July 19, 2005 – Senate votes 47 – 21 with three abstentions to pass Bill C-38, making Canada the fourth country in the world, after Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain, to allow homosexual “marriage.” Royal assent follows July 20.
June 28, 2005 – The House of Commons adopts Bill C-38, which will make same sex “marriage” legal at the federal level if the Senate approves it.
May 31, 2005 CCRL appears before the Legislative Committee on Bill C-38 to express support for the traditional definition of marriage. Our complete submission emphasizes the risks to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience if Bill C-38 is passed.
February 1, 2005 Bill C-38, which calls for civil marriage to be extended to same sex couples, is introduced in the House of Commons.
December 9, 2004 The Supreme Court rules that Parliament is within its Charter rights to change the definition of marriage to include two persons of the same sex, and that Charter rights also guarantee religious groups the freedom to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies not in keeping with their beliefs. The Court refuses to rule on whether the opposite-sex requirement for marriage is constitutional. Further action on this question requires the introduction and debate of legislation in the House of Commons. CCRL members are urged to contact their MPs with their views (See addresses, below).
October, 2004 The Interfaith Coalition presents its case in favour of the traditional definition of marriage (see factum, right) at the Supreme Court of Canada. The hearings were called when the federal government referred questions about its draft legislation to the Court for an opinion on its constitutionality. Hearings were held over several days, and included groups on both sides of the marriage debate.
June, 2004 A postcard campaign organized by Senator Ann Cools attracts participation from many organizations, including CCRL, whose members generated some 25,000 messages of support for traditional marriage.
March 19, 2004 Quebec Court of Appeal refuses to hear appeal from CCRL and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada on same sex marriage case in that province.
On November 25, 2003, The Catholic Civil Rights League as part of an Interfaith Coalition applied for leave to intervene in the Supreme Court of Canada reference from the federal government on its proposed same-sex marriage legislation. See intervention arguments (pdf).
On September 16, 2003, the Canadian Alliance put forward a motion calling on Parliament to recommit itself to upholding the proper opposite-sex definition of marriage. The motion presented was identical to that passed by overwhelming majority in 1999. See below. In a wholesale negation of their prior commitment, many MPs voted down the very motion they supported a few years earlier and the Alliance motion was narrowly defeated (Votes: For=132 Against=137). See how your MP voted.
As of June 28, 2005, when the House of Commons voted to adopt Bill C-38, communication with MPs should emphasize your concerns with the implementation of this law and the lack of a free vote for cabinet ministers and members representing the NDP. Remind your MP that you will remember this issue in the next election. If (s)he voted against C-38, thank him or her for supporting the traditional definition of marriage.
To see where your MP stands on the issue see http://www.marriagecanada.ca
In any communication with parliamentarians, remember that they receive a great deal of mail and e-mail. Yours will have the best chance of being read if it is succinct and courteous. Following are the addresses of the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice:
The Right Honourable Paul Martin
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
The Honourable Dr. Irwin Cotler
Minister of Justice
900 Justice Building
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
Phone: (613) 995-0121
Find your Member of Parliament:
Since 1995, there have been several Supreme Court cases dealing directly with the issue of homosexuality (Egan v. Canada, M v. H., Vriend v. Alberta). The cases have seen the Court accept the specious claim that “sexual orientation” is analogous to the designations of race, colour, and religion, in the Charter of Rights, and, as such, that homosexuals cannot be discriminated against on the bases of their “lifestyle.” For a more detailed history, see “The Judicial Imposition of ‘Gay’ rights,” by Rory Leishman.
In response to these court decisions, the Government of Canada passed Bill C-78, known as “The Pension Bill with Domestic Partner Benefits,” in May 1999. This bill gave same-sex couples the same rights and pension benefits as opposite-sex couples by defining “conjugal relationships” to include homosexual relationships.
In June of 1999, recognizing that these moves appeared to erode the clear understanding of marriage as exclusively opposite-sex, the Reform party put forward a resolution reaffirming that Parliament defined marriage as the “union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others,” and called upon Parliament to “take all necessary steps within the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada to preserve this definition of marriage in Canada.” This resolution received majority support in the House (Votes: For=216 Against=55). See how your MP voted.
