The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal released its decision on the Government of Saskatchewan’s proposed legislative amendments that would allow marriage commissioners to refuse for reasons of religious conscience to perform same sex marriages.
The case is said to have implications across Canada, including Alberta. It may make it difficult for marriage commissioners in other provinces to refuse due to religious objections to marry same sex couples.
The summary states, “The key issue in the case, according to the Court, was whether this violation of rights could be justified as being reasonable within the special meaning of that term as it is used in section 1 of the Charter. In this regard, the Court held that accommodating the religious beliefs of marriage commissioners could not justify discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. The Court emphasized that marriage commissioners act as government officials, not private individuals, when they perform marriage ceremonies. It also pointed out that the obligation to solemnize same-sex marriages does not affect or interfere with the core elements of a commissioner’s religious freedom: the freedom to hold beliefs and the freedom to worship. In addition, the Court underlined that allowing marriage commissioners to withhold their services because of personal religious convictions would undercut the fundamental principle that government services must be provided to all members of the public on an impartial and non-discriminatory basis.”