Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 8, 2003
Same sex marriage unconstitutional -- bishops
Marriage does not undermine human rights
"There is no compelling state interest to protect and promote sexual relationships based on the sexual orientation . . ."
- Canadian Conference
of Catholic Bishops
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops wants to tell the Supreme Court that Ottawa's proposed redefinition of marriage is unconstitutional.
The bishops and the Interfaith Coalition for Marriage and Family have asked the court for permission to intervene in the "marriage reference" case initiated by the federal government.
The CCCB says the government's draft bill "breaches freedom of conscience and religion" and that "the traditional definition of marriage is constitutional, while the proposed definition in the bill is not."
The interfaith coalition, which includes the Catholic Civil Rights League, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Islamic Society of North America, says allowing same-sex marriage will have "a profound impact on clergy and religious institutions."
In July, the government drafted legislation to legalize same-sex marriage across Canada, then referred it to the high court for an opinion on its constitutionality.
Justice Minister Martin Cauchon said the proposed bill is not intended to affect the "freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs."
The CCCB argued in its notice of motion Nov. 26 that the proposed legislation would establish a social climate that would threaten freedom of conscience and religion.
"If Canadian law would compel that intimate sexual relations at the core of same-sex unions be shown the same public respect and approval as sexual relations at the core of heterosexual marriages, a risk is created that those who believe and publicly support the premise that homosexual sexual conduct is immoral, could be considered as anti-gay, homophobic, intolerant and no better than racists."
It would then be only a small step to remove charitable status and other public benefits from individuals, religious groups or affiliated charities who publicly teach or espouse views contrary to this orthodoxy, said the motion.
"It adds legitimacy to the charge - which is also being made - that those who teach or espouse these views are hate-mongers."
The CCCB application argued that the current definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman is constitutional and that there is "an obvious and compelling state interest in the institution of marriage which is the creation and nurturing of the next generation of citizens."
Marriage as an institution does not implicate human rights or Charter values, says the CCCB motion.
"This is because there is no compelling state interest to protect and promote sexual relationships based on the sexual orientation, sexual preferences, personal preferences, individual tastes, cultural practices or religious beliefs of the individuals involved."
However, it added, "there may be a state interest in recognizing these relationships for the purpose of regulating them but there is no state interest in institutionalizing them."
The interfaith coalition, in its arguments, said clergy in many denominations and religious faiths are, by their religious principles, unable and unwilling to solemnize "marriages" between persons of the same sex.
As well, "millions of Canadians, represented by the Interfaith Coalition, by their religious principles, are unable to recognize same-sex unions as marriages."
The coalition also said the legislation will have "profound legal and social ramifications" for many religious communities.
"Just as the liberalization of divorce law had a profound and unanticipated effect on these communities, the proposed change to marriage can be expected to have as yet uncertain and unanticipated effects upon the wider culture and upon these religious communities."
The proposed bill, it said, "threatens the freedom of religious clergy, religious institutions, and laity, not to participate in marriage ceremonies between persons of the same sex, or to provide other services and facilities ancillary to such marriage ceremonies."
The Supreme Court ruling is not expected until the end of next year.
The Catholic Civil Rights League and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada are also appealing the Quebec Superior Court's ruling to redefine marriage. The case is scheduled to be heard Jan. 26, 2004.