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Uncommon law

International | Whoa, Canada. The top court in the country's largest province last week ordered local authorities to grant marriage licenses to homosexuals wishing to wed.

Issue: "How to fix baseball," June 21, 2003

Whoa, Canada. The top court in the country's largest province last week ordered local authorities to grant marriage licenses to homosexuals wishing to wed. The provincial appeals court of Ontario held that Canada's ban on homosexual marriages discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, outlawed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms enacted in 1982. Within hours, two men "wed" in a civil ceremony in Toronto, and the city clerk had no choice but to issue a license.

"Nowhere else in the world has a court ruled the heterosexual definition of marriage violates human rights," fumed Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

Courts in other cases in Canada have agreed in principle but said it is up to parliament to legally define marriage. Legislators are at work on the issue. The problem stems in part from Canada's heritage. At its founding, the country embraced Britain's "common law," which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. The Canadian constitution in 1867 recognized marriage but didn't define it; lawmakers assumed the common-law definition.

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Mr. Clemenger indicated many Canadians, including church members, believe a dichotomy is Canada's future: same-sex unions will be allowed as a "public-justice" matter, while the churches can continue to define marriage traditionally.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman

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