Like most of you, I believe neither the Charter, nor the Civil Marriage Act will protect people who do not accept same-sex marriage -- but if these won't protect the rights of those who disagree -- I fail to see how some new law is going to do the trick. This law reiterates the protections laid out in the Civil Marriage Act -- which makes it redundant:
11.1 No person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under this or any law of Alberta, solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Bill of Rights, or the expression or exercise of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.
Compare to Civil Marriage Act:
3.1 For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.And, while this bill might give comfort to those who seek its protection, but it is unlikely to give the protection it promises -- which makes it futile.
A couple of commenters say that the Civil Marriage Act seeks to protect only clergy, but I don't read that. Bill 208 explicitly seeks to protect clergy and marriage commissioners, but the Civil Marriage Act mentions only 'person(s)'. It will take a challenge and a judge to make 'person' mean anything but 'living human being' -- although we know how easily that can happen.
The Alberta bill goes on to make changes to two other Acts -- one identifying clergy and marriage councillors specifically, and another identifying teachers and students specifically. Most people believe that this bill is forward thinking and will prevent lawsuits and other punitive action against teachers/students/clergy/marriage commissioners. I respectfully disagree. Specifically identifying these particular people as 'protected' weakens the meaning of the word 'person' in the first clause. If all persons are protected from punitive action when they exercise their right to freedom of religion, conscience, belief, expression, etc. -- why does Bill 208 feel it necessary to identify specific persons for more emphatic protection -- if 'person' is an all-inclusive term, breaking it down into subgroups in order to grant particular protection is either redunant, or assumes that 'person' doesn't include all people -- and then we have to worry -- by identifying specific groups does that mean all other 'persons' are excluded from this protection? Kind of muddies the waters, doesn't it?
One commenter says that marriage commissioners in Newfloundland have already been fired for refusing to perform same-sex marriages and I find that disturbing -- Have they sought legal advice or filed a complaint with a Human Rights Commission? I would hope so. I doubt it will help, but it's important not to let these things pass.
I'm well aware of the Brockie case and the Christopher Kempling case mentioned by different commenters, and I think Alberta Girl summed it up well in my comments section:
Gay activists will not stop until they have forced their will, through the courts, on this country. Even if Bill 208 passed, (which by the way the majority of Albertans believe should pass), gay activists would take it to the courts until those whose values do not accept the gay lifestyle are forced to perform unions(marriages), teach about the gay lifestyle. They will not rest until they have psuedo acceptance of their lifestyle. I say psuedo acceptance because are you really accepted if you had to force someone to accept you and your lifestyle? Me thinks not?Last spring when the SSM debate was still raging, I argued vociferously against it. My opinions haven't changed. I have no illusions about the Charter, or the Civil Marriage Act. I am not against Bill 208 in principle, but I am against creating a false sense of security.
My post was not a disagreement with 208, it was simply a lament at its futility.
If anyone is interested, I've written extensively on same-sex marriage and the potential ramifications:
The myth of the moderate (May 24, 2005)
Same-sex marriage debate in 7 parts (ONE) (TWO) (THREE) (FOUR) (FIVE) (SIX) (SEVEN)
(May 25, 2005)
Sounds good on paper (May 26, 2005)
As C-38 heads towards law (June 22, 2005)
Response to commenters (June 23, 2005)
Religious bigotry (June 26, 2005)
Public funding, public rules? (June 27, 2005)
Are any rights sacrosanct? (July 13, 2005)
How did we get here? (July 15, 2005)
Same-sex rights, the RC Church and the UN (July 16, 2005)
It's all about sex (July 25, 2005)
Two tier democracy (December 19, 2005)
Whose values are these anyway? (January 14, 2006)
Activist judges-- never! (January 19, 2006)
Expressing my views . . . (January 21, 2006)