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HOMOSEXUAL (SAME-SEX) MARRIAGES IN CANADA

ONTARIO COURT CASE; PART 4

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Previous developments in this case are described in another essay

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Topics covered in this essay:

bulletInitial reactions by political leaders to the Court of Appeal's 2003-JUN-10 ruling
 
bulletReactions by others

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Reactions of federal government leaders to the Court of Appeal ruling:

On 2003-JUN-10 or 11:

bulletJim Munson, spokesperson for the Jean Chrťtien said that the Prime Minister is "reserving judgment on making a decision on this...the feeling is that Parliament will have to make this decision." 1
bulletMartin Cauchon, the Federal Justice Minister said that his government recognized that it must speedily achieve a "national solution'' to the same-sex debate. He said: "We see the direction that the courts are taking now...I'm asking for a little bit of time to look at the decision and to come back with a statement.'' 2
bulletIn a later press interview, Justice Minister Martin Cauchon told reporters that court decision leaves gays and lesbians in Ontario free to marry "for the time being." He refused to say whether these marriages would be later invalidated by federal legislation. He said "Listen, the marriages that are taking place now are effectively legal marriages on the basis of the decision of the appeal court rendered [JUN-10]. I say for the time being because I can't presume the future. We want to make sure that we're going to have a national solution to that question. Having said that, I'm not in a position to today to give you the official government position." 1
bulletForeign Affairs Minister Bill Graham gave an impassioned plea behind closed doors at the weekly caucus meeting of the ruling Liberal party in favor of legalization of same-sex marriages. A source said that Graham called on Liberals to be "courageous" and to recognize the clear direction that the courts are taking on interpreting the Charter rights of gays and lesbians. The source said: "He said it was clear where an ultimate judgment would lead us, because the Charter implications are clear. It's obvious we're looking at the legalization of marriage [for gays and lesbians] so delaying it further would not make sense if as Liberals we support the Charter. Let's show that we Liberals live in the 21st century. Let's show the young people of Canada what we're all about. Let's be courageous and deal with it as soon as possible." 1
bulletCanadian Press reported that Paul Martin, the clear front-runner in the leadership race to replace Jean Chrťtien as Prime Minister in early 2004, said that the federal government cannot prolong discrimination against homosexual couples who want to marry. 1
bulletAlberta Premier Ralph Kline announced that if same-sex marriages were legalized across Canada, his government would invoke the "not-withstanding" clause in the Canadian constitution. He said: "If there is any move to sanctify and legalize same-sex marriages, we will use the notwithstanding clause; period; end of story." Alberta has been referred to as the buckle of Canada's Bible Belt. Because of its large minority of conservative Christians, most adults in the province have been opposed to equal rights for gays and lesbians, including the right to marry. Canada has a unique federal constitution. Its "not withstanding" clause allows governments in Canada to temporarily over-ride certain provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the sections granting individual human rights. 3
bulletSvend Robinson, a member of parliament who is gay said: "I am today calling on Jean Chrťtien as the Prime Minister, as part of his legacy, to leave a legacy of equality and to make it clear that this Liberal government will not appeal this decision" to the Supreme Court. 4
bulletPeter MacKay, leader of the Progressive Conservative party, said: "I feel we should not change the definition in spite of what the Ontario court has said today." 4
bulletLiberal member of parliament, Pat O'brien, said: "I certainly hope [Mr. Cauchon] is going to appeal this. for me, its a matter of conscience. There's no possible way I'll agree to redefining marriage.4

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Reactions by others to the Court of Appeal ruling:

