MARRIAGE DIGEST: Retiring Canadian justice proud of 'gay marriage' ruling
Posted on May 25, 2007 | by Michael Foust
OTTAWA (BP)--The chief justice of the court that sparked the "gay marriage" movement in Canada is retiring, and he's not about to apologize for what many in that nation consider an appalling legal decision.
Back in June 2003, the highest court in the province of Ontario issued a landmark ruling changing the definition of marriage from one man and one woman to "the voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others." Immediately, same-sex couples across the province began "marrying."
Most other provinces followed in legalizing such "unions," and in 2005 Canada's Parliament passed a bill legalizing "gay marriage" nationwide.
Roy McMurtry, who is retiring after 11 years as chief justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal, said he is proud of the "gay marriage" ruling, which he helped write. In fact, he said it's the one decision by which he'd most want to be remembered.
"It stressed the importance of individual rights and, particularly, individual dignity," McMurtry told the Toronto Star. "There's a segment in our society that believes that being gay or lesbian is immoral. Gays and lesbians have faced unfair discrimination over many years, but to me that's so obviously wrong. That's why it was important that the court judgment not only recognize the legitimacy of same-sex unions but describe it as a marriage."
McMurtry noted that when Massachusetts' highest court legalized "gay marriage," it referenced the Ontario decision. He also said civil unions, which are legal in several American states as well as in the United Kingdom, fall short of what he believes should be legal.
"[T]he term 'marriage' is important to send a message to society that the commitment of these couples should be just as respected as the commitment of a heterosexual couple, though any marriage can fall apart," McMurtry said. "That's why I stress the importance of individual dignity.
"I remember a young lawyer saying to me, 'You know, the day after the decision, my partner and I were lining up to go to a movie, and we felt better about our relationship and, therefore, felt better about ourselves.'
"The court decision had obviously sent an important message."
But "gay marriage" legalization -- along with a series of other decisions legitimizing homosexuality in the country -- has come at the expense of religious freedom.
A marriage commissioner in Saskatchewan is under investigation and could be fined $5,000 by a government body because he refused to perform a "gay marriage" in 2005, saying it conflicted with his Christian beliefs. The man, Orville Nichols, gave the two homosexuals the name of another commissioner, who subsequently conducted the ceremony on the date the men wanted. But the two men nevertheless filed a complaint. Marriage commissioners are public officials.
In another Saskatchewan case, the provincial Human Rights Commission ruled that a man, Hugh Owens, had violated the provincial human rights code by placing a 1997 newspaper advertisement that mentioned Bible verses and condemned homosexuality. He was ordered to pay $1,500 each to three homosexuals who had filed a complaint. Although the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in April 2006 overturned the decision and ruled Owens did not violate the law, it did so only after he had gone through nearly a decade of legal headaches.
R.I. COURT TO HEAR 'GAY DIVORCE' CASE -- The Rhode Island Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a homosexual couple who "married" in Massachusetts can "divorce" in Rhode Island.
The case involves a lesbian couple who married in Massachusetts in May 2004 -- the first month it was legal there -- and subsequently decided they wanted to split, the Associated Press reported May 23. Rhode Island does not recognize "gay marriage."
Lawyers for both sides say the case will not decide whether "gay marriage" itself is legalized there, AP said. But Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council isn't so sure.
"Although the justices assured Providence officials they would only rule on whether homosexual 'marriage' would be recognized for the purposes of divorce, the suit creates a dangerous precedent by 'recognizing' these unions at all," he wrote in his daily e-mail. "If the couple is successful, homosexual activists will have hit the judicial jackpot with a broad loophole for pursuing same-sex 'marriages' in other states."
MASS. LICENSES VALIDATED -- A Massachusetts judge May 10 ruled that more than 170 "gay marriage" licenses issued in the Bay State to New York couples are valid. The licenses, though, still are not recognized in New York state.
The ruling by Judge Thomas Connolly applies to New York couples who "married" prior to July 6, 2006, the date that state's highest court ruled "gay marriage" is not a constitutional right. Connolly's decision was announced in a May 16 press release from Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, which filed the suit and represented one of the couples
"It really is a cloud that's been removed from these marriages," GLAD attorney Michele Granda told The New York Times. "There shouldn't be any question that those marriage licenses are worth the paper they're printed on, and that Massachusetts fully backs the currency."
The controversy over out-of-state "gay marriages" began in 2004, when then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and then-Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly used a 1913 law to prevent out-of-state couples from getting married if their home state wouldn't recognize such licenses. In March 2006, the Massachusetts high court upheld that interpretation of the law, although the justices left the door open for couples from New York and Rhode Island -- two states where, the justices said, "gay marriage" was not "expressly prohibited"
In September, Connolly ruled same-sex couples from Rhode Island could "marry" in Massachusetts. But like New York, the licenses still are not recognized back home.
PROMINENT MASS. LEGISLATOR RESIGNING -- Massachusetts state Sen. Jarrett T. Barrios, a prominent supporter of "gay marriage" and an open homosexual, is resigning to become president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. A Democrat, Barrios in 2004 "married" Doug Hattaway, who as a spokesman for Al Gore during the 2000 presidential campaign received much television exposure.
Barrios was a vocal opponent of a proposed constitutional marriage amendment in that state. He said he will remain in office until at least June 14, when legislators are scheduled next to take up the proposal, The Boston Globe reported.