REGINA, Saskatchewan, January 19, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Marriage commissioners in Saskatchewan will be fired for refusing to “marry” same-sex couples, the province’s government announced Tuesday.
Justice Minister Don Morgan said he’s sending commissioners a letter promulgating last week’s Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruling, which found that commissioners’ Charter rights to freedom of religion and conscience are outweighed by homosexuals’ right to freedom from discrimination.
Allowing commissioners to refuse performing same-sex “marriages” would send “a strong and sinister message” that “gays and lesbians are less worthy of protection as individuals in Canada’s society,” the court had said.
The ruling from the province’s top court came in response to a reference from the government, prompted by the case of marriage commissioner Orville Nichols, who was fined $2,500 in June 2008 by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal for refusing to marry a same-sex couple. The Tribunal decision was upheld by the province’s Court of Queen’s Bench in July 2009.
The same month, the province proposed two legislative options to the Court of Appeal that they hoped would accommodate some or all religious believers. One would have protected all commissioners, and the other only those who were commissioners before same-sex “marriage” was legalized in 2004. But last week each was found to be unconstitutional by the court.
Morgan said Tuesday that they have no grounds for appeal and have failed to find any workable options.
“[Commissioners will] have to make a decision: either they comply with the ruling or alternatively they surrender their licence,” he told the Globe and Mail. “In the event that they don’t, and they’re contravening it, then we would of course take steps to terminate their appointment as a commissioner.”
Several commissioners have said they will quit, but one says the government will have to fire him.
“Why would I quit? I have no reason to quit. I’ll still be authorized to marry people up until the day that I get fired and that’s what I’ll do,” Larry Bjerland told the Globe and Mail Tuesday. “My main reason for refusing is that it’s not right in the eyes of God and, at 73, I’m getting closer to that time where I’m going to have to face him. I want to be able to do that with a clear conscience.”
Conservative Member of Parliament Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin) had urged the provincial government last week to oppose the court’s ruling, saying that it in fact violates the 2005 Civil Marriage Act, the very law that legalized same-sex “marriage.” That law specifically included a provision intended to protect freedom of conscience and religion.
Gwen Landolt, national vice president of REAL Women Canada, said the government has taken “the path of least resistance,” and freedom of religion has again “been made subservient to a court-constructed right for homosexuals.”
Asked whether the government’s decision means they believe public employees ought to surrender their freedoms of religion and conscience, government spokesman Andrew Dinsmore directed LifeSiteNews to their press release.
Justice Minister Don Morgan
Room 355, Legislative Building
2405 Legislative Drive
Regina, SK S4S0B3
Phone: (306) 787-5353
E-mail: Use this form (http://www.donmorgan.ca/contactus.php).