Monday, July 27, 2009

Canadian court reaffirms finding that marriage commissioner discriminated against same-sex couple

07/23/09 The Star-Phoenix [of Saskathewan, Canada] (source: Gay Marriage Watch):
A Court of Queen’s Bench ruling, publicly released Thursday, upheld a decision by a human rights tribunal that found Regina marriage commissioner Orville Nichols had discriminated against a same-sex couple by declining to marry them ... Last year, Nichols was ordered to pay $2,500 compensation to a man who had telephoned him in April 2005 to arrange for a marriage service. When Nichols, a devout Baptist, learned it was a same-sex marriage, he told the man he could not perform the service due to his religious beliefs. The couple were married the next month by another commissioner ... Justice Minister Don Morgan said the decision hasn’t altered [the provincial government's] plans to ask the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to rule on the constitutionality of a law that would exempt marriage commissioners from performing same-sex marriages for religious reasons.
The Court found (2009 SKQB 299) that Nichols has no legal right to exemption from his duty to issue a marriage license, even though another marriage commissioner was "readily available" to issue it [37]-[38]. The Court ruled that

[i]n order to observe the [Candadian] Charter mandate that [as a government official] he treat every individual equally, regardless of sexual orientation, he is not entitled to rely on his personal views to justify denying a statutory service [42] ... [F]ew religious institutions countenance gay marriage at this time. Without the availability of civil marriage, the promise of equal opportunity would be unrealized. If marriage commissioners are entitled to incorporate their personal beliefs into the requirements for civil marriage, equal opportunity is denied [54].
I posted here on an earlier Star-Phoenix account of Saskatchewan's proposed religious-liberty exemption for marriage commissioners.

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