THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

April 11, 2005 11:02 ET

RELIGIOUS FAITHFUL RALLY IN SUPPORT OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE LEGISLATION

Multi-Faith Coalition Issues a Joint Statement to Demonstrate Faith-Based Support for Civil Same-Sex Marriage Attention: Assignment Editor, City Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - April 11, 2005) - "We believe that in an environment where religious beliefs are being used to fuel arguments for and against same-sex marriage, it is essential that politicians recognize the diversity of views that exist within faith communities," says a religious coalition that includes Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Quakers, Sikhs and Unitarians.

The comments were made at a news conference in Toronto today where representatives of the Religious Coalition for Equal Marriage Rights issued a joint multi-faith statement of support for civil same-sex marriage.

Today's news conference also highlighted a series of multi-faith events supporting same-sex marriage that happened in cities across Canada this past weekend. These events were held in Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.

The Religious Coalition for Equal Marriage Rights includes representatives from liberal and traditional faith communities in Canada, including The United Church of Canada, the Canadian Unitarian Council, the Muslim Canadian Congress, the Canadian Friends Service Committee of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the World Sikh Organization, Canadian Rabbis for Equal Marriage, Metropolitan Community Church, Ahavat Olam Synagogue (Vancouver), Church of the Holy Trinity (Anglican) in Toronto, the Apostolic Society of Franciscan Communities-Canada, and liberal and progressive members of the Buddhist, Catholic, First Nations, Hindu, Mennonite, and Muslim communities.

Jane Orion Smith of the Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers) says the Religious Coalition for Equal Marriage Rights came together with the common purpose of demonstrating faith-based support for civil same-sex marriage by a wide range of religious groups.

"The diversity of opinion about same-sex marriage that exists within Canadian society is also present within many different faith communities in Canada," says Smith. She hopes that today's news conference, the signing of the multi-faith statement and this past weekend's religious rallies will signal to politicians that the faithful do speak with more than one voice on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Richard Chambers of The United Church of Canada agrees. "We want to dispel the myth that if you are a person of faith, you must be opposed to same-sex marriage," says Chambers.

Rabbi Ed Elkin, of Canadian Rabbis for Equal Marriage, explains that the law already allows for civil marriage for couples that some religious groups would refuse to marry. He says all members of the Religious Coalition for Equal Marriage Rights believe that, as a matter of individual and religious freedom, anyone who wishes to participate in a civil same-sex marriage recognized by law should have the right to do so.

"This issue is not a conflict between freedom of religion and secular equality values or between the lesbian and gay male communities and people of faith, but rather it is a debate between people of differing religious beliefs and values," says Elkin.

Linda Thomson, of the Canadian Unitarian Council, comments that the coalition is confident that Bill C-38 respects diversity and tolerance and grants religious freedom to clergy and religious groups to make their own choice whether to perform ceremonies equally for all loving adult couples. "The right to refuse is fully protected by Bill C-38," says Thomson.

Amanpreet Singh Bal of the World Sikh Organization agrees. "Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act, upholds the religious freedom of those opposed to same-sex marriage and will not discriminate against them any more than legal recognition of divorce did in the last century." He says the religious coalition's statement unequivocally supports the right of those faiths with contrary views to continue to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

Tarek Fatah of the Muslim Canadian Congress believes that same-sex marriage legislation is about fundamental and universal human rights.

"Members of many of our communities are from racial and religious minority groups that themselves experience discrimination, and we understand that human rights as guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms must extend to everyone, including gay men and lesbians. Same-sex marriage is a human right," says Fatah.

He adds that the guarantee of freedom of religion in our constitution and in the legislation ensures that every Canadian will continue to have the right to practice their religion as they see fit.

"No mosque, church, gurdwara, temple, or synagogue will ever have to conduct a same-sex marriage if they do not wish to," says Fatah. "But freedom of religion cannot come at the cost of limiting the rights of other groups in society."

The complete text of the coalition's joint statement is available at www.religious-coalition.org.
/For further information: Mary-Frances Denis Communications Officer The United Church of Canada 416-231-7680 ext. 2016 (office) 416-885-7478 (cell) The United Church of Canada: Richard Chambers (416) 231-7680 ext. 4196 rchambers@united-church.ca Canadian Unitarian Council: Linda Thomson (905) 332-3851 linda@cuc.ca Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quaker): Jane Orion Smith (416) 920-5213 cfsc@quaker.ca Muslim Canadian Congress: Tarek Fatah (416)-953-1798 tarekfatah@canada.com World Sikh Organisation: Amanpreet Bal 647-224-0000 amanpreet.bal@sympatico.ca Canadian Rabbis for Equal Marriage: Rabbi Elkin (416) 487-4200 rabbi@narayever.com / IN: POLITICS, RELIGION

Contact Information

  • Mary-Frances Denis, Communications Officer, The United Church of Canada
    Primary Phone: 416-231-7680 ext. 2016
    Secondary Phone: 416-885-7478
    E-mail: mdenis@united-church.ca