From the Worldwide Faith News archives

United Church of Canada motion on same-sex marriage

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Fri, 23 Apr 2004 13:08:06 -0700

For Immediate Release -- Friday, April 23, 2004


Toronto:  In its motion requesting the right to intervene in the Supreme
Court of Canada hearing on same-sex marriage, The United Church of
Canada has outlined the following positions on each of the four
questions before the court.

Question 1: Is the Proposal for an Act respecting certain aspects of
legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes within the exclusive
legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada?
Yes.  The legislation is within the exclusive authority of the
Parliament of Canada under Section 91(26) of the Constitution Act, 1867.
The term "marriage" as used in s.91(26) was not "frozen in time" as of
1867 but, rather, must adapt to changing circumstances.
Question 2: If the answer to question 1 is yes, is section 1 of the
proposal, which extends capacity to marry to persons of the same sex,
consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
Yes.  Extending the right to marry to same-sex couples is consistent
with the equality rights enshrined in s.15 of the Charter.  The
extension of marriage to same-sex couples recognizes same-sex
relationships as no less deserving of societal recognition, dignity and
respect than opposite-sex relationships.  The United Church can put a
human face on the equality aspect of the arguments before the court and
on the impact on families of not recognizing the human dignity of
same-sex couples and their families.  As a community of faith reflecting
a broad breadth of Canadian society, the United Church is aware of the
wide range of theories and practices regarding marriage.  Theologically
and liturgically, the United Church understands both opposite-sex and
same-sex couples as enjoying the same rights and responsibilities
because all share the same human dignity of being made in the image of
God. The United Church will make submissions regarding the impact that
denial of the right to marry has on same-sex couples and families, and
will argue that extending the capacity to marry to same-sex couples
would send a positive message to all Canadians that, regardless of the
sex of the person one loves, that love will be valued, honoured, and
affirmed.United Church intervention..../2
Question 3: Does the freedom of religion guaranteed by paragraph 2(a) of
the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protect religious officials
from being compelled to perform a marriage between two persons of the
same sex that is contrary to their religious beliefs?
Yes. The right to religious freedom guaranteed by section 2(a) of the
Charter does not permit legislation that would compel religious
officials to perform marriages that do not conform to their religious
beliefs.  The United Church itself recognizes that the decision whether
to perform same-sex marriages must be made on a
congregation-by-congregation basis within the Church. The United Church
also believes that accommodation of these competing rights can co-exist
within the framework of Canadian society. The United Church is also in a
truly unique position to speak to the issue of religious freedom.  As a
community of faith, the United Church's polity acknowledges the
religious freedom of congregations to determine their own practices
regarding equal marriage, providing for the conscientious objection of
those who do not wish to pursue this option at this time.  We do not
believe that the faith stance of a congregation that supports equal
marriage undermines the religious freedom of a congregation that does
not.  This is a unique perspective in the country. The United Church
will argue that civil recognition of equal marriage can co-exist with
religious freedom in much the same way as civil recognition of a
person's right to marry after divorce currently co-exists with the right
of religious officials to refuse to marry divorced persons.
Question 4: Is the opposite-sex requirement for marriage for civil
purposes, as established by the common law and set out for Quebec in s.
5 of the Federal Law - Civil Law Harmonization Act, No. 1, consistent
with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?  If not, in what
particulars and to what extent?
No.  The opposite-sex requirement for civil marriage discriminates on
the basis of sexual orientation contrary to section 15 of the Charter.
Only the extension of full civil marriage to same-sex couples will
remedy this breach.  Any different or separate form of recognition of
same-sex relationships would send the message that same-sex
relationships are somehow less worthy than opposite-sex relationships
and would debase and demean the inherent dignity of the individual that
is the basis of the equality guarantee of the Charter. Moreover, dual
systems of relationship recognition predicated on sexual orientation
could provide the basis for more intense, focussed and targeted group
For further information, please contact:
Mary-Frances Denis
Communications Officer
416-231-7680 ext. 2016 (business)


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