THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

February 01, 2005 11:37 ET

UNITED CHURCH SAYS SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BILL OFFERS WIN-WIN SOLUTION

Attention: Assignment Editor, City Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Feb. 1, 2005) - The United Church of Canada congratulated the Canadian government today on introducing legislation that offers a win-win solution in the same-sex marriage debate.

"Marriage will be enhanced, not diminished, religious freedom will be protected, not threatened, and Canadian society will be strengthened, not weakened, as a result of this legislation," says the Rev. Dr. Jim Sinclair, General Secretary of the General Council.

Canada's largest Protestant denomination, The United Church of Canada, has long supported the civil recognition of same-sex partnerships. In August 2000, the 37th General Council affirmed that human sexual orientations, whether heterosexual or homosexual, are a gift from God and part of the marvellous diversity of creation. The Council further resolved to advocate for the civil recognition of same-sex partnerships. In August 2003, the 38th General Council decided "to call upon the Government of Canada to recognize same-sex marriages in marriage legislation."

Choice Okoro's work with the United Church focuses on human rights issues. She explains that while the United Church unequivocally supports the right of same-sex couples to have access to civil marriage, it also unequivocally supports the right of religious communities to refuse to perform such marriages.

"The United Church has long argued that equality and religious freedom can live side by side, supporting each other and building a stronger society," says Okoro.

She says the United Church maintains that the religious freedom of faith communities who object to same-sex marriage will not be infringed by the proposed legislation because they cannot be compelled to offer marriages which violate their religious beliefs.

"Religious freedom is far more threatened by a vote against the legislation than by a vote in favour," says Okoro. She explains that voting against same-sex marriage will inevitably limit the religious freedom of those who support and celebrate the sanctity of same-sex marriage as a religious rite.

Jackie Harper serves as the United Church's program staff for Family Ministries. "A significant, unique contribution that the United Church brings to this debate is the denomination's own experience of making same-sex marriage ceremonies available to its members and, at the same time, respecting the right of those within the denomination who are opposed to such services," says Harper.

She explains that the United Church draws a distinction between religious and civil marriage. "Even within the United Church, where same-sex marriages are regularly sanctified, no congregation or minister can be forced to officiate at a same-sex marriage unwillingly."

She adds, "Religious marriage is not, and cannot be, affected by the proposed legislation. All faith communities in Canada, whatever their views on same-sex marriage, have the absolute right to determine for themselves who will be eligible for religious marriage within their communities. This includes the right to determine whether the community will offer religious marriages to interfaith couples, to divorced couples, or to couples who are not members of the community."

Harper comments that the United Church's understanding of marriage is grounded in love- "God's love for humanity, love between life partners who seek to live in relationships based on trust, mutuality, and commitment. It is also about the love of caring communities-families, friends, and churches-that acknowledge, support, nurture, challenge, and honour such relationships."

Harper adds that the civil recognition of same-sex marriages affirms the love that is expressed in these committed relationships. "It is also about justice, according same-sex couples the same rights, responsibilities, privileges, and protections as any other couple in our society. It is about ensuring that all people are treated with fairness, dignity, and respect. No one is beyond the love of God; no one is disenfranchised because of their choice of partner."
/For further information: Mary-Frances Denis Communications Officer The United Church of Canada 416-231-7680 ext. 2016 (office) 416-885-7478 (cell) 416-766-0057 (home) mdenis@united-church.ca / IN: JUSTICE, POLITICS, RELIGION

Contact Information

  • Mary-Frances Denis, Communications Officer, The United Church of Canada
    Primary Phone: 416-231-7680 ext. 2016
    Secondary Phone: 416-766-0057
    E-mail: mdenis@united-church.ca