Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Of dishonest endeavour, and being so clever

This is awful, but I still don't think it's vindication for those against same-sex marriage in the general sense. After tying the knot for more than 3,400 people, Orville Nichols expects to become the first person in Canada to be fired for refusing to marry a gay couple. Mr. Nichols, a 69-year-old marriage commissioner from Regina, says performing same-sex marriages does not accord with his religious and personal beliefs. And Saskatchewan Justice Minister Frank Quennell made it clear late last year that refusal is not an option for civic officials in his province. What's clear here is that, yes, the supposed protections for free exercise of conscience by marriage commissioners in C-38 are meaningless. That's not news; that seemed probable all along, and was my main objection to enacting same-sex marriage in this particular form. But it doesn't appear to be the federal law that can be squarely blamed here; the Saskatchewan government's choice to be ruthless in refusing opt-out provisions is more directly at fault. Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, who spearheaded the bill through the Commons, has repeatedly promised that religious rights would not be trumped by the equality provisions of the Charter that have made same-sex marriage a legal reality. But the transition to a nation that embraces the legal homosexual unions has not gone as smoothly as he had hoped. In Newfoundland, at least one in 10 marriage commissioners resigned after the province said they must perform the ceremonies. In Manitoba, where a similar edict is in effect, at least 12 commissioners have resigned. And in Saskatchewan, at least eight of the commissioners have quit, but Mr. Nichols refused to join them. [...] Because the solemnization of marriage is within provincial jurisdiction, he has appealed to his counterparts in the provinces and territories to make provisions for civic officials who don't want to perform a same-sex marriage. Saskatchewan, as the socialist fiefdom it unfortunately currently is, has a government directing its ministers and employees to take a hard line in favour of left-leaning social engineering, punishing those unwilling to endorse such policies. Let's take a deep breath and remember, here, that Mr. Nichols probably would have been railroaded no matter how the federal vote on C-38 had turned out; it probably would have happened even if the federal government fell in May. The problem here isn't the phenomenon of gay marriage - it's a leftist government unwilling to compromise on demanding all officials swear loyalty not only to the province, but the provincial government's social policies, which can reasonably be separated from one another. If there can be protection of conscience, allowing those who oppose it to opt out (whether formally or informally) then it'll have to come at the provincial level, because it does seem painfully clear that the Ministry of Justice wishes to wash their hands of victimization when it occurs. That doesn't refute the merits of extending the privileges of marriage to all, equally, but it certainly does sully them.


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