The highest Ontario court ruled on June 10 that the province's legal definition of marriage—that it is between a man and a woman—violates homosexuals' human rights enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court of appeal in Ontario changed the common-law definition of marriage from "one man and one woman" to "two persons."

One week later, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien announced that the government would let the decision stand. The practical effect will be the legalization of homosexual marriage across Canada.

Chrétien said the federal justice department would rewrite the definition of marriage this summer and present it to the Supreme Court of Canada. The prime minister also promised a bill to protect "the rights of churches and religious organizations to sanctify marriage as they define it."

If the Supreme Court of Canada finds the bill constitutionally sound, the House of Commons would likely vote on it this fall.

Despite the exception, Christian critics say the government and gay-rights activists have hijacked the democratic process.

"The court unilaterally has altered an institution of vital social significance, and the government apparently has conceded the issue to the court by not appealing," Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), said in a prepared statement. "It is not the role of the court, nor an appropriate use of the Charter, to redefine pre-existing social, cultural, and religious institutions."

The EFC joined an interfaith coalition that intervened in cases in Ontario and British Columbia. The coalition included Roman Catholics, evangelical Protestants, Sikhs, and Muslims.

Many Canadians oppose legalizing homosexual marriage. In June a national survey found that 54 percent ...

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July 2003

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