TORONTO, Ont., January 19, 2005 – The Catholic Civil Rights League ( today called on federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler to reconsider his plans to introduce legislation changing the traditional definition of marriage.

In a letter to Dr. Cotler, CCRL President Philip Horgan noted that the proposed legislation, which would allow religious institutions to refuse to solemnize marriages not in keeping with their beliefs, still raises serious concerns for religious freedom. “The solemnization of individual marriage ceremonies is a relatively small part of how religions support marriage,” said Mr. Horgan. “They also teach it as an ideal, not only in church, temple or mosque, but also in marriage preparation, counselling programs and in schools, some of which are publicly funded. We have reason to fear backlash from all levels of government if such programs fail to recognize same sex marriages as legitimate or true marriages.”

Repeating the league’s call for a truly free vote on any marriage legislation, Mr. Horgan said the party “whip”, in which cabinet ministers will be required to vote for the legislation,  is in itself cause for misgiving. “Your willingness to override the consciences of your colleagues in government causes us to have some measure of concern over what steps your government or future governments might take in applying the far-reaching ramifications of this bill.”

CCRL has been involved in the fight to preserve marriage in all three provincial court challenges, and was a key member of the Interfaith Coalition that defended marriage at the Supreme Court hearings last fall. The league has already expressed its concerns to Prime Minister Martin. A poll CCRL co-sponsored with Enshrine Marriage Canada after the Supreme Court issued its decision in the marriage reference found that almost 60 per cent of Canadians do not want to see the definition of marriage changed. (League press releases, Dec. 20, 2004).

“The definition and social value of marriage is not a question of equality but is rather found within its historical and cultural foundations as the basis of family and society, and the ideal environment for the nurturing of children,” said Mr. Horgan in his letter. “For us, to fundamentally alter the nature of marriage is to undermine the family, especially in its role with children.”

About CCRL

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