Court rules on marriage

Published January 1, 2005

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Ottawa can redefine marriage to include same-sex marriages but that it cannot compel religious officials to perform such weddings if they are against their beliefs.

The court issued the non-binding ruling after its opinion was sought in 2003 by former prime minister Jean Chrétien as Ottawa considered changing the definition of marriage to the “lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of others” rather than the “lawful union of one man and one woman.” Same-sex marriages are legal in seven provinces and territories.

Mr. Chrétien had asked the court its opinion on whether Parliament has the legal right to define marriage, if the proposed legislation supports the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and whether churches could be protected from having to perform same-sex marriages if they ran contrary to their beliefs.

In recent years, the Anglican Church of Canada has been debating whether to bless same-sex relationships but it continues to define marriage as between a man and a woman.


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