.- In light of Canada’s recent legalization of homosexual marriage, legislators in Alberta are working to enact a new proposal aimed at protecting those who refuse to marry gays based on their moral convictions. At the moment, many fear that commissioners who are unwilling to perform the marriages based on their religious beliefs could be subject to the nation’s hate laws and accused of discrimination.
In order to protect the marriage commissioners, experts say that Section 33--or the so-called “notwithstanding clause”--of the Charter on Human Rights and Freedoms would have to be enacted.
Justice Minister Ron Stevens told the Edmonton Journal that, “We will do what we feel is necessary in that regard to protect the marriage commissioners and their religious beliefs…and if in fact that does require the notwithstanding clause it’s our intention to use it.”
Although it is not likely that the federal government would object to the move, based on the fact that the responsibility for officiating marriages falls on the shoulders of the individual provinces and territories, many are criticizing the act, saying that public service should come before religious belief.
A recent editorial piece in the Edmonton Journal said that, “In our 21st century world, sexual orientation is not a legitimate justification for treating people differently – and anarchy in the public service is not something to be encouraged.”
Others disagree however, as shown by another editorial in the Calgary Herald which read, “After thousands of years of exclusively heterosexual marriage, endorsed by the world's major religions, there should be no moral obligation upon even a government employee to perform a same-sex marriage against his religious beliefs.”
“It is one of the strengths of liberal democracies”, the editorial continued, “that they have a lengthy history of acknowledging the consciences of their citizens and employees. Men have been excused military service and nurses from assisting with abortions on exactly those grounds.”
Reports show that of the 220 licensed marriage commissioners in Canada, some 30% are either uneasy about, if not outright opposed to performing homosexual “marriages.”