A Saskatchewan tribunal is expected to rule in the spring whether a Regina marriage commissioner violated the province's human rights code when he refused to marry two gay men.
Orville Nichols, 70, who says same-sex marriage goes against his personal and religious convictions, was the subject of a two-day hearing in Regina that ended Thursday.
The man whose complaint led to the hearing testified he was devastated in 2005 when Nichols refused to perform the civil ceremony.
Another marriage commissioner ended up performing the service.
Janice Gringell, a lawyer for the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, said one can't accept Nichols' argument that same-sex laws were not in force when he signed on as a marriage commissioner in 1983 and that he's therefore exempt.
"It often happens that the laws change and public officials have to adapt to those changes," she said.
In the same way, police officers cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce based on what was in effect when they were hired, she said.
Nichols' lawyer, Mike Megaw, told the hearing this is a clash of rights — those of the same-sex couple, and Nichols' right to his religious beliefs.
He argued there should be a compromise, and that one set of rights should not take precedence over another.
However, lawyer Tom Irvine of the Saskatchewan Justice Department said that as a government agent Nichols' duty was clear.
"The function of a marriage commissioner is to provide the service without a distinction based on religion, without a distinction based on any of the proven grounds of discrimination," he said.
The human rights commission is seeking an order to stop Nichols from discriminating against same-sex couples. It's also recommending a $5,000 fine.
The same-sex couple cannot be identified under a publication ban.
I don't know what the reason for waiting until the spring would be. Still, this gives all interested parties some time to act. Groups like Defend Marriage Canada need to lobby the government on behalf of Orville Nichols. If there was ever a case that shows how badly the Defense of Religions Act is needed, this is it.