Canadian Supreme Court approves Civil Union

The Supreme court ruled today on the four questions asked of it by the Federal Government and they have effectively made Canada the third country to legalize gay marriage. 2 UPDATES

Last year the Federal Government introduced legislation that would legalize gay marriage under a civil union. Before introducing it to Parliament, though, they sent it to the Supreme Court to determine how the legislation affected Canadas Charter of Rights and Freedoms both in terms of changing the definition of marriage, and the rights of Churches to deny marrying gays and lesbians in accordance with their own beliefs.

Here are the actual questions asked of the Court:

  • Does the federal government have exclusive authority to define marriage?
  • Does the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protect religious groups from having to perform gay weddings against their beliefs?
  • Is the proposed same-sex marriage law constitutional?
  • Is the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman also constitutional?

The decision by the Court is non-binding to Parliament and the federal government, however, it does give added legitimacy to the legislation and the Justice Minister has indicated that he will table the legislation before years end.

The Supreme Court said today:

Several centuries ago it would have been understood that marriage should be available only to opposite-sex couples. The recognition of same-sex marriage in several Canadian jurisdictions as well as two European countries belies the assertion that the same is true today,

also,

the CBC reports:

the court reaffirmed religious freedoms under the Charter, saying religious officials opposed to same-sex marriages do not have to perform them.

So, a compromise has been reached.

Fundamentally, all persons in Canada must have the same rights and freedoms, and that includes the ability to marry as a traditional or non-traditional couple. However at the same time the beliefs of the many different religious groups in Canada must be respected, so they must not be forced to perform acts which go against their beliefs.

The last question that was asked of the Courts was whether the right to same-sex marriage was required by the constitution. This question was declined by the Courts… leaving it open for further question later. What that means is that the provinces, who actually have the jurisdiction, may be able to refuse gay couples marriage licenses… but if those couples are granted licenses in other provinces or territories, they must be respected because they are protected under Federal law. Currently, BC, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, and the Yukon have legalized gay marriage.

While there is vocal opposition to this legislation, including within Parliament itself, it looks like the legislation will pass quite easily. The majority of Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois members support the legislation, and as such it should pass without much trouble.

Personally, I think this is just a naturally progression of society. As we realise and accept more about the diverse nature of Human Beings, we will include them into the standard fabric of our society.

As we now look at Womens or Minorities right to vote, one day we will look at the issue of same-sex marriage and say in unison… “well of course they should…”. It’s the evolution of common sense.

UPDATE 1:

The BBC reports on todays events noting that New Zealands Parliament just passed legislation today recognizing gay couples. They also have some excellent coverage of how this issue has played out in Europe and around the world

Update 2:

Prime Minister Martin has indicated that the legislation will be tabled when the parliamentary session resumes in January. So we’ll have to wait a while before we see the fireworks in the House.

The prime minister urged members of all parties to carefully consider the issue before voting, saying the proposed legislation will ensure the “equal treatment of all Canadians.”

He acknowledged the issue is divisive, but said Canadians can handle the debate.

“I think this will engender a debate across the country,” said Martin. “We are a very mature nation and can undertake the debate.”

Indeed.

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