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Supreme Court Green Lights Equal Marriage

in CANADA, 09/12/2004

Support for equal marriage in Canada is higher than it's ever been.

Ottawa - The Supreme Court ruled today that the government's proposed equal marriage legislation is within Parliament's exclusive jurisdiction and
consistent with the Charter. It also ruled that the Charter protects religious officials from being compelled to perform marriages for same-sex couples. The Court said there is no need to question the decisions of courts in 7 provinces and territories. Shortly after the ruling, both the Prime Minister and Justice Minister stated the government will introduce equal marriage legislation as soon as Parliament resumes in January. Liberal MP Pat O'Brien called on Parliament to use the notwithstanding clause to set aside the Charter.

"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. "We are pleased that the government has pledged to act quickly to bring Canada's law into compliance with the Charter. We expect to see legislation introduced as soon as Parliament resumes sitting in January."

"The Supreme Court rejected any appeal of the lower court decisions," said Laurie Arron, Director of Advocacy of Egale Canada. "They said equal marriage 'far from violating the Charter, flows from it.' The choice for Parliament is now clear - either legislate equal marriage across the country or invoke the notwithstanding clause to take away our Charter protection. Parliament invoking the notwithstanding clause, as suggested by some MPs, is unprecedented and risks eroding Charter protection for all Canadians. Clearly, that would be out of step with Canadian values."

"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." Charter protection is better than protection in a federal law. 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 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 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 (w), 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 (w), martha@epsteincole.com

Douglas Elliott, Roy Elliott Kim O'Connor, legal counsel to Metropolitan
Community Church of Toronto,
416.362.1989 x226 (w), rde@reko.ca

Cynthia Petersen, Sack Goldblatt Mitchell, legal counsel to Egale and 5 B.C.
couples,
416.979.6440 (w), cynthiapetersen@sgmlaw.com

Regional Contacts: please inquire with Cicely McWilliam, National Media
Coordinator for Canadians for Equal Marriage, 416.928.1238,
cicely@equal-marriage.ca
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