bullet2003-JUN-10:
bulletAccording to the web site of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto: "Reverend Dr. Brent Hawkes, senior pastor for MCC Toronto, stated 'It has been a long journey to get to today, but we knew that we were following Godís chosen path. We live in a fair and just society and we will take pride in that. God has made us in Godís own image and encourages us to love unconditionally. We can now express that love through the commitment of marriage'." 12
bulletThe Canadian office of Focus on the Family -- a Fundamentalist Christian group centered in Colorado --  issued a news release on JUN-10, stating that: "Today's court ruling on same-sex marriage ignores centuries of precedent, and renders ordinary Canadians' views irrelevant." The release quoted Derek Rogusky, their vice-president: "We're very disappointed that the Appeal Court came out with a ruling that in essence makes the whole public consultation irrelevant. We'll be urging the federal Minister of Justice to appeal this decision so that the participation of thousands of Canadians will not have been a meaningless exercise....Marriage - the commitment of a man and a woman in love and service to one another and the children they raise - provides a foundation for a strong, healthy society. Marriage is not some evolving social construct, but a universally understood institution of immeasurable worth to society. For thousands of years, every major society and religion has regarded marriage as an exclusively male-female relationship." 5.6 Rogusky appears to be in error. There were not "thousands of Canadians" participating at the parliamentary committee hearings. There were 475. 1
bulletTrent Morris, lawyer for the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, a gay-positive congregation -- said: "Canada gets the gold medal for same-sex marriage around the world."
bulletCJOH-TV News in Ottawa, ON said, without further comment, that the Federal Government has no inclination to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
bulletJohn Fisher, spokesperson for the gay-positive group Egale Canada, said: "Ten judges in a row have now sent a message strong and clear to Parliament. Discrimination against same-sex couples is wrong. We have the right to marry."
bullet2003-JUN-11:
bulletThe Globe and Mail published a "recent" survey of Canadian adults conducted by the Centre for Research and Information on Canada. 7 Results indicate that:
bullet62% of females 35 to 54 years of age support same sex marriage; 28% are opposed.
bullet55% of males 35 to 54 years of age support same sex marriage; 39% are opposed.
bulletYounger adults (18 to 34) are more supportive; older adults (55+) are much less supportive. More details
bulletPastor Marcel Racine, leader of a gospel crusade fellowship in Ottawa said: "God did not create us so that we would marry people of the same sex. The Lord created us to be married so that a man and a woman would be able to have children. God is against things which are contrary to this." 13
bulletProfessor Nick Balla, a specialist in family law from Queen's University at Kingston, ON joined with other interviewees on CBC NewsWorld on JUN-11 to explain that Ralph Kline is mistaken. A province cannot opt out of legislation which defines who is eligible to marry. That is a federal responsibility. A province could only change laws which determine how the federal marriage act is administered. Balla predicted that within three years, same-sex marriage will be a fact across Canada. He is not willing to speculate whether it will be achieved via court rulings or government legislation. 3
bulletNorm Sterling, the Attorney General of Ontario said: "I'm charged to follow the laws and will follow the laws with regards to this matter'' When he was asked whether Ontario would register the marriages, he replied Sterling said: "Absolutely...We said during the appeal process that the province of Ontario would follow the court ruling. We made that clear during the process." He suggested that it would be "difficult" to invalidate the marriages later, if the Supreme Court of Canada reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal. 2
bulletLisa Lachance, 30, and Heather Gass, 30, are a lesbian couple who were together for four years before their commitment ceremony in 2002-SEP. At the time, the ritual had no legal significance. They are now headed to Ottawa City Hall. Ms. Lachance said: "We feel it's important to obtain a legal marriage license to show we do in fact have the legal right like any other Canadian couple." 8
bulletSandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America, -- a conservative social advocacy group -- said that the ruling "puts a true understanding of marriage on the wrong side of the law....Businesses will be ordered to accommodate the counterfeit [marriage] as if it were the real thing, regardless of the beliefs of business owners. And more children will face being placed in homosexual households if this ruling stands." 13
bulletJoyce Barnett and Alison Kemper also picked up a marriage license at Toronto City Hall. They are both ordained in the Anglican Church, and plan to marry in 2004-JUL. Their two children were ecstatic with the Ontario decision. Robbie, 11, whose birth mother is Alison, said: "I knew that nobody could say I didn't have a family. Canada has finally figured out it's unfair to deny this to anybody." 8
bulletBob Knight, spokesperson for the Culture and Family Institute called on on Canadians to "clean their judicial house" and overturn what he describes as an "oppressive dictate...They can call it whatever they want, but it's not marriage...A wedding requires a man and a woman. To mandate marital recognition for non-marital relationships is to create a lie that will ensure coercion against people who stand for the truth...God created marriage as the union of one man and one woman -- and no court can alter that."
bulletBrian Daniells, the service director at the University of Ottawa's Pride Centre, a gay-positive group, believes that many of his friends will shortly pop the question to their partners. He said: "A lot of my friends have been waiting for this. It's been in the back of all our minds." 8
bulletBruce Celemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, a conservative Christian group, expressed the legal position that "It is not an appropriate use of the Charter to redefine pre-existing social, cultural and religious institutions." He apparently believes that if the Charter conflicts with federal legislation, that the latter must govern. We have not been able to find any constitutional expert who agrees with this position.
bulletKyle Rae, a Toronto city councilor who is gay, said: "It's a momentous day. It is a great day for equality in Canada."
bulletCo-counselor for the plaintiffs, Martha McCarthy, predicted that there would be many additional marriages in the near future, while the federal government decides whether to appeal. She said: "The more [same-sex] marriages we get, the more inevitable this is. The time to be right is ripe, as Martin Luther King would say."
bulletThere appeared to be a temporary news blackout by Fundamentalist Christian news sources in the U.S.:
bulletCovenant News, a daily news source from the U.S., normally has at least a dozen news items in their "Abominations" section about gay and lesbian issues. They remained silent about developments in Ontario, both in their JUN-10 and JUN-11 issue. 9
bulletFocus on the Family's web site from Colorado is similarly silent on these development as of late JUN-11. 10
bulletThe Family Research Council only had a 38 word article in their "News headline retrieved section. It read: "Canada OKs Gay Marriage, The rush to legal matrimony followed a ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal, which on Tuesday went further than any court in Canada by changing the definition of who can marry, effective immediately." 11
bulletLina Soto and Paulina Acevedo, a lesbian couple, obtained a marriage license. They had met in Chile as teenagers and have been together as a couple for three years. In their country of origin, which is predominately Roman Catholic, they were shunned by family and friends. Acevedo said "I can't go to my mother's home with her." Soto said: "We're so happy we're in Canada. This says a lot about Canada."
bulletExcerpts from some comments posted to the National Post's "Soundoff!" bulletin board, posted by visitors to their Internet web site. They show a full range of extreme responses to the court decision:
bulletCONGRATULATIONS! IT'S ABOUT TIME!
bulletHow utterly ridculous. [sic]
bulletMove over San Francisco, Toronto is now the talk of the world.
bulletMan shall leave his Mother and Woman leave her home...[A reference to a passage in the book Genesis in the Bible].
bulletThis is another great victory for all Canadians.
bulletI'm all for staying out of someone else's bedroom.
bulletTotally disgusting!!! What a terrible example for our children.
bulletAnyone who knows history knows that this behavior is one of the major signs of a failing society.
bulletHistorically, marriage is not only about raising children. Judges have no right creating new laws.
bulletIt is not for us to judge others. But.... Marriage is a man and woman coming together before God.
bulletThey have been together for 22 years! That in itself gives this marriage the strength and longevity that many 'conventional' marraiges [sic] lack.
bulletIt certainly is about time. Congratulations to the happy couple.
bulletI WISH WE LIVED IN TORONTO! Congratulations to Ontario.
bulletThis idiotic decision just proves that we now have idiots for judges.
bulletThis is absolutely wonderful. True equality wins again!
bulletThank you! It's about time.
bulletI feel a great deal of gratitude to all of the older gay population who are paving the way for a better tomorrow.
bulletI've never been so proud that my father is from Canada.
bulletI think it's about time that the government came into the 21st century.
bulletThis entire issue is about fairness and love, and you can add preserverence [sic] in the face of prejudice to that.
bulletI can't believe how screwed up our government is.
bulletMy wife and I think it is absolutely disgraceful. 2

