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No guarantee to protect religious groups under Canadian same-sex marriage bill

.- Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said last week that he cannot guarantee full protection to religious organizations that refuse to marry homosexuals under the Liberal government’s same-sex marriage legislation, reported the Canadian Press. Churches will not be forced to perform same-sex weddings, but it's beyond his legal reach to protect provincial marriage commissioners or religious organizations who turn away same-sex couples, Cotler said June 8.

In Canada, the federal government has the jurisdication to define marriage, but provincial governments have the jurisdiction over the solemnization of marriage. In other words, provincial governments grant marriage licenses and marriage commissioners answer to provincial governments.

Marriage commissioners in several provinces, including Manitoba, Newfoundland, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan, have resigned in recent months after receiving orders to perform same-sex unions against their beliefs.

According to the CP report, Conservative justice critic Vic Toews said Cotler must work with the provinces to enact “corresponding legislation that will protect religious organizations and those who object to same-sex marriage for reasons of conscience."

"Faith-based groups are not all that confident if their rights are going to be left up to the courts," said Derek Rogusky, spokesman for Focus on the Family Canada, reportedly said.

Equality protections tend to trump religious freedoms in court battles over homosexual rights, he pointed out.

Curently, the bill is in parliamentary committee hearings, but it is expected to pass in the House of Commons before summer recess.

If it becomes law, Canada would be the third country, after the Netherlands and Belgium, to legalize same-sex marriage.

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