Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 30, 2002
Government defends traditional marriage
Heterosexual marriage basis of society, says Catholic group
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
Egale, the national lesbian and gay rights organization, calls the federal justice department's arguments on marriage an "insult to Canadians," but the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) welcomes them.
"The government's attempt to portray marriage as nothing more than a breeding program for heterosexuals is completely offensive," said John Fisher, executive director of Egale. "It's offensive to married heterosexuals, many of whom do not, or cannot, have children, and it's offensive to same-sex couples, many of whom are raising children."
In a written submission filed recently with the Ontario Court of Appeal, the justice department said same-sex couples don't meet the "core opposite-sex requirements" of marriage, which are based on "procreation, the raising of children from the marriage and companionship."
It noted, too, that societal views of marriage as an opposite-sex union are rooted "across major religions and cultures worldwide."
Jennifer Leddy, co-director of COLF, told CCN that it isn't surprising that the justice department took the position that marriage should continue as it has historically.
"That has been the way in which societies have organized themselves and the process by which societies endure and the basic cell of society."
It would have been a surprise had the justice department taken the opposite position, particularly since the government recognizes, "there hasn't really been a full public debate," Leddy said.
The justice department's submission to the Ontario Court of Appeal was in response to a ruling by the Ontario Divisional Court in July that the ban against gay and lesbian marriages violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The court gave the federal government two years to change its marriage laws.
The justice department claims the court erred in its decision. "The fact that same-sex couples do not come within the current meaning of marriage . . . relates to the fact that their unique relationship does not meet the core, opposite-sex requirement of marriage," it said.
In early September, a Quebec Superior Court judge concurred with the Ontario ruling, stating, "The definition of marriage imposes a discriminatory distinction in excluding couples of the same sex." The judge added that it would be simple to change the wording of the Charter from saying marriage is between "a man and a woman" to marriage is "between two persons."
Fisher, the gay rights activist, said the federal government is using "the same tired old discriminatory arguments that have already been unanimously rejected by courts in Ontario and Quebec."
However the B.C. Supreme Court also ruled on the issue last October, saying that while Canada discriminates against same-sex couples by not recognizing their marriages, such discrimination is justified under the Charter.
The federal government is expected to begin public consultations in a few weeks on the issue of same-sex marriages. The hearings, before the House of Commons justice committee, will be based on a discussion paper that includes a question asking whether the government should get out of the marriage business altogether and leave it up to religions.
Leddy said COLF intends to be involved in the hearings.