Province Amending Laws to Accommodate Same-sex Marriage
For Immediate Release
February 22, 2005
ONTARIO TO AMEND LAWS TO UPDATE LEGAL DEFINITION OF SPOUSE
Includes Update For Religious Officials In Relation To Same-Sex Marriages
TORONTO - The Ontario government has introduced legislation that would, if passed, amend more than 70 Ontario statutes to bring them in line with court decisions that found same-sex marriage to be constitutional, Attorney General Michael Bryant announced today.
"We are committed to ensuring that same-sex couples are treated with the same respect and dignity as opposite-sex couples," said Bryant. "By changing the definition of spouse in these statutes, our government is helping to ensure that Ontario laws don't discriminate against same-sex couples, including those who choose to marry."
The proposed bill also includes provisions to clarify that religious officials cannot be compelled to perform marriages or use their sacred places for the celebration of marriages that are inconsistent with their religious beliefs.
The legislation follows a June 2003 decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal upholding a Divisional Court ruling that the common law definition of marriage, which excluded same-sex couples, is contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On July 17, 2003 the federal government asked the Supreme Court of Canada to provide an opinion on whether Parliament could change the legislative definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.
On December 9, 2004 the Supreme Court confirmed that same-sex marriage is constitutional and that the Charter guarantees the freedom of religious officials to perform marriages and use their sacred places in accordance with their religious beliefs.
"Our government believes this is the right thing to do," said Bryant. "With this proposed legislation, we are ensuring Ontario's laws comply with the Charter, so that all citizens have a chance to live a life free of discrimination."
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Ministry of the Attorney General