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Martin's SSM Compromise

Paul Martin has met the other anti-SSM Liberals, and CTV reports that they discussed these modifications to the bill:

  1. Stronger guarantees that Charter rights will not override religious freedoms
  2. Justices of the Peace who do not want to perform civil marriages of same-sex couples will not have to do so
  3. Churches are not required to rent out their halls for same-sex weddings
  4. Religious educational institutions will still be allowed to preach that homosexuality is against God's law, without being subject to hate crime laws

This meeting took place after Pat O'Brien's defection. Further negotiations have been going on, but no deal has been made yet.

Point number one always struck me as obvious. In fact, I felt that Conservatives were playing on irrational fears when they talked about churches being forced to conduct same-sex marriages. It seemed like an outrageous proposition to me, and one that would not follow from this law. The government doesn't force the Catholic Church to marry divorced people, after all. And yet, divorced people also have a right to marry in Canada.

Point number three is probably also fine.

I'm not entirely sure about point four. I agree that churches and religious schools should still be able to teach their interpretation of their faith, and this is probably already protected by the constitution. However, any new wording of their exemption from hate crime laws should be carefully written. Saying, "homosexuality is a sin" is one thing, but one can imagine much more inflamatory language that ought not to be protected. Hopefully this amendment -- which has nothing to do with same-sex marriage -- will not create a loophole than allows for amplified attacks against homosexuals.

I do have a problem with point two. It's like a personal notwithstanding clause. Justices of the Peace are government employees, entrusted with powers as agents of the law. I see no reason why they should get to choose which laws they agree with, and which ones they don't. If they don't like the law, that's too bad for them. While a gay couple would probably prefer not to have an anti-SSM JP, there can be situations where they have no choice, such as in remote communities. I don't agree with this amendment and hope it will be dropped. Furthermore, if it is retained, I would hope that it doesn't override provincial policies.

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