Canada's Supreme Court:  We are Canadian, fully and equally







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Legal Canada - We are Canadian - fully and equally

November 30, 2004

We are Canadian - fully and equally
Parliament will do the right thing, finally.

Joe Varnell and Kevin Bourassa married in January 2001, the first gay men in Canada to legally marry in a church. Varnell says sending the proposed bill to the Supreme Court was a "political exercise" to prevent debate on the politically divisive issue. "This Supreme Court reference is...the last opportunity for excuses from our justice minister and prime minister and will force them finally to...present legislation in Parliament," said Varnell.
CBC News, Dec. 9, 2004

This morning, at 9:45 a.m., the Supreme Court of Canada released its response to the government of Canada's reference on marriage ("The Proposal for an Act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes") . But the real victory began yesterday, and continues across the country today, as television, radio and print media are all completely saturated with the stories of gays and lesbians from coast to coast. This is the real success of the movement for same-sex marriage: gays and lesbians are taking their rightful place as full citizens in Canada.

The Supreme court's response:

The four questions asked of the court:
The response from the Supreme Court of Canada:

1. Is the right to legislate on the capacity to marry within control of the federal government?


2. Does the proposed legislation pass the obligations of the Charter?
3. Are religious institutions protected against marrying people that they don't believe should be married?
4. Does the old opposite-sex definition violate the Charter?
Didn't answer

In declining to answer question number four, the court made reference to the fact that six provinces and one territory are celebrating same-sex marriages and thousands of couples have already married because the government decided not to appeal. We are very pleased the the Supreme Court declined to answer this question and be drawn into the political games played by PM Paul Martin and Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. It was a question already answered and accepted by the government.

The decision was unanimous. To date 28 judges across the country have validated our equality rights.

"The reference judgment is a clear green light for marriage legislation," said Martha McCarthy today.

This court opinion has removed one of the last reasons, real or manufactured , to prevent the liberal government from fulfilling its promise and bringing in legislation that acknowledges the equality of gay and lesbian couples. Justice Minister Cotler has said he could present the bill to parliament as early as this month, however the liberals continue to dodge the issue of true acceptance by talking about a 'free vote'.

Human rights should not be a matter of debate and equality is not a matter of opinion. The only way that the government can refuse to acknowledge their obligations under the Charter is to invoke the notwithstanding clause and the House of Commons voted not to take that extreme step late last year. Those who have attacked the Supreme Court for ignoring the will of parliament might do well to remember that in the coming months.

We expect Parliament will do its duty and pass the legislation when it is presented before our MPs. It is suspected that the Liberal party is fast-tracking the legislation because once again, they don't want gay marriage to be front and centre during a possible election in the Spring next year. We're also confident that Stephen Harper understands the Conservative Party cannot govern Canada until they prove they are a party for all Canadians, gays and lesbians included.

So help is on the way for gays and lesbians still living in provinces that discriminate. Lobbyists will continue lobbying (that's what they do), there will be huffing and puffing from some politicians and opponents of equality, but it will be done.

We are Canadian. Fully and equally.

And gratefully.

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