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Supreme Court Upholds Equal Marriage Legislation

in CANADA, 09/12/2004

Parliament must either pass equal marriage legislation or invoke the notwithstanding clause to override Charter protection for gays and lesbians

Ottawa - "The Supreme Court today gave a green light to the government's proposed equal marriage legislation, reflecting Canadian values and Canadians' commitment to fairness," said Alex Munter, Co-Chair of Canadians for Equal Marriage, an umbrella group fighting for passage of the government's equal marriage legislation. "Now it's up to the government to
act. Given the government's clear commitment to introduce equal marriage legislation without delay, we expect to see legislation introduced as soon as Parliament resumes sitting in January."

"The choice is clear," said Laurie Arron, Director of Advocacy of Egale Canada. "Parliament must either pass equal marriage legislation or invoke the notwithstanding clause to override Charter protection for gays and lesbians."

"Paul Martin's reputation is on the line," said Michael Kerr, co-ordinator for the National Anti-Racism Council of Canada. "During the election, Mr. Martin received a mandate to ensure that all Canadians are protected by the Charter. The Prime Minister has said he supports the Canadian values that are embodied by the Charter, such as equity, inclusion and respect for difference. We look forward to Mr. Martin following these welcome words with decisive action."

"What was already clear is now unassailable - that the Charter protects the right of religious officials to choose whether or not to perform marriages for same-sex couples," said Martha McCarthy, legal counsel for the Ontario and Quebec couples. "The Charter is the highest law of the land and binds both the federal government and provincial and territorial governments."

"Every religious official can choose whether or not to perform marriages for same-sex couples," said Rev. Garth Bulmer, of St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church. "We welcome the Supreme Court's ruling, which confirms that the Charter clearly and strongly protects everyone's religious freedom."

"Equal marriage is something whose time has come," said Gilles Marchildon, Executive Director of Egale Canada. "Just last week, South Africa expanded civil marriage to include same-sex couples. Spain will soon follow. Around the world, people are realizing that discrimination against lesbian and gay people is just plain wrong. Here in Canada, same-sex couples have been
marrying for over a year and a half, and support for equal marriage is higher than it's ever been."

A survey released July 1 by the Centre for Research and Information on Canada and Environics Research found that the number of Canadians agreeing that gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry has increased 9%.
Currently, 57% agree, the highest level since CRIC first asked the question two years ago. The number disagreeing currently stands at 38%. (see New Canada survey)

For More Information:

Alex Munter, Co-Chair, Canadians for Equal Marriage,
613-236-5492 (h), amunter@uottawa.ca

Gilles Marchildon, Executive Director, Egale Canada,
613-864-1133 (c), 613-230-1043 (w), gilles@egale.ca

Laurie Arron, Director of Advocacy, Egale Canada,
416-839-7178 (c), 613-230-1043 (w), laurie@egale.ca

Rev. Brent Hawkes, Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto,
416-406-6229 x199, revbhawkes@mcctoronto.com

Rev. Garth Bulmer, St John the Evangelist Anglican Church,
613-232-4500, gebulmer@hotmail.com

Rev. Pierre Goldberger, United Church of Canada,
pierreUMIF@egliseunie.org

Michael Kerr, Co-ordinator, National Anti-Racism Council of Canada,
416,979-3909 ext. 1, 613-261-0493, michaelkerr@narcc.ca

Patrick Case, Chair, Canadian Race Relations Foundation,
519-835-4923 (c), 519-824-4120 x54713 (o), p.case@hre.uoguelph.ca

Jonas Ma, National Board Executive, Chinese Canadian National Council,
613-261-0493, jonas_ma@canada.com

Martha McCarthy, Epstein Cole, legal counsel to Ontario and Quebec couples,
416-505-1557 (c), 416-862-6226 (o), martha@epsteincole.com

Douglas Elliott, Roy Elliott Kim O'Connor, legal counsel to Metropolitan
Community Church of Toronto,
416-362-1989 x226 (o), rde@reko.ca

Cynthia Petersen, Sack Goldblatt Mitchell, legal counsel to Egale and 5 B.C.
couples,
416-979-6440 (o), cynthiapetersen@sgmlaw.com

Regional Contacts:
If you looking for interview subjects in each province (activist, community
members, couples, and families) please contact Cicely McWilliam, National
Media Coordinator for Canadians for Equal Marriage, 416-928-1238,
cicely@equal-marriage.ca
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