Marriage & Family

Principles

Marriage is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman. Like God’s complementary creation of man and woman, marriage holds great significance in revealing aspects of God’s character and His relationship to humanity. The permanence and monogamy of the marital bond mirrors God’s faithfulness and singular devotion to his church and his church’s singular devotion to him.

Marriage symbolizes and supports the inherently procreative relationship that exists only between a man and a woman. It is also the relationship that forms the foundation of family and community life.

The family is to provide physical, emotional and spiritual care for its members as it enables them to serve God, other persons and creation. Parents have the privilege and unique responsibility of leading their children to know God and his ways as well as the world around them. See the EFC's position paper on Marriage and Family from 1996 for a fuller discussion of the evangelical Christian view of marriage.

The Issue

Family relationships are foundational to Canadian society. Marriage is the primary setting for the raising and nurturing of children. Marriage tends to be more stable than common-law relationships and more beneficial for children.

Current Status

Tax Policies

One of the primary tasks of the family is the care of its members, including dependent children. Tax policies do little to acknowledge the financial expense and the benefit to society of raising children. Currently, single income families with dependent children pay more taxes than dual income families with dependent children based on equal family income. In a 1998 COMPAS poll, 82% of respondents said the government should make it a priority to change the tax law to make it easier for parents with young children to afford to have one parent at home.[1]

The Road to Redefinition

The cases that ultimately determined that the heterosexual definition of marriage is discriminatory started in 2000 in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. The first decision was that of Justice Pitfield of the B.C. Supreme Court. He ruled in October 2001 that marriage was by its nature between a man and a woman and that the Charter cannot be used to challenge that definition.

On July 12, 2002, however, the Ontario Division Court overruled its 1993 decision upholding the heterosexual definition of marriage. It ruled instead that the restriction that marriage be between a man and a woman was discriminatory against gays and lesbians and gave the federal government 24 months to pass legislation to remedy the discrimination. The B.C. Court of Appeal made a similar ruling on May 1, 2003.

The major change to marriage was the Ontario Court of Appeal decision on June 10, 2003 which redefined marriage to “between two persons” effective immediately. The federal government decided not to appeal this ruling so this became the law in Ontario. As cases came up in other provinces, the courts ruled that because this decision had not been appealed and applies to an area of federal law, it must be considered the law in all provinces. 

In June 2004, the House of Commons passed Bill C-38, the Marriage for Civil Purposes Act, which redefines the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, and in July, 2005 the Senate approved the bill.  On June 20, 2005, Bill C-38 received royal assent as became law.

In December 2006 the federal government fulfilled an election promise by tabling a motion in the House of Commons as follows:

That this house call on the government to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions, and while respecting existing same sex marriages."

The motion was defeated by a vote of 175 to 123. Prime Minister Harper announced after the vote that he would not bring the issue back before Parliament again. 

 

Same-Sex Marriage is the Law - Where do we go from here?

We feel a profound sense of loss – the loss of the shared societal understanding of marriage. However, our commitment to the gospel of Christ is not shaken:

  • We will continue to support efforts to recognize the historic definition of marriage;   
    We will promote marriage as a covenantal relationship before God of one man and one woman, in accordance with Scripture;
  • We are urging provincial governments to pass legislation to protect religious freedom in relation to the solemnization of marriage for clergy, churches and civil marriage officials;
  • We encourage churches to have written policies on their religious beliefs and practices of marriage and have resources available to assist;
  • We are advising people as to their rights to religious freedom: civil marriage officials and those involved in the wedding business (caterers, florists, photographers and musicians);
  • We are gearing up to deal with issues in the education system, in particular, religious freedom for teachers and students who are committed to the historic understanding of marriage.

Footnote

[1] Chris Cobb, "Canadians want government to give more help to families," National Post, November 25, 1998.

