Monday, October 30, 2006

Most Canadians support gay marriage legislation review - COMPAS

Anyone who reads both the National Post and this blog knows that I wouldn't be able to resist discussing this morning's front page story "Don't force clergy to marry gays, majority say".

According to a recent COMPAS poll, a "majority of Canadians believe marriage commissioners should be allowed to refuse to perform a same-sex marriage if it is against their religious beliefs", provided there are enough marriage commissioners available for same-sex unions.

72% of those contacted for the survey saying that clergy should have the right not to marry a same-sex couple if it runs counter to their beliefs.

First of all, the title of the story is confusing and misleading, because a religious official's right to refuse to perform a same-sex marriage is supposedly already covered by the June 2005 gay marriage bill, although it is my understanding that since this is a provincial jurisdiction, it needs to be ratified by each individual province as was already done by Ontario. Alberta was attempting to do so when the bill was bogged down in the legislature due to disagreements with the opposition.

Marriage 'commissioners' are not necessarily members of the clergy.

However, I found this part surprising:

The poll posed a number of hypothetical situations to the 502 people surveyed, asking them if a teacher should be allowed to write a letter to the editor opposing the same-sex law or if a printer should have the right to refuse to print a brochure for a gay group.

In both cases, the respondents to the poll supported those rights, 68% saying the teacher should be allowed to write such a letter and 61% supporting the printer.

The poll also found a majority of Canadians favour a review of Ottawa's same-sex marriage law to ensure it does not infringe on freedom of religion, with 64% of those surveyed supporting a full or partial review of the existing same-sex marriage legislation "to make sure that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are fully protected."

So clearly there is some support for a DORA type of legislation.

The reference to marriage commissioners is a constant source of disagreement on both sides of this issue. The main problem seems to be the 'dog's breakfast' manner in which various provinces solemnize marriage, so it is difficult to pass federal legislation that pertains to any area so clearly not under its purview. Some provinces have civil marriages only performed by government employees and others such as Manitoba grant marriage commissioner licences to anyone over the age of 18; even for a weekend. This is then kind of a part-time position for them, and they are not civil servants.

Such is the case of Kevin Kisilowsky, the Manitoba marriage commissioner who got his licence revoked because he refused to perform same-sex marriages due to religious beliefs.

Kisilowsky is appealing a Manitoba Human Rights Commission decision which dismissed his case where he argued that he was being discriminated against because the province refused to accommodate his religious beliefs. The only marriages he could not opt out of were gay marriages.

There is such a confusing hodge-podge of legislation across the country, that I'm not sure how this can all be resolved fairly. Personally, I think that any civil employee who was a marriage commissioner prior to the gay marriage law should be excused from being forced to perform such ceremonies. New employees however, should be made aware of the new law before signing on. (IMHO)

However when it comes to situations such as that with Mr. Kisilowsky, the issue of balancing various rights becomes much more difficult. I really do feel though, that a marriage commissioner who is not a civil employee should be able to opt out, provided that there are enough willing to accomodate a gay couple.

Clearly, this debate is far from over.

* * * *

Update: More information on the COMPAS poll available here (PDF) and at Institute for Canadian Values.


Joanne (True Blue) said...

Now I'm going to save Red Tory a few keystrokes here:

Again you find yourself in great company there Joanne.

Now, do you have anything new to add, Red?

Sara said...

I'm for gay marriage but just like it says, not to force it upon anyone...

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I could live with that, Sara, if you mean not forcing anyone to perform the ceremony.

Cherniak_WTF said...

The actual question and answer that you site is:
So long as there are enough marriage commissioners available for gay marriages, should individual commissioners be allowed not to officiate at gay marriages if this is against their religious beliefs?
The answer was of "definitely" T=39, M=40, F=37...

Hardly the numbers you seems to be pushing.

When it comes to a minister, rabbi, iman or other clergy, and the refusal to SSM (a right that already exits), the numbers were in favor, but I'm surprised by the strong belief that priests should be forced to marry SSM...

X Liberal said...

" I really do feel though, that a marriage commissioner who is not a civil employee should be able to opt out, provided that there are enough willing to accomodate a gay couple."

Considering the passing of Bill C-38 stipulated protection for marriage commissioners people like Mr. Kisilowsky should not even be in the predicament he is in. His religious rights and freedoms are supposed to be protected under the charter.

The whole problem with the re-defining marriage bill was that it was flawed before it even got off the ground. Because, as you say, marriage laws are under Provincial jurisdiction this now allows for Provincial Governments to literally hand tie the Charter and render it useless. In Mr. Kisilowsky's case the Charter that guarantees protection for each and every single Canadian as a private citizen thus far has failed him. All due to Provincial manipulation of their jurisdiction. Who would have thought there would be a day where Provincial Governments could override the Charter? Where a Provincial power could oppress the will and the rights of it's people and get away it?

