year the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto introduced the ancient Christian
practice of publishing banns of marriage, which permits marriage following a series
of three weekly announcements during divine service of a couple's intention to
marry . Under section 5 of the Ontario Marriage Act, the Church is permitted to
marry a couple where the banns have been published without the need for a license
issued by the municipal clerk. On International Human Rights Day, December 10,
2000, Reverend Hawkes published the banns of marriage for Kevin Bourassa and Joe
Varnell, and for Elaine and Anne Vautour. He also published the banns for these
couples on the two following Sundays. Reverend Hawkes received no lawful objection
in response to these publications.
On Sunday, January
14, 2001, Elaine and Anne and Kevin and Joe were married in the Church. The marriage
was recorded in the Church's marriage register, and the forms required by law
were duly completed. Reverend Hawkes expressed his hope that day that when the
forms were received by the Ontario Government, they would be registered in accordance
with s.19 of the Vital Statistics Act. However, the next day, before even seeing
the forms, the Honourable Robert Runciman announced that he would be rejectinng
the documents Reverend Hawkes was planning to submit on the grounds of a prohibition
in federal law. on Tuesday of this week, after Reverrend Hawkes had submitted
the forms, I contacted Mr. Robert Charney, counsel for the Attorney General of
Ontario, about these documents. Mr. Charney confirmed to me that the documents
would refused for registration, and that the Church and the couples would be notified
in writing. I then connsulted the Church and the couples about our next step.
This morning, we issued an Application for judicial review
in the Divisional Court of Ontario on behalf of the Church seeking a Court Order
compelling Ontario to register these marriages. The couples have agreed to support
this proceeding by filing affidavits with the Court. The Respondents in the Application
are the Ontario Government and the Government of Canada. The Respondents have
been made aware of this proceeding, and they will be served shortly.
Friday, we will be bringing a motion to have this case tried at the same time
as the existing case brought by a number of couples, represented by Martha McCarthy,
who are seeking to obtain marriage licenses from the City of Toronto. At present,
I can confirm that both Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Charney have consented to this linking
of the cases, but I have not been advised of the position of the Attorney General
of Canada. By linking the cases, we hope to maximize the efficient use of the
Court's time. If we are successful, our application will be heard in October [Application
was heard in November 2001].
no mistake. In our view, this refusal by the Ontario Government to accept our
documents and to register these marriages has no impact on the legal validity
of these marriages. It was open to the Church and the couples to simply ignore
the reistration requirement under the Vital Statistics Act. However, the law does
oblige the Church to register the marriages with the Ontario government for statistical
purposes, and the Church concluded that it was bound to comply with the law.
Church was also entitled to ignore the refusal to reister these documents. In
our view, the Registrar General has no authority to pass judgment on the validity
of these marriages but only to ensure that the documents have been correctly completed.
However, the Church has concluded that it must defend the integrity of these marriages
and of its religious freedom to marry in accordance with its religious views,
and not to permit the religious restrictions of others to be imposed on it by
the Government. The Church will not allow the Government to make the Church and
unwilling party to unlawful discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. Our
instructions are to pursue this action vigorously, if necessary all the way to
the Supreme Court of Canada."