January 21, 2004
marriage returns to Quebec court
Michael Hendricks and René Leboeuf (photos at right) return to Quebec court next Monday (Jan 26) where their same-sex marriage case will be heard by five justices of the Court of Appeal. The couple won their case in Superior Court on September 6, 2002 and they are the only remaining couple who have fought and won the right to marry in court and still have not been given access to marriage by their government (the court suspended remedy until Sept.6, 2004).
The Quebec government chose not to appeal the Superior Court judgment, while Canada at first did go forward, but following the implementation of same-sex marriage in Ontario, the former Attorney General of Canada (Martin Cauchon) dropped the appeal.
The right of same-sex couples to marry is thus no longer contested by either of the two levels of government which have legislative competence over marriage and its solemnization. So why are Michael and René back in court?
The Catholic Church and an alliance of evangelical fundamentalists are attempting to sustain the appeal in order to impose faith-based bigotry on Quebec civil matters.
According to an affidavit filed by a lawyer for the Catholic Church, the hate-mongering institute hopes to "promote the point of view of the Roman Catholic Church in matters before the legislatures and Courts in Canada involving issues of public interest."
And what is that point of view? Well, as a Belgian cardinal said today, same-sex couples are "sexual perverts" (Reuters, Jan. 21) and the Vatican says that same-sex marriage is a "legalization of evil" (July 31, 2003).
The couple have new lawyers to respond to this offense, including the winning Martha McCarthy, who was one of our heroes (along with the team led by Douglas Elliott) involved in the landmark Ontario marriage case, and Colin Irving, another lawyer with Supreme Court of Canada experience, who Hendricks described to us as "a whiz at procedure".
These defenders of equality have filed a motion to dismiss the faith-based appeal. The Catholic and protestant fundamentalists "do not represent, and cannot speak for the views and interests of all Roman Catholics or Protestants, much less those of Quebecers at large," the lawyers say in their motion. " Marriage and divorce are matters which fall within the exclusive legislative competence of the Parliament of Canada and solemnization of marriages is within provincial legislative jurisdiction ... If this appeal is allowed to proceed, this Court, unlike the Courts of Appeal of Ontario and British Columbia, will be obliged to give judgment on a constitutional issue of great importance where the only interests represented before the Court are purely private."
When these hateful religious extremists asked the Supreme Court of Canada to entertain their ugly arguements in an appeal of the Ontario marriage case, the SSC refused. The Quebec Court of Appeal should do nothing less.
Meanwhile, the couple have written to the new Justice Minister and Attorney General, Irwin Cotler to seek a continuation of support from his office.