Advocacy News - Canadian military approves gay marriage
January 19, 2005
military approves gay marriage
Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell
If one needs further assurance that same-sex marriage is going to become a reality for the rest of Canada, the Canadian military offers hope to the approximately 15% of Canadians still living in areas that maintain discrimination against gays and lesbians. Today Sun Media disclosed a Canadian Forces document that reveals the forces are implementing a policy that directs military chaplains to solemnize marriages for gay or lesbian military personnel.
Col. Stan Johnstone told the Sun that the military policy supports the objective of ministering to all forces members and their families. Approximately 150 military chaplains work on bases across Canada and overseas.
The creation of a military policy in support of marriage equality is partly the result of the legal victories in court, government direction, and hard work on behalf of equality by chaplains within the military.
"Today, there are many members of our CF community who live openly and freely as gay men and lesbian soldiers, sailors airmen and women," Major John Fetcher, Chaplain, wrote to us in July 2002. "Their relationships with same-sex partners are accorded the same status in terms of military family support and benefits as are heterosexual common-law couples and married couples."
Major Fletcher and other Anglican Chaplains called upon the Chaplain General Division, and the Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy to "affirm the presence and contributions of gay men and lesbians within the life of the CF [Canadian Forces]" while working to build support for the recognition of same-sex relationships, including marriage.
We extend congratulations and appreciation to Major Fletcher and all the military chaplains who have worked through the years to achieve this milestone.
Other churches represented in the forces include Roman Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian and United Church. Chaplains will not be required to perform a gay marriage if their religion insists on discriminating against homosexuals, however chaplains unwilling to marry a gay couple must find another member of the clergy who will conduct the ceremony.
The military process includes the provision of prenuptial counselling for gay and lesbian couples and specifies the use of on-base chapels for same-sex ceremonies.
Meanwhile, the Conservative Party, normally supportive of military policy and interests, is clearly out of step with this constituency, as the Conservatives have launched an anti-gay advertising campaign to promote discrimination. The Conservatives hope to lure recent immigrants coming from countries that devalue human rights, away from their traditional home in the Liberal party, by appealing to their old-world prejudices and superstitions.