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Green Light for Gay Marriage PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Wednesday, 08 December 2004 23:05

Green Light for Gay Marriage

OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the federal government can legalize gay marriage, but stopped short of ruling same-sex marriage was required by the constitution.

Martha McCarthy

In a non-binding decision released Thursday morning, the court also said religious groups opposed to same-sex marriages do not have to perform them.

"I feel it is a clear green light in favour of equal marriage," said Martha McCarthy, a lawyer for same-sex couples.

Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said Monday he would take the bill to Parliament as early as this month.

Prime Minister Paul Martin has asked MPs to support the bill, but has also told them it will be a free vote.

The Liberals hold a thin minority government, with 134 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, but should have the support of most or all of the 19 New Democrat MPs and 54 Bloc Qu?b?cois MPs.

NDP Leader Jack Layton has said his caucus will vote in favour of the bill, while Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, whose party is split o­n the issue, says it will be a free vote.

Chr?tien sent bill to court

Former prime minister Jean Chr?tien sent the issue to the Supreme Court following a June 2003 ruling by the o­ntario Court of Appeal allowing same-sex unions.

Ottawa proposed changing the definition of marriage to the "lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others" rather than the "lawful union of o­ne man and o­ne woman."

Before taking it to Parliament, Chr?tien referred the proposed bill to the Supreme Court, asking the justices to offer a non-binding opinion o­n the following:

  • Whether Parliament has the legal right to define marriage.
  • If the proposed legislation supports the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • Whether churches would be protected from having to perform same-sex ceremonies if it were contrary to their beliefs.
When he became prime minister o­ne year ago, Paul Martin added a fourth question: whether limiting marriage to a man and a woman was unconstitutional.

Along with o­ntario, court rulings have now made same-sex marriage legal in British Columbia, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and the Yukon.

Written by CBC News o­nline staff

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 December 2004 23:05

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