TORONTO, Ont. Feb. 1, 2005 – The Catholic Civil Rights League ( says the federal government’s proposed marriage legislation, which had first reading in the House of Commons today, is an ideal opportunity for the Martin government to practice what it preaches on freedom of religion and conscience by allowing a completely free vote on the Bill.

“All Canadians are entitled to have their religious and conscientious beliefs respected, and the protection afforded to religious groups with respect to solemnization of marriage is a small part of the bigger picture,” said Phil Horgan, president of CCRL. “Prime Minister Martin’s plan to require the cabinet to vote with the government tramples on the religious and conscience rights of those ministers, their constituents, and probably any parliamentarians who aspire to a cabinet post.”

“We urge the majority of Canadians who do not want marriage re-defined to continue to make their views known to their MPs. We will publicize how MPs vote, and hold them accountable at the next election.” 

Bill C-38, introduced in the House of Commons today, would extend legal capacity for civil marriage to same sex couples. It includes amendments to eight other federal statues, changing the definition of spouse in such areas as business corporations and cooperatives, divorce and income tax law and benefits and obligations law.

Noting that the proposed law fails, as CCRL expected, to address numerous freedom of religion and freedom of conscience concerns, Mr. Horgan said the proposed law ignores the beliefs of the majority of Canadians who do not want the traditional definition of marriage changed.

“Moreover, the guarantee that religious groups can continue to solemnize marriages as they see fit affords no protection to marriage commissioners and others involved with civil marriages who do not support same sex “marriage”. We know that this is a provincial matter, but we also know that some direction from Ottawa would be influential.

“If marriage is re-defined, as this government is determined to do, it will raise a whole range of concerns for freedom of religion and conscience in education about marriage, and the use of Church-owned property. The case in B.C., where a Knights of Columbus council is being challenged for canceling a hall rental for a lesbian “wedding” reception, is only the first of many such challenges.”

About CCRL

The Catholic Civil Rights League ( assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.

For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244