TORONTO, Ont. Feb. 24, 2005 – The Catholic Civil Rights League (ccrl.ca) reacted today with disappointment at the strategy employed by the Ontario Liberal government to pass without serious analysis legislation to amend more than 70 Ontario statutes to redefine “spouse” to include same sex partners.
“The bill is expected to be the subject of an unrecorded voice vote, rather than having MPPs held accountable to legislation to redefine historically understood relationships. Recent polling data has confirmed that most Ontarians do not support the redefinition of marriage. That issue is the subject of intense debate on Parliament Hill. However, Queen’s Park has chosen to bypass citizens by passing extensive legislation as merely a technical application of judge-made law, rather than engaging in real debate about the issue,” noted CCRL President Phil Horgan.
“Passing this bill without serious review and analysis will lead to further problems. Even in its current form, and leaving aside that most Ontarians do not agree with the re-definition of marriage, the bill could do much more to protect religious education and conscience rights in the face of court ordered changes. The draft suggests that many of these issues will be left to the vagaries of the provincial Human Rights Commission, which has not been a safe haven in the past for those with religious or conscientious convictions”, added Mr. Horgan.
Bill 171, introduced Tuesday in the Ontario Legislature, changes the definition of “spouse” in a wide range of Ontario statutes that touch upon marriage in some way, such as those governing business corporations, tenancies, estates and rules of evidence. It includes a provision that religious officials cannot be compelled to perform marriages “or use their sacred places” for the celebration of marriages that are inconsistent with their religious beliefs.
The legislation is an example of the further ramifications to a whole host of legal relationships demanded by judges who have taken it upon themselves to redefine marriage.
“The necessary but modest attention to religious officials and property rights is insufficient to safeguard religious education, religious organizations and conscience rights within other areas of provincial jurisdiction, said Mr. Horgan. We urge the government to provide clarity on these questions now, and urge it to reconsider the urgency of passing such an extensive piece of legislation without public input.”
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) 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; firstname.lastname@example.org