The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled on Monday that civil marriage commissioners—individuals licensed by the government to perform non-religious civil marriage ceremonies—cannot refuse to marry same-sex couples.
Saskatchewan’s government, under premier Brad Wall, had asked the court for advice on two proposed bills. One would have allowed marriage commissioners to deny public services to gay couples, and the other would have allowed only marriage commissioners licensed before the legalization of same-sex marriage to do so. Both proposals were ruled unconstitutional.
This decision was expected and right. Marriage commissioners are there to perform non-religious, legal ceremonies and are not representatives of their privately held religious beliefs. Allowing a public service employee to refuse their duties based on the sexual orientation of their clients would have been unprecedented, opening a can of writhing, slimy worms as to what other services can be denied to the public.
Not everyone is content with the court’s ruling, of course. Maurice Vellacott, a Conservative MP (who has been on this site before, imagine that), angrily blasted the court decision on Tuesday. “The Court has hereby belittled religious faith or any faith for that matter,” he announced, hereby, in a press interview. “It sets up a hierarchy of rights saying these same-sex rights are more important than freedom of consience and religion.”
Utter nonsense, of course. No one, not even gays, are allowed to deny public services to anyone legally entitled to those services. That right never existed, and this ruling hasn’t changed it. Religious freedom, also, still exists in Canada. Everyone is free to worship whichever religion they choose.
So, if you believe that a gaggle of motley-clad deities mandates that all moral humans must get their left nipple pierced by an 84-year-old former acrobat upon graduating high school and have it fastened with a pewter-cast triskaidecagon, then by all means, go for it. But that doesn’t mean you get to go around denying boating licenses to anyone who has their pewter-cast triskaidecagon through their right nipple instead of their left.
At least, I think so. Technically, that court decision is still pending.