Canadian Supreme Court Hears from Churches on Marriage Debate

The left-leaning United Church of Christ argued in favor of gay ''marriage'' before the Supreme Court; conservative denominations to file briefs
( [email protected] ) Oct 22, 2004 05:25 PM EDT

The United Church of Canada, one of the largest left-leaning denominations in North America, appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada to support the ¡°right¡± of gay couples to be ¡°married,¡± on Friday, October 22, 2004. The United Church of Canada, unlike most other traditional Canadian churches, have long since ¡°blessed¡± same-sex couples within the church walls and have opened the pulpit to homosexual pastors.

"A significant, unique contribution that the United Church brings to this debate is the denomination's own experience of making same-sex marriage ceremonies available to its members and, at the same time, respecting the right of those within the denomination who are opposed to such services," the General Secretary of the General Council, the Rev. Dr. Jim Sinclair said.

The United Church of Canada differs from most Christian denominations in its belief that homosexuality is a God-given ¡°right.¡±

"Theologically and liturgically, the United Church understands both opposite-sex and same-sex couples as sharing the same human dignity of being made in the image of God. There is therefore no theological impediment that would prevent same-sex couples from participating in this union, which is one of the fullest expressions of the covenant between God and humanity. To the contrary, excluding same-sex couples from this expression of the covenant relationship undermines their basic human dignity."

"The issue of same-sex marriage must be resolved in a civil, religious and moral context of respect for differing positions, with integrity, thereby leading to principled decisions based on a commitment to justice and law for all. Such decisions result in a more inclusive community, where healing of past divisions can occur, and where the total community becomes healthier and more enriched,¡± the Church of Canada¡¯s Oct. 22 factum states.

The majority of Christians heed to the biblical belief that homosexuality is a sin and a result of sin. Moreover, traditional Christians believe the legalization of homosexual ¡°marriage¡± will ultimately lead to the destruction of marriages as a whole.

Dozens of Canadian Christian groups, including the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Canadian Baptist Ministries, Focus on the Family Canada and the Catholic archdiocese of Canada, recently signed onto a statement that explains why traditional marriage must be protected.

¡°The commitment of Canadians to fairness, equality, and tolerance may entail the extension of legal recognition to various kinds of relationships beside that of marriage; indeed it has already done so. But that commitment will not be served by expropriating and reconfiguring an historic institution designed to meet the unique challenges and complexities of opposite-sex conjugal relationships. It would be better served by maintaining the existing institution of marriage and simultaneously affirming the federal government's right and obligation to recognize in appropriate ways those other forms of relationship which merit legal status across Canada. Canadians, whatever their faith or ethnic backgrounds, whatever their sexual orientation, should resist any approach that would undermine, rather than meaningfully develop and enrich, an institution so essential to the well-being of Canadians past, present and future,¡± the statement read.

Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, explained further his view on marriage in lieu of the Canadian Supreme Court¡¯s consideration of legalizing same-sex ¡°marriage.¡±

¡°Changing the definition of marriage refashions its meaning and eliminates many of its distinctive features,¡± said Clemenger earlier this month. ¡°If not marriage, what institution in society can we, as faith communities, promote that accomplishes what heterosexual marriage now does? What language can we use, and will we be afforded the public space to commend it to Canadians?¡±

Members of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops agreed with the EFC, stating, ``Because it [the definition of marriage] pre-exists the state and because it is fundamental for society, the institution of marriage cannot be modified, whether by the Charter of Rights, the state or a court of law,'' in its presentation to the court.

¡°Enlarging, and thereby altering, the definition of marriage in order to include same-sex partners discriminates against marriage and the family, and deprives them of social and legal recognition as the fundamental and irreplaceable basis of society,¡± the statement continued.

The court will hear 28 briefs on both sides of the contentious issue, before releasing an opinion.