Toronto: In a statement released today, The United Church of Canada has called on the Canadian government to move in a timely way to end the debate on Bill C-38 and to vote in favour of same-sex marriage legislation.
"Marriage will be enhanced, not diminished, religious freedom will be protected, not threatened, and Canadian society will be strengthened, not weakened, as a result of this legislation," says Richard Chambers of the Justice, Global and Ecumenical Relations Unit.
Chambers says that further rancorous debate over this issue will only serve to polarize positions rather than contribute to building a strong civil society based on the values of inclusion, diversity, mutual respect, and fairness.
He says a significant, unique contribution that the United Church brings to this discussion is the denomination's own experience of making same-sex marriage ceremonies available to its members and, at the same time, respecting the rights of those within the denomination who choose not to offer such services.
"Religious marriage is not, and cannot be, affected by the proposed legislation," explains Chambers. He says all religious communities in Canada, whatever their views on same-sex marriage, have the absolute right to determine for themselves who will be eligible for religious marriage within their communities.
Chambers adds that the United Church also believes that the protection for conscientious objection to performing same-sex marriages, which is provided by the Charter and affirmed in the proposed legislation, does not conflict with the right of same-sex couples to marry.
"The enactment of the proposed legislation means that same-sex couples will be able to obtain civil marriage," explains Chambers. He adds that while some same-sex couples may not be able to obtain religious marriage, depending on the views of a particular faith community, that is also the case for many other couples, such as interfaith couples. It does not deprive same-sex couples of their legal right to civil marriage.
In considering their vote on Bill C-38, Chambers says Members of Parliament should remember that they are called to serve and to care for the interests of all Canadians, regardless of their faith, regardless of their gender, and regardless of their sexual orientation.
"Freedom of religion does not trump equality, nor does equality trump freedom of religion; the rights must co-exist," says Chambers.
For further information, please contact:Mary-Frances Denis