REGINA, Saskatchewan, January 12, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Saskatchewan marriage commissioner says the government will have to fire him if it expects him to perform same-sex “marriages.”
Larry Bjerland, marriage commissioner of the east-central Saskatchewan community of Rose Valley, told CBC News he was “very disappointed” after the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal declared Monday that proposed legislative amendments that would have allowed Saskatchewan’s marriage commissioners to refuse to perform same-sex “marriages” on religious grounds are unconstitutional.
Bjerland told CBC the decision might result in his losing his appointment. “I do not intend to marry any gay couples and so, therefore, I’m not going to resign,” said Bjerland, who has been a marriage commissioner for 10 years. “They’ll have to fire me.”
The Saskatchewan government had proposed two potential legislative options to deal with situations where some marriage commissioners were called before the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission or the Courts for refusing to perform same-sex “marriages.”
However, the amendments, said the court, quoting the Supreme Court of Canada, would send “a strong and sinister message” that “gays and lesbians are less worthy of protection as individuals in Canada’s society.”
“It’s hard to understand how one group can have rights that the other one isn’t entitled to,” said Bjerland. “I have no objection to gays getting married. My only objection is forcing me into doing it.”
Dr. Maurice Vellacott, MP for Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, agreed with Bjerland. In a letter to Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan on Monday, Vellacott expressed his concern with the court’s ruling.
“Some have suggested that marriage commissioners should resign if they won’t perform same-sex marriages. However, that approach violates the spirit and letter of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Vellacott.
“The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal Marriage Act Reference decision violates the provisions of the federal Civil Marriage Act, the federal law which ultimately was passed in 2005, to implement same sex ‘marriage’ across the country.”
The 2005 law (http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/LegislativeSummaries/38/1/c38-e.pdf) contains a provision, which was intended to address this situation: “For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.” (s.3.1)
Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan is now considering other options for marriage commissioners who do not want to perform ceremonies for homosexual couples, but appealing the court decision is not one of them. He said they are looking at what’s being done in Ontario.
Ontario has a “single entry point” system for those looking for marriage commissioners. Individuals are given one list of potential commissioners if they are a heterosexual couple and another list if they are a homosexual couple.
“I think what we have,” Morgan said in reference to the single entry point system, “is we have an option that was raised by the court. We have a duty to consider what the ramifications of doing it or not doing it are.”
Justice Robert Richards, who wrote the main ruling in the case, initially said that while the court’s decision would infringe on rights of some marriage commissioners, it was justified to avoid the discrimination against homosexuals.
However, in his opinion, Richards said Ontario’s single point system would have several advantages.
“The accommodation of commissioners who did not want to be involved in a same-sex ceremony would not be apparent to the couple proposing to wed and there would be no risk of the couple approaching a commissioner and being refused services because of their sexual orientation,” Richards said (http://www.cbc.ca/canada/saskatchewan/story/2011/01/11/sk-ontario-sask-marriages-1101.html).
The Saskatchewan government is expected to make a decision on what it will do in the next few weeks.
To respectfully contact:
Justice Minister Don Morgan:
MLA – Saskatoon Southeast
Minister of Justice and Attorney General
109 – 3502 Taylor Street East
Saskatoon, SK S7H 5H9
Dr. Maurice Vellacot:
MP – Saskatoon-Wanuskewin Constituency
Unit 3-844 51st Street East
Saskatoon, SK S7K 5C7
Tel. 306-975-4725, Toll Free 888-844-8886