In July, Canada legally defined marriage as being between "two persons" with passage of Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act. The push to legitimize marriage between homosexuals originated in the past four years from court decisions in three Canadian provinces: Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia.

But Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) president Bruce Clemenger told CT, "Evangelical pastors and congregations will continue to celebrate and promote marriage as the exclusive and enduring union of one man and one woman."

Such a stance has solid support in some faith communities. A conservative Christian-Jewish-Muslim-Sikh group known as the Defend Marriage Coalition drew a March 5 crowd of 15,000 to the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. Delegates to the convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada in Winnipeg rejected a resolution to allow congregations a "local option" to introduce blessings for homosexual couples.

The change in definition will not legally affect the right of clergy to choose at which marriages they officiate. However, evangelicals and Catholics say they need specific protections on related issues. These include refusing to rent church halls for same-sex marriage receptions and baptizing the adopted children of gay couples. Evangelical leaders fear that gay-rights activists will now focus their pressure tactics on denominations.

Janet Epp Buckingham, the EFC's law and public policy director, suggests "there is little doubt that religious freedom will be compromised" by C-38.

United Church, Unitarian, and Metropolitan Community church leaders support the law. Already offering religious rites for gay couples, they maintain that religious freedom is well protected.

Religious freedom emerged as an issue when ...

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