Two coalitions are doing legal battle against same-sex “marriage” as Ottawa fiddles.
An Interfaith Coalition of the Catholic Civil Rights League, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Islamic Society of North America announced it is appealing the June 10 Ontario Appeals Court ruling in Halpern v. Canada, which redefined marriage to include same-sex partners. The coalition is seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in Halpern v. Canada so that it acquires the legal status to appeal the decision. It had been an intervenor in previous cases, presenting arguments defending marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.
Religious groups note that marriage precedes the state – as a religious institution created by God four millennia ago and as a secular institution enshrined in common-law before the creation of Canada. Bruce Clemenger, president of the EFC, said, “We are asking the Supreme Court to reconsider the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal and examine whether a pre-existing social, cultural and religious institution can be deemed unconstitutional.”
A pro-family coalition is also appealing the decision, likewise seeking legal status to appeal. The Association for Marriage and Family is composed of the Canada Family Action Coalition, Focus on the Family Canada and REAL Women of Canada.
“Quite frankly, this is action the federal government should be taking,” said Focus on the Family Canada vice-president of family policy Derek Rogusky. “However, given that they have abdicated their leadership and ignored the will of the public, we have no choice but to step in and appeal this fundamental issue to the Supreme Court of Canada.”
Darrel Reid, president of Focus on the Family Canada, said, “For the last six years, we’ve been arguing alongside the federal government about the distinct status of marriage. Now, within a matter of weeks, (Ottawa) has turned into an active proponent of gay ‘marriage.'”
CFAC president Roy Beyer said, “The definition of marriage is critical in determining how our culture and society will be sustained. Of course, we believe the Ontario Court made a gross error in judgement in overturning centuries of law on the subject.”
In a press release, REAL Women said it was “concerned by the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, and the failure by the prime minister and cabinet to appeal the case. It is unfortunate for Canada that the court system was the venue for action rather than Parliament, which is supposed to represent the people.”
But while condemning the government’s cowardly way of dealing with the issue in surrendering it to the courts, REAL Women said, “Proceeding through the courts was not a process initiated by us, but by others. We would not have chosen that route. However, the process, once begun, has been truncated. This has had the effect of cutting out Parliament and the nation-wide House of Commons justice committee hearings.”
The justice committee had been conducting hearings across the country to get input from Canadians about how to handle the legal recognition, if any, of same-sex partners. As Pat O’Brien (Lib, London-Fanshawe, Ont.) noted during a special committee meeting that eventually endorsed the Halpern decision, the hearings were a fraud as the government ignored the views of ordinary Canadians.
On June 17, one full week after the Halpern decision came down (and went into effect), Prime Minister Jean Chretien announced that the federal government would not appeal the Ontario decision. Instead, it would prepare a bill on same-sex unions to be sent to the Supreme Court for approval, and eventually be voted upon by MPs. He also said that there would be a provision protecting the rights of churches to not perform same-sex “weddings.”
Exactly one month later, Justice Minister Martin Cauchon unveiled his government’s proposed legislation stating that, “Marriage for civil purposes is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.” Cauchon said, “I believe the draft bill strikes the proper balance … The government of Canada is doing the right thing at the right time in our history … We’re talking about a clear change in the definition of marriage.” During the press conference, he urged provinces to proceed on this issue “in the spirit” of the law, even before it is passed.
The bill, An Act Respecting Certain Aspects of Legal Capacity for Marriage, was presented (referred) directly to the Supreme Court with three questions: (1) Does the act fall within the exclusive legal authority of the federal government? (2) Does the act respect the constitutionally guaranteed rights expressed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? (3) Do the religious-freedom guarantees in the Constitution protect religious officials who refuse to sanctify same-sex “marriages” that violate their beliefs?
In a press release reacting to the announcement, REAL Women said that, “The definition of marriage as being ‘between two persons’ also opens a Pandora’s box – as two undefined ‘persons’ includes any unlimited assortment of couples including transgendered, cross dressers, father and daughter, uncle and niece, even heterosexuals who want financial benefits of marriage, etc.”
Pro-family critics note that the last question seeks to curtail the efforts of the province of Alberta, which has vowed to use “notwithstanding clause” provisions of the Constitution to avoid the court-ordered redefinition of marriage.
REAL Women vice-president Gwen Landolt also criticized the government’s chosen route of a Supreme Court referral. She said it “is a very limited course of action, since the questions drafted by justice officials can only be answered by a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. The Supreme Court of Canada would not be able to hear the fundamental arguments on both sides of the issue. Also, a reference is not binding, it is only advisory.”
Many organizations and churches are organizing petitions and urging Canadians to contact their MPs and provincial representatives. Rev. Royal Hamel, a representative of Campaign Life Coalition in southwestern Ontario, told The Interim that townhall meetings in the region have been well attended. He said the Ontario court decision “turned their world up-side down,” but it may have led to Canadians awakening from their slumber. He is hopeful that citizen pressure on the government will defeat the government’s legislation.