- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 2004

MONTREAL — Canada’s highest court gave its blessing to homosexual “marriage” yesterday, but protected religious organizations from being forced to sanction same-sex unions.

The long-awaited decision permits the ruling Liberal Party to proceed with legislation to legalize the unions, making Canada the third nation to recognize homosexual unions, after with the Netherlands and Belgium.

It’s unlikely that Canadian “marriages” will be recognized as legal anywhere in the United States, including Massachusetts, which allows same-sex “marriage,” but only for its residents or same-sex couples who plan to live in Massachusetts.

A U.S. federal court already has ruled that Canadian same-sex “marriages” aren’t legal in the United States.

In its unanimous decision, the Supreme Court also said that although Canada’s federal government has the ultimate authority to “redefine” marriage, religious groups cannot be forced to perform same-sex “marriages” against their beliefs.

After the ruling by the nine justices, Prime Minister Paul Martin promised to introduce legislation on legalizing same-sex unions when the Parliament reconvenes in January.

“For many Canadians and many parliamentarians, this is a difficult issue involving personal and religious convictions and it represents a very significant change to a long-standing institution,” Mr. Martin said.

The court ruling was hailed by homosexual groups and decried by many traditionalists.

Several groups supporting the traditional definition of marriage and the province of Alberta have vowed to fight same-sex “marriage” legislation.

Gwen Landolt with Real Women of Canada called for a national referendum.

“The people of Canada must have a say,” Mrs. Landolt said. “The time has come that we will restore democracy across Canada.”

She also called for the traditional definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman to be enshrined in the Canadian Constitution.

Same-sex unions already were legal in six out of 10 Canadian provinces and in one territory out of three after provincial court rulings in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec.

Lower courts had ruled that laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman contravened rights guaranteed under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Despite some opposition within Mr. Martin’s ruling Liberal Party, legislation allowing homosexual unions is expected to pass a Parliament vote with the support of the leftist New Democratic Party and separatist Bloc Quebecois.

Most members of the official opposition, the newly created Conservative Party, are expected to vote against the bill.

Mr. Martin has promised that lawmakers will be allowed to vote with their conscience.

Canada decriminalized homosexuality in 1969, after Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau argued successfully that “the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.”

In 2000, the House of Commons voted to give homosexual couples the same social and tax benefits as heterosexuals living in common-law unions.

In the United States, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Paul Snyder ruled in August that two Washington state women who “married” in Canada couldn’t file for joint bankruptcy because the federal Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage only as the union of one man and one woman.

In November, voters in 11 states approved measures to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman.

Homosexuals who get “married” in Canada might receive recognition in some companies and communities that honor domestic-partner agreements.

This week, for example, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said city pension funds should treat same-sex couples with out-of-state civil unions and “marriages” — including those from Canada — the same as married spouses.

Cheryl Wetzstein contributed to this report in Washington.

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