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Cotler expects Supreme Court go-ahead for same-sex marriage

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OTTAWA - Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said he expects the Supreme Court to uphold the federal government's same-sex marriage legislation when it offers its opinion Thursday morning.

  • INDEPTH: Same Sex Rights

cotlerirwinIf the court rules in its favour, Cotler said the Liberal government would move fast to make same-sex marriage legal across the country, introducing the legislation in Parliament as early as this month.

"We expect that the two foundational principles – namely of equality rights and religious freedom – will be sustained," said Cotler, speaking after a Liberal caucus meeting Wednesday.

"And therefore based on these Charter principles we will move ahead ... with all deliberate speed to introduce legislation which will extend civil marriage to gays and lesbians."

The Liberals hold a thin minority government, with 134 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, but should have the support of most or all of the 19 New Democrat MPs and 54 Bloc Québécois MPs.

At 9:45 a.m. EST, the Supreme Court will rule on proposed legislation that would make Canada among the first countries in the world to recognize same-sex marriage.

Following a ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal in June 2003 allowing same-sex unions, then prime minister Jean Chrétien announced the federal government was drafting a bill to make the marriages legal..

Ottawa proposed changing the definition of marriage to the "lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others" rather than the "lawful union of one man and one woman."

Before taking it to Parliament, Chrétien referred the proposed bill to the Supreme Court, asking the justices to offer a non-binding opinion on the following:

  • Whether Parliament has the legal right to define marriage.
  • If the proposed legislation supports the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • Whether churches would be protected from having to perform same-sex ceremonies if it were contrary to their beliefs.

Along with Ontario, court rulings have now made same-sex marriage legal in British Columbia, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and the Yukon.

Read more info on: CBC.ca

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Page last updated December 16 2004.

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