January 21, 2004
marriage commissioners must perform
the province is realizing that the court has spoken very clearly about same-sex
marriages and that individuals who are commissioners can now no more turn down
a same-sex marriage than they could if they didn't like the person's colour ...
This is a very different issue than telling a church they would have to conduct
a same-sex marriage. It's a particular individual with a secular job. You either
do it or you look for different work."
British Columbia's Vital Statistics Agency (part of the Ministry of Health Planning) issued a letter yesterday to all of its marriage commissioners, advising them of the agency's expectation that all commissioners will comply with the Canadian Charter and the new common law definition of marriage. British Columbia, following Ontario's lead, introduced same-sex marriage in that province on July 8, 2003.
Any commissioners "who feel that they cannot solemnize same-sex marriages" are expected to give notice of their intention to resign by Feb. 27, with a deadline of leaving their job by March 31.
The move by the agency further underscores the separation of faith-based beliefs from government policy. Bigotry, whether founded in religion or simple ignorance has no place in our government's policies or in the provision of public services. Gay and lesbian couples can rest assured that they will not encounter homophobia when they make plans for the civil solemnization of their marriage in B.C..
The province of Ontario does not employ marriage commissioners, however many city halls offer marriage services at their locations, without prejudice. Couples in Ontario who seek a civil marriage can also approach a justice of the court, or use other individuals who are often listed at city hall licensing bureaus.