Since that time, Bill C-23, The Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act, which extended same-sex couples all the benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex common-law couples, was debated in the house. After intense pressure, Anne McLellan, then Minister of Justice, amended the bill to ensure that it adhered to the Government of Canada’s commitment, of June 1999, to uphold the traditional definition of marriage. This amendment ensured that nothing in Bill C-23 affects the meaning of marriage, which remained “the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.” This bill also received majority support in the House and was passed into Law (Votes: For =176 Against=72).
EGALE (Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere) orchestrated three provincial court challenges to the opposite-sex definition of marriage beginning in 2000. The initial BC decision upheld marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. While the Ontario and Quebec Courts ruled that marriage needs to be redefined to include homosexual unions. All three decisions were appealed in 2002. (The Catholic Civil Rights League was actively involved as an intervener in each of these cases and continued to defend marriage at the appeals level.)
In reaction to these initial rulings, the Minister of Justice, Martin Cauchon, ordered that hearings be conducted on the issue. The Justice Committee of the House of Commons, beginning in March 2003, held hearings on marriage in 15 cities across Canada. To this end the Minister released a discussion paper titled “Marriage & Legal Recognition of Same-sex Unions.” Individuals and organizations had an opportunity to make written submissions and to appear before the committee in person. Many excellent defences of marriage were presented.
The decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal was released May 1, 2003. Ruling that the traditional understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others, is unconstitutional, the court has given Parliament until July 2004 to redefine marriage to include homosexual couples.
The decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal was released June 10, 2003. This decision went further than the previous courts’ decisions and redefined marriage to be “The voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others”.
As of June 19, 2003, the federal government declared that it would not appeal the courts’ imposed redefinition of marriage as “the voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others”.
On July 17, 2003, the federal government released draft legislation endorsing the genderless definition of marriage as “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others”. The legislation is being sent to the Supreme Court to ensure that it is not susceptible to legal challenges and is expected to eventually be put to a free vote in the House of Commons. See Draft Legislation
On July 7, 2003 the Catholic Civil Rights League, in coalition with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, and Muslim and Jewish participants, sought leave from the Supreme Court of Canada to appeal the June 10, 2003 decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal, that allowed gay marriages in Ontario. See press release
On Sept. 16th, 2003 Parliament narrowly defeated a Canadian Alliance motion echoing the government’s commitment of June 1999 (see above) to uphold marriage as the union of one man and one woman. (Votes: For=132 Against=137) See how your MP voted on this critical issue.
On October 9, 2003 the Supreme Court of Canada announced its refusal to hear an appeal of the Ontario court decision by the Catholic Civil Rights League and its partners in the Interfaith Coalition. In keeping with its usual practice, the Court did not provide any reasons. See Press Release
The Catholic Civil Rights League, along with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, continued an appeal of the decision of Quebec Superior Court to redefine marriage. This application was heard on January 26, 2004.
As part of the Interfaith Coalition the CCRL was granted intervention status in the federal government’s Supreme Court reference on its proposed same-sex marriage legislation January 23, 2004. See intervention arguments (pdf).
The Minister of Justice, Irwin Cotler, added a fourth question to the Supreme Court marriage reference on January 28th, 2004. The new question reads: 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, S.C. 2001, c. 4, consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? If not, in what particular or particulars and to what extent? See CCRL response.
On Dec. 9, 2004, the SCC ruled that Parliament is within its Charter rights to change the definition of marriage to include two persons of the same sex, and that Charter rights also guarantee religious groups the freedom to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies not in keeping with their beliefs. The Court refuses to rule on whether the opposite-sex requirement for marriage is constitutional.
Bill C-38, which calls for civil marriage to be extended to same sex couples, was introduced in the House of Commons Feb. 1, 2005, and passed second reading May 4 by a vote of 164 to 137. Committee hearings followed. Witnesses included representatives from the CCRL and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. In its report top the House of Commons, the committee recommended, and MPs accepted two amendments to strengthen freedom of religion. However, most of the implementation issues raised by Bill C-38 are under provincial jurisdiction. On June 28, 2005, the House of Commons voted to adopt Bill C-38 by a vote of 158 to 133.