Marriage and Same-Sex Unions: CCCB Seeks to Intervene in Supreme Court Reference

Tuesday, December 02 2003

(CCCB-Ottawa)The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has applied for leave to intervene in the Supreme Court of Canada reference from the federal government on its proposed same-sex marriage legislation.

The application, filed November 26, 2003, outlines the two principal arguments the CCCB would make before the Court: 1) the draft bill breaches freedom of conscience and religion; and 2) the traditional definition of marriage is constitutional, while the proposed definition in the bill is not.

The notice of motion argues that the proposed legislation would establish a social and moral order that would threaten freedom of conscience and religion. If Canadian law would compel that intimate sexual relations at the core of same-sex unions be shown the same public respect and approval as sexual relations at the core of heterosexual marriages, a risk is created that those who believe and publicly support the premise that homosexual sexual conduct is immoral, could be considered as anti-gay, homophobic, intolerant and no better than racists.

“Once this social and moral orthodoxy is established, it becomes but a small step to remove charitable status and other public benefits from individuals, religious groups, or affiliated charities who publicly teach or espouse views contrary to this orthodoxy. It adds legitimacy to the charge [which is also being made] that those who teach or espouse these views are hate-mongers.”

The CCCB application also argues that the current definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman is constitutional and that there is an obvious and compelling state interest in the institution of marriage which is the creation and nurturing of the next generation of citizens.

Marriage as an institution does not implicate human rights or Charter values. This is because there is no compelling state interest to protect and promote sexual relationships based on the sexual orientation, sexual preferences, personal preferences, individual tastes, cultural practices or religious beliefs of the individuals involved. However, “there may be a state interest in recognizing these relationships for the purpose of regulating them but there is no state interest in institutionalizing them.”

The notice of motion concludes by pointing out that “promoting human rights and preventing discrimination are laudable goals. These goals, however, should not be employed to contravene the Charter rights of others, or undermine an institution that has proven its worth over time, especially when that institution does not implicate individual rights.”

The Supreme Court of Canada motion to intervene is being handled by Ottawa lawyer William J. Sammon, who has represented the CCCB in other Supreme Court cases.

The full text of the application may be found on the CCCB website: Notice of Motion