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Supreme court to Parliament: ball’s in your court

The Canadian Supreme Court issued its decision on gay marriage today in a historic judgement that essentially kicked the issue back into the hands of lawmakers:

In a landmark ruling, Canada’s Supreme Court said the government was within its constitutional rights to change the definition of marriage to allow gay and lesbian weddings.

[ . . . ]

The legislation is expected to win the necessary support in parliament, after it is introduced by the government early next year.

But the court ruled that religious officials could not be compelled to marry same sex couples, if the practice ran counter to their beliefs.

It also declined to rule on the question of whether a change to the laws regarding same-sex marriage was required by the constitution, a move that could complicate the task of shepherding the draft law through parliament.

This is a nice ‘something for everyone’ compromise. For those in favour of gay marriage, it cleared the way for a new definition of marriage. For those opposed, it didn’t compel the issue on a constitutional basis, nor did it step on the toes of religious autonomy. For those who believe that this was a matter for legislators and not judges, the Supreme Court essentially agreed.

It’s a shame that the court didn’t have the courage to decisively say that discrimination against gay people is against the spirit of the Charter of Rights. This ruling reminds me that sometimes, trying to be everything to everyone means ending up being nothing to nobody.

The ball’s in Parliament’s court now. A vote for gay marriage is expected to pass fairly easily, with the NDP, the Bloc, and most Liberals voting for, and the Conservatives voting against. But on principle, I disagree that matters such as rights should be decided by a majority-rule vote.

I suppose I’ll have to be patient as I wait for the country to catch up to that thinking. After all, at least we’re a lot further ahead on the issue than our US neighbours.

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