Canadian government seeks Supreme Court advice on gay marriages
July 18, 2003
OTTAWA - The Canadian government sought Thursday the advice of the country's Supreme Court on proposed legislation to legalize same-sex marriages.
The move comes after courts in two provinces -- Ontario and British Columbia -- recently ruled same-sex marriages were legal.
The courts ruled that the federal definition of marriage as a "union between a man and a woman" violated the country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The federal government was caught by surprise by the rulings
which meant that while same-sex marriages could be performed -- and
have been performed -- in those two provinces, they remain illegal
in Canada's other eight provinces and three territories.
Ottawa vowed after the Ontario ruling not to appeal the June 10
decision but to introduce federal legislation on the matter that
would legalize same-sex marriages while allowing religious groups
to opt out of performing the ceremonies.
Federal Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, after presenting draft
legislation to the Supreme Court Thursday, said: "We need an
approach that applies across the country and recognizes the
equality of all Canadians."
Currently, marriage is defined in federal law, but provincial
governments are responsible for implementing the laws and issuing
One western province, Alberta, has indicated that it will not
permit same-sex marriages in its jurisdiction even if a federal
bill were passed.
In a rarely used move, the federal government is seeking the
Supreme Court's advice of the proposed legislation before it goes
to a vote in parliament.
Cauchon said the proposed changes to the law are "a matter of
Under the proposed new definition of marriage, "marriage, for
civil purposes, is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion
of all others.
"Nothing in this act affects the freedom of officials of
religious groups to conduct marriage ceremonies that are not in
according with their religious beliefs," the new draft bill said. - Sapa-AFP
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