Six of 10 provinces and one of three territories in Canada already allow gay marriage (we got married in Vancouver in July), and now the Supreme Court will give its opinion on whether gay marriage is required as a civil right, not merely allowed. (Reuters);
…The issue is a political hot potato, one on which a newly united Conservative Party appeared to have made gains against the Liberals in the June 28 federal election.
With the Liberal government holding only 134 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons it must rely on the support of other parties to remain in power. Minority governments rarely last much longer than 18 months to two years.
The political calculus suggests that with the support of two smallest parties — the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democrats — the Liberal government should be able to win the bill’s passage, even though some Liberals oppose gay marriage.
However the Supreme Court may not make life as easy as the government hopes.
After an Ontario court ruled that the traditional definition of marriage as solely between a man and a woman was unconstitutional, the federal government drafted a bill that would open up marriage to gays across Canada.
It asked the Supreme Court to give a nonbinding opinion on the question of whether this would be allowed under the constitution. But it then added another much tougher question — whether gay marriage was actually required, not just allowed, under the constitution.
To have a ruling that it would be required would enable the government to say it had no choice but to introduce the legislation, but it looks as if the court might decline to answer that particular question.
Several of the high court justices balked at the idea of answering the question, in an Oct. 6-7 hearing, saying this would mean the court was taking on the government’s role.
Currently, gay marriage is allowed in six of Canada’s 10 provinces and one of its three territories. Because the court is only offering an opinion nothing will change immediately.
That legal patchwork is another reason Justice Minister Irwin Cotler wants to move quickly.