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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Marriage Commissioner Can't Refuse to Marry Gays because of his Religon

Orville Nichols is a marriage commissioner in the Province of Saskatchewan in Canada. Some years ago he refused to marry a gay couple because it was against his religion.

The couple was married by another commissioner but one of the partners (M.J.) filed a complaint with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission who ruled that Nichols did not have the right to refuse to marry people on the grounds that it was against his religion. M.J. was awarded $2500.

But that wasn't the end of it. Orville Nichols thought that his rights were being violated. According to CBCNews ...
Nichols appealed that ruling, arguing that his religious beliefs should be protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But in a 39-page decision dated July 17, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Janet McMurty dismissed Nichols' argument, concluding that the human rights tribunal was "correct in its finding that the commission had established discrimination and that accommodation of Mr. Nichols' religious beliefs was not required."
This makes perfect sense. It you are an employee of the government then you have to do your job, part of which, in this case, was marrying gay couples. You can't refuse to do your job because it conflicts with your personal prejudices. If that conflict makes it impossible to carry out your duties then you must resign your position.

This is not the first time that Nichols has been warned.
He launched his own human rights complaint in 2005, months before he even met M.J., alleging that his religious freedoms would be violated should he be asked to marry same-sex couples. That complaint was dismissed by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission in 2006.
In those countries that currently ban gay marriage there's a fear that legalizing gay marriage will lead to situations just like this among those who perform civil ceremonies. That fear is fully justified. Once gay marriage becomes illegal legal, discrimination against gays becomes illegal.

Religious beliefs can never be used to justify discrimination and religious beliefs do not not qualify as "humans rights" when they are used as excuses to violate the civil rights of others.


  1. Once gay marriage becomes illegal, discrimination against gays becomes illegal.

    I think you mean "legal" here.

    Also, while it will become a problem for civil ceremonies performed by public officials, it would not be a problem for clergy performing religious ceremonies, yet this is exactly what many clergy claim in campaigns against gay marriage.

  2. agreed, if you are a representative of the governement, you must act without discrimination, whatever your personal beliefs. if you want to marry people only under your own religious preferences, then go through a church or private practice.

  3. "if you want to marry people only under your own religious preferences, then go through a church or private practice."

    This sort of thing sounds almost reasonable until one substitutes "mixed-race" for "same-sex." The folks who think they sound reasonable when talking about their religious objections to gay marriage cannot be thinking of how absurd and simply evil their words will sound 50 or 100 years from now when all this nonsense will presumably be behind us (objections to full human rights and privileges for same-sex partners; or marriage as a religiously sanctioned institution; or religion itself - take your pick).

  4. Except that the issue of racism is not an accepted practise in the Bible, and therefore making a clergyman who acts this way a poor representation of his belief systems.
    A clergyman who refuses to marry a couple based on something the bible is clearly against is another matter.

    It is going to be a very hard process changing the convictions of every clergyman just so a few fellas or chicks can marry each other! Seems like a lot of work from a minority group that is going to yield little reward.