Court Says Canada Can Allow Same-Sex "Marriage"

Bishops Note Freedom-of-Religion Stipulation

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OTTAWA, DEC. 9, 2004 ( The Supreme Court of Canada gave the federal government the go-ahead to legalize homosexual marriage, though the nation’s Catholic bishops found some solace in the decision.

Members of the episcopate in statement said they «welcome the strong affirmation by the Supreme Court of Canada today in its decision on the marriage reference in which it indicates that ‘The protection of freedom of religion afforded by s. 2(a) of the Charter is broad and jealously guarded in our Charter jurisprudence.'»

«We are pleased that religious officials are protected ‘from being compelled by the state to perform civil or religious same-sex marriages that are contrary to their religious beliefs,'» the conference said. «This judgment confirms that freedom of religion also prevents ‘the compulsory use of sacred places for the celebration of such marriages.'»

Following the court decision, Prime Minister Paul Martin announced plans to introduce a redefinition of marriage early next year.

The court refused a government request to say the Canadian Constitution required the legalization of homosexual marriage, taking away a political weapon that would have made it easier to push its draft bill through Parliament, Reuters reported.

«The Catholic Church will continue to celebrate the sacrament of marriage as the union of a man and a woman,» the Canadian bishops said in their statement. «We expect freedom of conscience and religion to be respected by federal, provincial and territorial governments, so that no one is compelled to act contrary to his or her beliefs.»

«We note that the Supreme Court did not address the fourth question regarding the opposite-sex requirement of marriage, thus inviting Parliament to decide,» the statement said. «We urge Members of Parliament to have a full, informed and vigorous debate on this issue, and we ask there be a free vote so that all members may vote according to their conscience.»

It added: «We continue to affirm that marriage is a loving, life-giving partnership between a man and a woman. Its purpose is the good of the couple and the procreation and education of children — and thus necessary for the survival of society.

«As the committed and stable relationship of a man and a woman, marriage is basic to the stability of society and family life. Insofar as it is a social institution, marriage is concerned with the common good, not individual rights.»

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