Orville Nichols, a civil marriage commissioner from Saskatchewan, is suing the provincial government over a requirement to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Nichols was fined $2,500 last May for refusing to perform a marriage for a couple because they were gay. Nichols now says that the province is violating his religious beliefs and that he should be allowed to deny his services to whomever he pleases, adding that the province’s requirement to serve everyone equally is an icy, icy, all ’round super treacherous slope. His lawer, Philip Fourle, explains:
What is next? Will the government be invading churches with their laws and forcing pastors and ministers and priests in churches to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies?
Ah, yes. Ever since I was a wee lad, I always imagined my special wedding day being held in a church that thinks I’m a horrible, horrible sinner—priest nervously presiding over us at gunpoint… government agents standing cross-armed by the newly kicked-in cathedral door. But that’s not terrifically likely.
See, religious institutions are exempt from Canada’s Charter of Rights, and may deny services to whomever they wish. Many religions refuse to wed inter-faith couples unless one converts, and are well within their legal rights to do so. Likewise, churches are not required to marry same-sex couples.
But here’s the thing: A civil marriage commissioner is acting on behalf of the state. Nichols is not an ambassador of his religion and he may not deny his public service to anyone based on their religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation.
So, basically, if this case succeeds, that means I also get to deny my services to whomever I want. So watch out, Bluetooth headset users! Your day is coming.
- Saskatchewan government sued over same-sex marriage rites [National Post]
- Marriage official sues Sask. government over same-sex unions [Edmonton Journal]