Statistics

A Valued Institution Under Stress

Marriage and family are highly valued by Canadians. In a 2002 survey, nearly 80 percent said the family is the their first priority. [2] The overwhelming majority of Canadians still live with family members, whether with a spouse, a parent, a child or extended family. [3] Among unmarried Canadians in their twenties, over three-quarters expect to get married. [4] According to a 2003 survey, 83 percent of Canadians said they supported allotting additional government resources to families with children. [5]

Even so, Canadian families are increasingly under stress. Family breakdown is common; according to the most recent numbers from Statistics Canada, 37.6 percent of marriages in Canada are projected to end in divorce. Canadian children are experiencing their parents' separation at increasingly younger ages, and missing out on the practical benefits that are inherent to marriage. [6]

The Right to Mom and Dad

A healthy marriage is a unique source of benefits for children, including the stability of the family and the access of children to a mother and a father. Marriage recognizes the best interests of the child to know intimately and experience his or her biological and social heritage. It offers the practical ideal that does not intentionally forfeit the child’s right to grow up being nurtured by both parents. Studies show that children whose parents are married to each other are generally better adjusted and have fewer problems than those of single parents or blended families. Neither the church, nor the government nor any other institution can confer the innate benefits of marriage on different relationships.

What about Common-Law?

Marriages generally last twice as long as common-law relationships. Approximately 38 percent of marriages are expected to end in separation or divorce, compared with approximately 60 percent of common-law relationships. [7] Further, children whose parents get married without first living common-law are three times more likely to have their family stay together. Children whose parents live common-law and never marry are most likely to see their family dissolve. By the age of 10, 63% of children from common-law unions had their parents separate, compared to 14% of children whose parents were married and had never lived common-law. [8]

Footnotes

[2] Canadian Attitudes on the Family, Focus on the Family Canada with the Strategic Council, October 2002.
[3] From the Kitchen Table to the Boardroom Table: The Canadian Family and the Work Place, The Vanier Institute of the Family.
[4] Dave Dupuis, "What influences people's plans to have children," Canadian Social Trends, Winter 1996.
[5] “Canadian Religious Beliefs and Practices: Results of an Ipsos-Reid Survey conducted Sept. 23-October 12, 2003.
[6] Nicole Marcil-Gratton, Growing up with Mom and Dad? The intricate life courses of Canadian children, Statistics Canada, July 1998.
[7]General Social Survey – Cycle 15: Changing Conjugal Life in Canada, Statistics Canada, July 2002.
[8] Nicole Marcil-Gratton, Growing up with Mom and Dad? The intricate life courses of Canadian children, Statistics Canada, July 1998.

What You Can Do

  • Download Church Action Kit on Marriage for resources to help you respond to the Motion to reopen the debate on the definition of marriage, which the Prime Minister promised for this fall. A two-sided colour bulletin insert is available for download separately. See also our Resources for Pastors and Churches.
  • Download Develop Church Policies to Protect Religious Freedoms for resources to help your church develop written policies pertaining to the definition of marriage, staff participation in the solemnization and celebration of marriages and policies for rental of the church facilities.

For more information on the political situation please see:

Resources

Articles and Materials to Strengthen Marriage from the EFC’s network on marriage and family

Resources in the EFC's Resource Library

View all resources related to marriage and family in the EFC Resource Library

Abuse in Homes and Church Communities
Clergy Families in Canada
Marriage & Family, Law Commission of Canada Response
B.C. Marriage Case
B.C. Marriage Case Appeal 
Developing Church Policies for Marriage Handbook
Family Taxation Submission
Ontario Marriage Appeal
Ontario Marriage Case Factum
Physical Discipline of Children by Parents
Marriage and Family Status in Canada: A position paper
Marriage and Family: Quebec Marriage Case Appeal
Marriage and Same-Sex Relationships in Canada
Marriage Bulletin Insert
Marriage Fact Sheet - Chronology
Marriage Kit for Pastors and Congregations
Brief on the 1999 White Paper on Refugees Building on a Strong Foundation for the 21st Century 
Brief on the Citizenship Act
Same-Sex Marriage: Who Decides?
Sexual Orientation: M v H
Talking Points for Pastors on Marriage
When Two Become One: The Unique Nature and Benefits of Marriage, 2006 Edition