Marriage forum in Fredericton, New Brunswick, March 30, 2003 (Photo of Wayne and Arthur Toole, photo courtesy of the couple)

 

 

 

"We are not out to destroy religion, we just want the same rights."
Wayne Toole, The Daily Gleaner, March 31, 2003

 

 

 

External link to East Coast Bears

 

 

 

Equal marriage advocates Larry Dickinson and Jason Curl   (Photo courtesy of L. Dickinson and J. Curl)
Thanks to Jason Curl for reporting on the meeting with Andy Scott. Jason (right) is shown here with his spouse Larry Dickinson.

 

 

 

External link to Gay Spaces - Housing Help

 

 

 


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Advocacy - News

March 31, 2003

Marriage forum in Fredericton, N.B.
Andy Scott hears from his local community

Member of Parliament Andy Scott, chair of the infamous Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, hosted a public forum in his home riding of Fredericton, New Brunswick, to discuss same-sex marriage. The meeting took place on March 30th, from 1 until 4 p.m. at the Wu Centre, located on the campus of the University of New Brunswick. Equal marriage advocate Jason Curl shared his thoughts on the day with us.


The forum opened with comments from Andy Scott regarding the procedure to be followed during the afternoon, followed by some words from John McEvoy, a Law professor at the University of New Brunswick, who chaired the session. There was a much larger turn-out than expected, with the main room filled to capacity and more in a another room.

The theatrics began early when a woman who is against having marriage redefined interrupted Mr. McEvoy to express her dissatisfaction with the structure of the forum. Instead of breaking into discussion groups, she said she would rather see everyone remain in the same room and have the discussion there -- a strategy that obviously would suit those in opposition to redefining marriage who find their strength in numbers. Andy Scott denied the request, stating that many people do not feel comfortable speaking before a large crowd but would feel more comfortable doing so in smaller groups. This also has been the format used for the past seven or eight years and Mr. Scott said it had worked successfully.

During Mr. McEvoy's speech, an infant near the front of the room began crying and the parents, not wanting to cause further disruption to the session, began to leave. On their way to the door, the baby fell from its infant car seat to the floor, causing much concern from everyone. Luckily, the infant appeared not to be harmed, but one man shamelessly took advantage of the incident to declare, "That is a man, woman and baby."

The people then broke into discussion groups in several rooms and later reported their feelings back to the plenary session. A point many made was that people were very respectful to each other in these discussion groups, though one person did refer to gays as "homos". One of the biggest concerns stated by those opposing the redefinition of marriage was that the recognition of same-sex marriages would result in churches being forced to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples, regardless of whether or not they wanted to. They also feared that granting same-sex couples the same rights as them would somehow infringe upon their freedom -- exactly how this would happen was never really clarified. Those in favour of same-sex marriage stated that this is a human rights issue. We are not asking for special rights, as some stated, but rather EQUAL rights -- the rights enjoyed by opposite-sex couples.

Mr. McEvoy addressed the concern that churches would be forced to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples. He stated that clergy could not be forced to perform ceremonies contrary to their religious beliefs. He said that allowing same-sex couples to marry does not alter the scope of freedom of religion.

Many in opposition to redefining marriage stated that they were not opposed to gays having equal rights individually, and even some rights as couples, but they did not want same-sex couples to use the term marriage - some suggested a civil union or other such distinction. One response to these statements was that, by allowing same-sex couples to use the term "marriage", it would take away from the opponents' feelings of superiority. While there were the usual scripture readings and condemnation of gays (even a petition to not redefine marriage), there were also some people asking genuine questions -- about children, next-of-kin, etc. - which indicates a real need for education. Many don't know what to think on the issue because they know very little about gay people.

Those in favour of redefining marriage did get their point across very well. One woman said it best: Rather than looking at what you might lose, look at what you might gain.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights will take their show on the road next month, to hear from organizations and individuals. The New Brunswick hearing will be held in Sussex on Tuesday, April 8th.

By Jason Curl


Read a selection of comments from our mail.Link to our media coverage of related issues.