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Further developments in this case are described in another essay

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References:

  1. "Same-sex couples rush to altar," The Toronto Star, 2003-JUN-12, Pages A1 and A24.
  2. "Ont. will 'absolutely' register gay marriages," The National Post, 2003-JUN-11, at: http://www.canada.com/
  3. CBC NewsWorld, 2003-JUN-11, morning news.
  4. Kim Lunman, "National response needed, Cauchon maintains," The Globe and Mail, 2003-JUN-11. Page A4
  5. Tracey Tyler & Tracy Huffman, "Wedding bellwether for same-sex couples: Gay duo wed hours after court ruling; Judges rewrite definition of marriage," The Toronto Star, 2003-JUN-11, Page A4
  6. "Courts Overruling Canadians on Marriage, Says Focus on the Family," Focus on the Family news release, 2003-JUN-10, at: http://www.fotf.ca/.
  7. Poll data, The Globe and Mail, 2003-JUN-11. Page A4
  8. Kevin Ritchie and Cassandra Szklarski, "First came the wedding, now the licence; Partners celebrate court victory with legal ceremony," Ottawa Citizen & The Canadian Press, 2003-JUN-11, at:  http://www.canada.com/
  9. Covenant News' web site is at: http://www.covenantnews.com/
  10. Focus on the Family's web site is at: http://www.family.org/
  11. "Canada OKs Gay Marriage," Family Research Council, downloaded on 2003-JUN-11, from http://www.frc.org/get/
  12. "Welcome to our website," MCC, downloaded at 2003-JUN-12, from: http://www.mcctoronto.com/
  13. Fred Jackson, Steve Rae, and Jody Brown, "Canadian Court: Marriage Requires 'Two Persons' -- Not Necessarily of Opposite Sexes Alberta's Leader Vows to Protect His Province from Same-Sex 'Marriages'," Agape Press, 2003-JUN-11, at: http://headlines.agapepress.org/

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Copyright © 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2003-AUG-8
Author: B.A. Robinson

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