2/02/2007

Gay Marriage vs. Freedom of Religion cont'd

According to the CBC, the Saskatchewan tribunal will withhold its decision regarding until the spring.
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.

7 comments:

Backseat Blogger said...

What's the problem? Gay marriage is the law of the land. The man in question is a servant of the state. He is obliged to follow the law. If he doesn't like it he can resign. Very simple.

Anonymous said...

backseat blogger said: What's the problem?

Well, the problem is that religious freedoms are protected in the Charter, both in s.15 on the grounds of discrimination and in s.2 as a fundamental freedom. The government may not require Nichols to violate his beliefs or prevent him from expressing those beliefs without violating his rights.

My argument is that s.15 is binding on the government (i.e. it must provide the legally required service) but the law does not grant any citizen the ability the freedom to walk in to a government office, hand pick an employee, and demand that that employee provide the service. All the law requires is that the service be provided by the government. In so far as that service can be provided (as it was - the marriage was performed by a marriage commissioner) in a timely manner then no discrimination by the government occured.
Requiring a person to do something against their Charter protected religious freedoms is discrimination on the part of the government on religious grounds; this is prohibited by s.15. We must not forget that in Corbiere religion is identified as constructively immutable by the Supreme Court; it is not simply a choice.
The government can hire people of various faiths/abilities to cover all of the requirements of the law but it is not required to be sure that every person hired has to do everything.
Now, with respect to Saskatchewan firing commissioners who will not perform same-sex marriages on religious grounds, I would argue that this is constructive discrimination and in violation of s.15 if the person is being forced to violate their religious beliefs in order to keep their job.

Ruth said...

The key question is this:
Should the government ever be allowed to force any individual to act in a manner which contradicts their religious beliefs?
For the safety of the citizens of this country, the answer must always be no. Historically, nothing good has ever come of a government interfering in religious matters. If the government forces a civil servant to act against their religious beliefs, then we on the road to much bigger problems.

Jordan Alcock said...

Ruth - I think its dangerous to say yes or no to that question. It is defined in shades of Grey.

For example; the parents in BC who had their children taken from them because they disagreed with the transfusions. I don't think the government had the right to interfere like that. Although I think its ridiculous that someone would do something like that, the government has no right to force that upon those kids.

That being said, if they are stepping in to stop Jihad - I'm all for that.

If they are stepping in to keep kirpan's out of schools(unfortunately they didn't do this), then I would be all for that.

Basically, anything that damages society as a whole allows for the over-ride of religious(or any) freedoms. Unfortunately, we don't always have the best people making those decisions.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

The law of the land discriminates against people who are not members of the clergy.

Ruth said...

Jordan, it's interesting you should bring up the case of the JW's in BC. That is one area where I do think the government should interfere in religious matters. I am sure some people will argue that I am being inconsistent. Still, these were babies born at 25 weeks. Two had already died. Now given that social services often steps in where children are in danger, I don't really see this as being a whole lot different.

Sr. Mina said...

This is sooo ridiculous. Nobody, not even a law, may intervene with what God has placed. Are human beings starting to become idiots? Any state/province that makes something so wrong legal is just asking for punishment and asking for a loss in population. Bible-believing Christians and others that don't believe in homosexual marriages will be leaving.

I will pray that the legality of this stupid thing will be revoked. Nichols will be protected by God, one way or the other. God bless.

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