify the marriages of about 5,000 same-sex couples who had come to Canada from other countries to get married between 2005 and 2012. If they are successful, future same-sex marriages by couples in which one or both spouses are from a country that has not yet legalized SSM will be prevented from marrying. More details.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Don Martin, "Debate over, move along," National Post, 2006-DEC-07, at:
John-Henry Westen, "BREAKING - Conservative Party Marriage Motion Wording
Revealed," LifeSiteNews.com, 2006-DEC-01, at:
- From CPAC TV coverage of the House of Commons debate.
"Canada [sic] Government Bid to Reopen debate on Homosexual "Marriage"
Defeated 175 to 123," LifeSiteNews.com, 2006-DEC-07, at:
"Harper's motion to re-open equal marriage defeated! Prime Minster says the
issue is settled," Canadians for Equal Marriage, 2006-DEC-07, at:
" 'The Marriage Battle Continues,' says Campaign Life Coalition,"
LifeSiteNews.com, 2006-DEC-07, at:
Janice Tibbetts, "Same-sex marriage issue put to rest: PM," CanWest News
Service, 2006-DEC-08, at:
John-Henry Westen, "Bishop Wingle: Canada 'Sinking Ever Deeper Into the
Morass of Moral Chaos.' Criticizes Politicians for Failing to Protect the
'Authentic' and 'Sane' Definition of Marriage," LifeSiteNews.com, 2006-DEC-11,
André Gaumond. "Debate on the definition of
marriage: Letter of the CCCB president to PM and leaders of the parties in the
opposition," CCCB, 2006-DEC-14, at:
Angus Reid poll on same-sex marriage, 2007-JAN-11 at:
http://rm.angusreidforum.com/ This is expected to be a temporary link.
- "Culture war to continue," Catholic Insight, 2007-MAR, Pages 21 & 22.
Jenny Yuen, "Gay activist receives Order of Canada: T.O. cleric fought to
legalize same-sex marriage," CNews, 2008-FEB-23, at:
"Canada census to count same-sex couples for the first time," Associated Press,
"Over 12,000 married same-sex couples," Canadians for Equal Marriage,
Copyright © 2006 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Essay first posted on 2006-DEC-08
Latest update: 2012-JAN-17
Author: B.A. Robinson