As a resident of Manitoba I have been following this story closely with great interest. Mr. Kisilowsky has been on talk radio recently out here and it sounds like he has a very strong case. According to his reports, (and they are available for public record since he filed to the Queens Bench) the Manitoba Human Rights Commission found a basis for Prima Facie in his complaint and yet dismissed it anyway agreeing with the Province that this would cause them undue hardship. :p

Obviously a bias decision considering the Province did not only lack the evidence to support it's claim but also the reality that Mr. Kisilowsky resides in a town of 4,000 people and they were seven other commissioners available to perform these services. Out of 600 in the entire Province only 2 (including Mr. Kisilowsky) were the only one's who even filed against the Province. Where exactly is the "undue hardship" in that? Not to mention precedent. Quebec, New Brunswick, and British Columbia have all been able to accommodate their marriage commissioners without any claims of undue hardship. For the amount of homosexuals who even want to marry, undue hardship for the Province of Manitoba would essentially mean that Mr. Kisilowsky would have to be only of two commissioners in the entire Province.

Apparently marriage commissioners, at least in Manitoba, prior to gay legalization of gay marriage were always allowed discretion with heterosexual couples BUT not with homosexuals. Clearly this is not a case about protecting Mr. Kisilowsky's fundamental rights and freedoms but about a governmental kangaroo court deciding on what is Politically Correct thing to do.

If he loses this case we should all be concerned about our fundamental freedoms.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

X-Lib, you have made some excellent points. Somehow the provinces seem to have the power to usurp Charter rights based on their own political agenda.

How very interesting.

Considering the passing of Bill C-38 stipulated protection for marriage commissioners people like Mr. Kisilowsky should not even be in the predicament he is in.

Do you have a particular reference from C-38 amendments here? Thanks.

Sara said...

I could live with that, Sara, if you mean not forcing anyone to perform the ceremony.

I they don't want to do it I wouldn't want to force them.

I wouldn't want to force gays to live like straight people either. Equality goes both ways.

x liberal said...

Actually yes I do. Section 3.1 of the Civil Marriage act was added during parlimentary committee hearings for the sake of people in Mr. Kisilowsky's position. It reads:

3.1 For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.

This amendment was added after Mr. Kisilowsky (and other's) challenged the C-38 on Charter ramifications and violations of religious rights and freedoms.

Going from memory here, but if you check the Handsard notes online during these committee hearings, he also pointed out to Don Boudria (who offered the amendments) that they would have no impact on Provincial jurisdiction.

The Liberals knew full well in advance prior to the passing of this bill that there was indeed no protection for Canadian citizen's as individuals regardless of what the Charter and the amendments to the bill say. Essentially what we have here is 2 paper tigers with no teeth.

These additions served no other purpose then public appeasement. Most people who do not play close attention to the matter would simply look at it vaguely and "believe" that everyone was looked after. It was all smoke and mirrors. Now we have Canadians (such as Mr. Kisilowsky)in the dubious position of having to fight to keep their own rights that are supposedly gauranteed under the Charter.

This legislation is an abuse of the Charter and Canadians, regardless of which side of the fence they are on, should be very concerned when we see our own Charter failing those it was designed to protect.

Not to mention it is abuse on the part of Provincial Governments who, by all standards, are intentionally discriminating against these people to appease special interest groups.

x liberal said...


I also think another important thing to consider is would a homosexual couple even want to be married by someone who does not want to marry them?

Neither party benefits from that.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Equality goes both ways.


Joanne (True Blue) said...

X-Lib, that is shocking. I must admit I was taken in myself with those amendments. So it was all window-dressing.

Man, have we been duped!

X Liberal said...

This is precisely why the whole can of worms needs to be re-opened.

A more thorough debate in the house would have eventually brought this all out and it is quite possible the Liberals at the time would have began to lose public support for the passing of the bill.

For the sake of basic fundamental freedoms in Canada this issue MUST be re-opened and properly addressed.

It would be interesting to hear from those who supported all of this and yet were unaware of these potential circumstances that hve now been developing. Mr. Kisilowsky is not the only case in Canada but it is one of the strongest and win or lose his case will have a national impact of precedent setting proportions.

According to the Charter, The Civil Marriage act, and even the Manitoba Human Rights code he is well within his "rights" to be standing up to this injustice. By the way they all read he actually should have been automatically accomodated not appearing before the courts.