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Top court hears arguments against same-sex marriage

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OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada has wrapped two days of hearings into the government's plan to rewrite the definition of marriage.

  • INDEPTH: same-sex rights

Ottawa is asking the court for a legal opinion on whether it has the power to allow same-sex marriages. The justices reserved judgment in the case late Thursday and are expected to rule in a few months.

The court heard from 28 different groups beginning with a contention from the Alberta government that Ottawa can't use the Constitution to amend the opposite-sex definition of marriage.

But Justice John Major disputed Alberta's view. Major noted that banking is also included in the 1867 Constitution, but laws regulating banks have changed frequently to meet new realities. "There's been legislation, variations of the Bank Act and so forth."

Robert Leurer argued on behalf of Alberta that marriage is a social institution. "Law didn't create marriage, but instead attached legal consequences to marriage," he told the court.

Newly appointed Justice Rosalie Abella didn't buy that argument. "I'm having a little bit of difficulty with this frozen in time concept," she said. Abella said the Constitution is supposed to be a living document, capable of being adapted as society evolves.

But for most of the religious groups represented in court, marriage is the exception.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops argued procreation is at the core of marriage. Lawyer William Sammon said only opposite-sex couples can serve the state's interest in conceiving future generations. "The state's interest is the sexual relationship," he said, "because it produces the children."

Justice Ian Binnie said the state has other interests apart from marriage, such as stability and fairness. He said to reduce the argument to just procreation was an "oversimplification."

In the end there was nothing simple about the case. In addition to the constitutional issues, the court will also have to consider arguments that same-sex marriage is not really a legal issue, but a political problem that should be left to Parliament to fix.

Read more info on: CBC.ca

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Page last updated December 16 2004.

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