TORONTO - Christian groups immediately shot flares of criticism against the Ontario appeals court ruling Tuesday that lifted Canada’s ban on homosexual marriages. The panel declared the current definition of marriage – “"the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman" – violates homosexuals’ human rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"The restriction against same-sex marriage is an offense to the dignity of lesbians and gays because it limits the range of relationship options available to them," wrote Justice Harry LaForme. "The result is they are denied the autonomy to choose whether they wish to marry. This in turn conveys the ominous message that they are unworthy of marriage. . . . I find that there is no merit to the argument that the rights and interests of heterosexuals would be affected by granting same-sex couples the freedom to marry. I cannot conclude that freedom of religion would be threatened or jeopardized by legally sanctioning same-sex marriage."
The 61-page decision was the latest in a series of court rulings supporting homosexual marriages. Last month, the British Columbia Court of Appeal also ruled that the definition of marriage must be changed, but gave the government until July 12, 2004, to implement it, saying that otherwise, it would rewrite the legal definition of marriage to read "the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others."
A Quebec Superior Court judge issued a similar ruling last fall. However, Tuesday’s ruling was effective instantly, unlocking Pandora’s box as dozens of homosexual couples across the nation flocked to be legally recognized.
"This is a moment that we've been dreaming for a long time," said Michael Stark, 45, standing arm-in-arm with partner Michael Leshner, 55.
Leshner, a lawyer, said it would be impossible for Canada to return to the limited definition of marriage regardless of whether the government appeals.
"The argument's over," he said. "No more political discussion, we've won. ... It's a great day for Canada."
Christian groups however, thought otherwise.
"This change in the common law is not an incremental step—today the court has fundamentally redefined marriage," said Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
"Other courts have ruled that redefining marriage is too big a step to be made by the courts and should properly be made by Parliament. . . . The redefinition of marriage will reduce it to a commitment between two people, and there are many relationships in society which would meet the new definition. Marriage will lose its distinctiveness."
Clemenger is particular dismayed with the court's reasoning. "Nowhere else in the world has a court ruled the heterosexual definition of marriage violates human rights," he said.
"It is not an appropriate use of the Charter to redefine pre-existing social, cultural and religious institutions. Section 15 of the Charter is to protect persons from discriminatory actions of the government, not to fundamentally refashion a basic institution like marriage," he continued.
Clemenger also expressed concern for the discrimination churches may face should they chose not to sanctify homosexual matrimony.
They already are, says Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America. "If you're a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim, your beliefs are under direct attack in Canada right now," she said. "This puts a true understanding of marriage on the wrong side of the law."
Focus on the Family Canada vice president Derek Rogusky focuses his complaint on judicial activism, saying it makes public opinion and political debate irrelevant.
"We'll be urging the federal Minister of Justice to appeal this decision so that the participation of thousands of Canadians will not have been a meaningless exercise," he promised.
Breakpoint’s Charles Colson urged Christians to grasp well-reasoned arguments on why homosexual marriages are unacceptable based on a biblical worldview.
“We and our neighbors can’t not know that marriage by nature is about procreation. And only a man and a woman together—two becoming one flesh—can procreate. Same-sex relationships can never be marriage,” said Colson. .”Gays and lesbians are not unworthy of marriage; they are incapable of marriage.”
“What has occurred in Canada adds fuel to the same-sex marriage movement. Now more than ever, Christians must make a well reasoned defense of marriage.”
By Pauline J.