Participants caryy a giant rainbow flag during the Pride Parade on Yonge Street in Toronto Sunday June 29, 2003. The parade is the final event of Pride Week, Canada's largest gay and lesbian celebration. (CP PHOTO/Saul Porto)
The Supreme Court and same-sex marriage
CBC News Online | Updated June 8, 2004

Same-sex rights in Canada have come a long way since 1965. It was then that the Supreme Court of Canada backed a ruling that labelled Everett Klippert a "dangerous sexual offender" and threw him in prison for admitting he was gay and that he had sex with other men.

Today homosexual Canadians enjoy much more freedom and societal acceptance: not only are they not imprisoned for their lifestyle choices, openly gay or lesbian Canadians hold prominent positions in business, government and many churches.

Now they're taking it the next step. Homosexuals in Canada are fighting for the right to be legally married, with all the same benefits and responsibilities as traditional opposite-sex couples - something the federal leadership seems to support. In July 2003, the government unveiled draft legislation that would change the definition of marriage to include the unions of same-sex couples.

The issue has caused an uproar among certain church leaders and traditionalists who argue the government does not have the right to redefine marriage. The government asked the Supreme Court of Canada to consider three questions about the draft legislation:

  1. Is the draft bill within the exclusive legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada?

  2. Is the section of the draft bill that extends capacity to marry to persons of the same sex consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

  3. Does the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Charter protect religious officials from being compelled to perform a marriage between two persons of the same sex that is contrary to their religious beliefs?

By January 2004, the new Paul Martin government announced it was adding another question for the Supreme Court to consider: whether limiting common-law marriage to opposite-sex couples is unconstitutional. Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said the Liberals remain committed to extending civil marriage to same-sex couples.

Adding a fourth question was expected to delay the top court's decision on the issue, probably until the fall of 2004.