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Perform same-sex marriages or resign, B.C. tells commissioners

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VANCOUVER - British Columbia has ordered the province's marriage commissioners to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies or resign.

  • INDEPTH: Same Sex Rights

Opponents of same-sex marriage are upset with the decision, saying the right of same-sex couples to marry has yet to be turned into a law.

The B.C. Vital Statistics Agency, which appoints the commissioners who perform civil marriage ceremonies, sent out a letter in January ordering those "who feel they cannot solemnize same-sex marriages" to "resign their appointments" effective March 31.

Commissioners received the letter Wednesday.

Some 300 marriage commissioners perform approximately 54 per cent of the roughly 22,000 marriages in B.C. every year, according to the agency's website.

B.C. Conservative MP Paul Forseth said the letter indicated the province had decided to "jump the gun and actively promote same-sex marriage as a matter of government operational policy."

He added that it was unfair to change a commissioner's employment conditions midway through his or her tenure.

Forseth suggested commissioners be organized into two groups, one that performs same-sex marriages and one that doesn't.

Advocates of same-sex marriage, however, were heartened by the news.

Tim Stevenson, a Vancouver city councillor and United Church minister, said the province is merely acknowledging the court's stance on the issue. He applauded the government for ensuring that commissioners could no more turn down a marriage based on gender than they could turn down a marriage based on skin colour.

In May, the B.C. Court of Appeal altered the definition of marriage to "the union of two persons." Two months later, the court lifted a moratorium on same-sex marriages.

Read more info on: CBC.ca

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Page last updated December 16 2004.

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