Same-sex ‘marriage’ to become law in Canada by end of December, says justice minister

Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said the federal government will move quickly to legalize same-sex marriage by the end of December should the Supreme Court of Canada rule today that denying marriage rights to same-sex couples is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court is expected to announce its ruling on the matter latter today.

Cotler told reporters Wednesday after a Liberal caucus meeting that the government expects the Supreme Court to uphold Lower Court decisions that found the current definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman unconstitutional.

In 2003, Lower Courts in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec legalized same-sex marriage, which prompted the Liberal government of then-prime minister Jean Chretien to draft a law to legalize the unions. In July 2003, he referred this bill to the Supreme Court, asking it to decide whether Parliament could change the definition of marriage under the constitution.

The court is expected to respond to three questions: whether the definition can legally be expanded to include gays and lesbians; whether religious leaders are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights from having to marry same-sex couples; and, whether the existing opposite-sex requirement for marriage is constitutional.

Under the draft legislation, religious institutions would be allowed to define marriage as they like and would not be required to perform same-sex marriages.

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