Canada's 'Skewed Democracy' Blamed for Homosexual Marriage Ruling

By Alison Appelbe | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

Vancouver, BC ( - The United States is unlikely to follow in the footsteps of Canada in accepting same-sex marriages, argue two prominent critics of the Ontario Court of Appeal decision this week that allows homosexuals to legally tie the knot.

The founder and national vice-president of the REAL Women of Canada, Gwen Landolt, blamed the nature of the Canadian judicial system, in which judges are appointed without public review, for a series of decisions in which liberal or left-leaning judges have set the agenda by tossing out a federal law that defines marriage as the unique bond of a man and a woman.

"Will your (American) courts do the same thing as the Canadian courts have done? I don't think so," Landolt said Thursday from Toronto. "You don't have such a skewed democracy as we have here."

Landolt said Tuesday's decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal granting homosexuals the immediate right to marriage under Ontario law has usurped the still-incomplete work of a Parliamentary committee that has been traveling across Canada seeking public input on the contentious issue.

Tuesday's ruling left federal Justice Minister Martin Cauchon scrambling for a way to proceed in the face of widely differing views on the issue both within Parliament and the wider public. At last report, Cauchon was considering either appealing the decision or drafting a law to recognize same-sex marriage, and then asking the Supreme Court of Canada to rule on its constitutionality.

However, Landolt, a lawyer, said that even the latter process would not be open and democratic. In hearing what are called "references," the highest court does not accept opposing arguments. "This is not acceptable," Landolt said. "What we're seeing is a great and grand political game. The courts are stomping on the voices of ordinary Canadians. It shows how profoundly undemocratic Canada has become."

Even employees of the federal Justice Department have warned that their own government will ultimately lose the fight to retain a traditional definition of marriage and should accept the inevitable. In typical media commentary, the Vancouver Sun newspaper Thursday urged the justice minister not to appeal the decision, but rather to immediately recognize and legislate same-sex marriage.

In Washington, D.C., Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women for America, suggested that the Canadian experience would produce a backlash in the U.S.

"The homosexual lobby in the U.S. will use this to pressure politicians to create gay marriage here, but I'm hoping that this rash decision in Ontario will have the opposite effect and will light a fire under the legislators to move to protect marriage fully," Knight said. "I think it will actually help in America."

Knight described the Canadian process as "law-making by default" and called on Republicans to respond. "The Republican Party has a tremendous opportunity here to restate its claim as the party of family values. They will fail to do so at our peril."

The Ontario decision, he said, makes Canada look like "a fun house mirror," adding that that's "an image America would like to avoid." He described the acceptance of same-sex marriage as a "great disservice to children" and predicted that businesses everywhere would be increasingly pressured to adopt costly policies that fully support homosexual employees.

In the Ontario Court decision, the three judges defended their ruling in part by asserting that homosexuals have not been granted unequivocal equal rights.

"It is our view that same-sex couples have not achieved equal access to government benefits," the decision said, referring, for example, to waiting periods for co-habitation benefits.

However, there is still strong opposition to same-sex unions in Canada. In Alberta, the most conservative and American of provinces, Premier Ralph Klein has said that if the same-sex marriage policy is not successfully appealed and rejected, he would invoke a "notwithstanding clause," which allows the province to opt out. "Period. End of story," he added.

If the policy stands, Canada would become the third country in the world, after the Netherlands and Belgium, to legalize marriage between same-sex couples. However, Landolt said both of those European countries did so only with the full support of their legislators (and with some legal restraints).

"Canada is the only country in the world that has changed the definition of marriage in the courts and not in the political process," she said.

Opponents of same-sex marriage also see the policy as an infringement on religious freedom by forcing churches to marry homosexuals. However, defenders say courts across the country already recognize religious rights, such as the Catholic Church's refusal to marry divorcees, and that these would expand to include sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, Ontario homosexuals are taking full advantage of Tuesday's decision. The same day the ruling was issued, several couples were legally married. Since then, according to news reports, "dozens" have obtained marriage licenses.

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