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Sexual Orientation
 
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Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects against discrimination and has been interpreted to include sexual orientation. Federal and provincial human rights legislation include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

This legislation has led to redefinition of the term "spouse".  Since the M. v. H. case was decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1995, the federal government and several provinces have amended legislation granting "spousal" benefits to same-sex partners.  Nova Scotia established a registered domestic partnership system to address the granting of marriage-like benefits and responsibilities to same-sex partners. Quebec has passed legislation allowing "same-sex civil unions".

The Ontario Court of Appeal redefined marriage as being between "two persons" on June 9, 2003 to include same-sex couples. On July 17 the Minister of Justice unveiled the legislation to redefine marriage as the union of two persons to the exclusion of all others. He also made a reference of three questions to the Supreme Court. The Bill was introduced in the House of Commons and subsequently became law in July, 2005. In addition to redefining marriage as being between "two persons," the Bill states the legislation is not intended to affect the “freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.”

Religious freedom has come into conflict with the rights of gays and lesbians.  The Supreme Court of Canada decided that Trinity Western University could not be denied accreditation of their education program on the basis that their students signed a document in which they agreed to refrain from homosexual behaviour while a student on campus.  It also ruled in the Chamberlain v. Surrey School Board case that in public schools, concerns of religious parents must be tolerant of gays and lesbians. The Ontario Division Court has ruled that a Christian printer may not refuse work from an organization promoting the gay and lesbian lifestyle unless the material itself is offensive to his religious beliefs (See Brockie v. Brillinger). A Christian camp in Manitoba is facing a possible human rights complaint because it refused to rent to a gay and lesbian group. A British Columbia Board of Inquiry’s recent ruling that the Knights of Columbus may refuse to rent their hall for a same-sex wedding reception because it violates their “core beliefs” as a religious organization is relevant to all churches that rent their facilities. While the tribunal ruled in the Knights of Columbus’s favour, they were still fined "for injury to the lesbian couple's dignity, feelings and self-respect.” See the EFC's resources on developing church policies for issues like this.

Issue: Sexual Orientation

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Looking for support on your personal journey? Try Reconnecting.ca, a site produced by New Direction Ministries of Canada.

   
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