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Religious Leaders from Diverse Faiths Speak Out in Favour of Equal Marriage Bill

The Reverend Canon Garth E. Bulmer, Rector of the Anglican Church of St John the Evangelist said today:

“As priest of an Anglican parish with many gay and lesbian couples, I welcome the government’s initiative in legalizing same sex marriage. Since the Ontario ruling several weeks ago I have received many requests from gay and lesbian couples for marriage. While I am disappointed that my own church will not yet allow me to preside at same sex marriages, I see no cause for concern by faith traditions or individual clergy who fear that the legislation will force them to act against their consciences. At present, each church maintains its own laws regarding who is eligible for marriage. Churches remain free to impose these conditions.”

 

“The responsible leadership and courage that the Chrétien government has demonstrated in making this announcement, is most encouraging,” said the Moderator of the United Church of Canada, the Right Rev. Dr. Marion Pardy.

 

“The United Church at its 37th General Council in 2000 affirmed that human sexual orientations, whether heterosexual or homosexual, are a gift from God and part of the marvelous diversity of creation,” said United Church Minister Alyson Huntly, speaking on behalf of the United Church of Canada General Council Office. “Within the United Church, it is the decision of the local congregation, in consultation with the minister, to set policies about whom they will marry. This freedom is amply protected by the proposed legislation.”

 

“We celebrate the federal decision to allow same sex marriages,” added Sue Taylor, a Minister with First United Church, an Affirming Congregation of the United Church of Canada, that has been performing Holy Unions and Covenanting services for same sex couples for some time. “This is a decision that brings joy and justice and equality to all same sex couples wishing to marry. Many formerly covenanted couples have now come forward to re-state their vows and be legally recognized in marriage. They do this with a profound sense of love, celebration, rightness and justice and the full support of the congregation.”

 

“With the passage of this Bill, all United Church clergy will be free to choose whether or not to marry same-sex couples,” said the Rev. Dr. Steven Chambers, Executive Minister, Faith Formation and Education for the United Church of Canada. “We are supremely confident that this freedom is protected by the Charter, and that no clergy will be compelled by law to perform a marriage that goes against their faith.”

 

“Religions which respect the dignity and worth of people and the diversity of creation will welcome same sex couples as families and joyously celebrate same sex marriages,” said Rev. Brian Kopke, Parish Minister of the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, who has already performed a number of weddings for same-sex couples. “The Gods and Goddesses of creation have gladly given us all kinds of people to challenge us in the practice of love and fairness. Unitarian Universalists proudly accept this challenge fully supporting the marriage of two loving committed adults regardless of their sexual orientation.”

 

The Canadian Coalition of Liberal Rabbis for Same-Sex Marriage, comprising 25 Reform and Reconstructionist clergy, intervened in support of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples before the Courts.

 

Rabbi Debra Landsberg, the Coalition’s chairwoman and a rabbi at Temple Emanu-el, said “There are many members of the coalition who support the civil right to marriage but differentiate that from the religious question of marriage.”

 

“The government’s proposed Bill couldn’t be clearer,” added Kenneth W. Smith, a lawyer who represented the Canadian Coalition of Liberal Rabbis for Same-Sex Marriage before the Courts. “The Bill explicitly refers only to civil marriage. It explicitly protects religious freedom. And as if that weren’t enough, the federal government is asking the highest court in the land to confirm, once and for all, that religious freedom is fully protected. This will completely address the concerns raised by those opposing this legislation. While opponents of the legislation are entitled to their point of view, these groups have no right to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of society. Some faiths wish to recognize same-sex marriage, others do not. True religious freedom requires that the perspectives of all faiths be equally respected.”

 

Even some rabbis who do not wish to officiate at same-sex Jewish weddings dismissed claims that religious representatives could be forced to marry same-sex couples against their will:

 

“No Conservative rabbi has had a same-sex ceremony, and I don’t know of any who are planning to,” said Rabbi Roy Tanenbaum of Beth Tzedec Congregation, Canada’s largest Conservative synagogue, who also heads the Canadian wing of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly. “I don’t see why I should suddenly feel compelled to marry anyone when I’ve never felt compelled to marry anyone before.”

 

Rob Hughes of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) submitted a brief to the federal Justice Committee, saying:

 

“The most important unit of our Quaker structure is the Monthly Meeting. The approval of a marriage has always been the responsibility of the Monthly Meeting the request is made to. Several of our Monthly Meetings have come to unity in deciding that it is consistent with Friends’ historical faith and testimonies to adopt a single standard of treatment and care for all committed relationships in the meeting and have celebrated same-sex weddings, but not all Meetings have yet reached the unity needed to proceed. No-one need feel threatened by the federal legislation, which affirms the principle of equality while protecting religious freedom.”

 

Rev. Joel Crouse, a Lutheran pastor in Ottawa, agrees:

 

“This is a case of compatible, not competing freedoms. Giving same-sex couples the right to marry should not be seen as a threat to a church’s right to choose which couples it marries inside its doors. In fact, wherever we stand on this issue, this is the kind of diversity of opinion—and freedom of choice—that we should celebrate, and protect, in Canada.”

 

CONTACTS
Reverend Canon Garth E. Bulmer
Rector of the Anglican Church of St John the Evangelist
613-232-4500

Alyson Huntly
United Church Minister
United Church of Canada General Council Office
613-841-2354

Sue Taylor
First United Church Minister
613-232-1016

The Rev. Dr. Steven J. Chambers
Executive Minister, Theology and Faith
United Church of Canada
416-231-5931; 416-231-7680 x 4126

Rev. Brian Kopke
Parish Minister of the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa
613-725-1066

Kenneth W. Smith
Lawyer for the Canadian Coalition of Liberal Rabbis for Same-Sex Marriage
604-683-4176

Rob Hughes
Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
604-683-4176

Rev. Joel Crouse
Lutheran pastor
613-749-6953