Saturday, July 09, 2005

And P.E.I. Makes 9

9th Canadian Province Agrees To Gay Marriage
by Ben Thompson Ottawa Bureau

Posted: July 9 2005 12:01 am ET

(Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island) Canada's smallest province, Prince Edward Island, has become the ninth province to acknowledge same-sex marriage - leaving only the province of Alberta and two northern territories waiting for a bill before parliament requiring them to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

Prince Edward Island Attorney-General Mildred Dover said the province will not wait for the Senate to pass the bill, known as C-38, and will bring Island laws into compliance with the broadened definition of marriage.

The definition of marriage is a federal responsibility but administering marriage licenses and issues involving family law, adoption, and divorce are provincial.

Dover said her staff have identified approximately 50 places in provincial legislation where references to spouse, marriage, husband or wife may have to be altered to include non-traditional pairs.

“We're looking at the possibility of bringing in an omnibus bill that would say something to the effect of wherever the word spouse appears in our legislation, it includes same-sex and heterosexual marriages,” she said.

“If that's not possible, this is going to be a lot longer process.”

But, she added that marriage licenses for same-sex couples will not be available until later this month when the federal Senate passes the legislation. It has already passed the Commons.

“We have said all along that we would comply if the federal government passed same-sex legislation. They have the power to define marriage,” she said.

Dover's announcement came as a welcome surprise to Greg Howard, executive director of the PEI Human Rights Commission.

Howard said he has talked to the province about same-sex marriage recognition for some time, but the government has been non-committal.

“This is very good news because the federal legislation only directly changes federal laws and the province is opting to comply with that as opposed to trying to find some way to circumvent the law,” he said.

“If they wanted to, they could be dragging their heels. This is good news for gay and lesbian people on Prince Edward Island.”

Alberta has announced it is seeking a way to opt out of the law, but admits has been unable so far to find a loophole short of getting out of issuing civil marriage licenses to anyone. That would leave marriage up to churches.

Meanwhile, a federal New Democratic Party politician in Ontario has been disciplined by a Catholic diocese for supporting same-sex marriage.

The Diocese of London is barring Windsor-Tecumseh MP Joe Comartin from full involvement in church activities.

In a letter, Ronald Fabbro, the Bishop of London, says the measure will remain in effect until Comartin has "a change of mind'' in using the term marriage with reference to same-sex unions.

A spokesman for the diocese said Comartin will still be able to attend mass and receive communion.

Father Gerry Compeau, the pastor of Comartin's church, Our Lady of the Rosary in Windsor, Ont., said Comartin is ``very friendly and courteous, and has a lot of respect for the clergy.''

``But I think he has to realize, like I have to realize, that we follow the church's law, and I follow it and he should be following it.''

Comartin says in a statement the bishop's action have deeply hurt him and his family.

© 2005


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