Same-sex marriage hearings begin in Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada began its three-day hearings on same-sex marriage today. The court is expected to hear 28 briefs from both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage.

Opponents of the Liberal government’s same-sex marriage legislation include the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Focus on the Family, REAL Women and the Attorney General of Alberta.

The Attorney General of Canada, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the United Church of Canada sit on the pro side. Supporters are confident going in that the Supreme Court will side with them and support a number of lower court rulings in five provinces and one territory that found Canada’s current definition of marriage – as the union of one man and one woman – unconstitutional.

Their confidence was buoyed two days ago, when Justices Rosalie Abella and Louise Charron were sworn in on the Supreme Court. Both Abella and Charron have a track record of decisions in favor of homosexual rights.

In their brief, the Canadian bishops said the government does not have the authority to change the definition of marriage. “Because it pre-exists the state and because it is fundamental to society, the institution of marriage cannot be modified, whether by the Charter of Rights, the state or a court of law,” they said.

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

Similar arguments are presented in a new book in support of the traditional definition of marriage, called “Divorcing Marriage: Unveiling the Dangers in Canada’s New Social Experiment.” The book was edited by Daniel Cere and Douglas Farrow of McGill University. It was launched Sept. 21 in an effort to present last-minute academic, ethical and anthropological arguments, which can be considered in the public debate.

The final decision by the court is only expected in several months to a year. The legislation is then expected to be put to a free vote in the House of Commons.

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