It is illogical to appeal a decision the Committee agrees with! We know that many Committee-members support equal marriage, but want to protect religious freedom. This is exactly what the B.C. Court of Appeal decided:
“The equality rights of same-sex couples do not displace the rights of religious groups to refuse to solemnize same-sex marriages which do not accord with their religious beliefs.” (para. 133)
Appealing the BC decision would be an abdication of leadership. Many Committee-members and witnesses have expressed the view that Parliament, not the Courts, should be deciding these fundamental policy issues – yet the Committee is considering once again waiting for the Courts to tell them what to do!
It is transparent that Committee-members who disagree with equal marriage view an appeal as a chance to keep delaying the process. At last week’s meeting, for example, Mr. O’Brien was frank in saying that he wanted to see an appeal to the Supreme Court – but supports the use of the notwithstanding clause if the Court finds in favour of equal marriage! What then would be gained by an appeal?
All Liberal leadership candidates and a number of Opposition Leaders oppose an appeal. In last week’s meeting, there were different views about the position of Paul Martin, MP. Mr. Martin’s statement to Egale is attached and acknowledges that, subject to a successful outcome in the upcoming Ontario Court of Appeal decision, there should be “no more appeals”.
There are other alternatives!
This Committee can act promptly to make its recommendations on the substantive issues.
The Minister will then be able to be guided by the Committee’s recommendations in deciding whether or not to appeal the B.C. case by the end of June.
The Minister will then have more than a year to implement legislation. If more time is required, he can always seek an extension of time. In the Manitoba Language Reference case, the Manitoba Legislature was given one year to translate its laws, failing which they would become invalid. The Legislature returned to the Supreme Court three times seeking an extension, and in each case one was granted.
The Court made clear that it will respect the legislative timetable, so long as Parliament is acting diligently and in good faith to meet its constitutional obligations.
A Statement by the Honourable Paul Martin, Member of Parliament for LaSalle-LaSalle-Émard:
“Recently the Court of Appeal of British Columbia has found that legislation which reserves the rights and obligations of marriage only for opposite-sex couples fails to recognize fundamental equality rights. This decision was consistent with the findings of lower courts in Ontario and Quebec. The Ontario decision has been appealed to the Court of Appeal, which has already heard arguments and is currently writing its judgment.
If that lower court decision is upheld, with the result that Courts of Appeal have clearly determined that this is a matter of rights, then, subject to further guidance on any remaining legal issues that will come with the Ontario court’s judgment, Parliament should act.
That means no more appeals.
That means, as the courts have suggested, legislating change and with the benefit of the recommendations from the Parliamentary Committee that has been studying the matter in detail.
Any legislation should affirm that no church, synagogue, mosque or religious institution can be forced to act outside its faith.”