Toronto
2 min

The marriage scorecard

Who's on first, where's the ball?

ADD IT UP. Joyce Barnett and Alison Kemper are one of the couples fighting to get married. Credit: Jan Becker

I’m so fucking con- fused! I may be Xtra’s go-to girl on the queer marriage issue, but even I can’t figure out who is winning the battle. Are queers on the third down or did we fumble the ball? Are bases loaded or did someone just strike out?



The court cases are piling up fast and furious, the feds are announcing all sorts of working papers and standing committees and even the provinces are jumping on board with their own legislation. How can anyone keep it all straight?



“In terms of gay rights in general we’re now in the seventh inning stretch, but for marriage alone we’re back in the fourth,” says Alison Kemper, one of the litigants in the Ontario marriage case.



And what’s that we hear from the other side of the stadium?



“Gay people would say that we are so far behind that we are not winning, but we are catching up,” says Christian broadcaster and writer Michael Coren.



This current round started with same-sex marriage advocates making three court challenges, one each in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, with the BC one resulting in a mixed outcome, and the latter two stating that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.



So mark down 2-1 queers. But then, many legal experts consider the BC decision to be a little off-kilter, so maybe call it 2-0.5.



The Ontario and Quebec decisions stated that the denial of marriage is discrimination, and both courts gave the feds two years to change the legislation. As of Nov-ember, the federal government has applied to appeal both of these decisions. Also this month, covering all his options, federal Justice Minister Martin Cauchon announced that he would be developing a working paper for the Justice Committee and called for public consultation on this issue.



Prior to this latest flurry of marriage activity, Nova Scotia and Quebec both rewrote their law books to allow gay men and lesbians to enter into civil unions. This is a state of public registration that is considered to be similar to or even equivalent to marriage, but isn’t actually marriage.



Alberta announced Nov 17 it would jump on the civil union bandwagon. The province’s Adult Interdependent Relationships Act will also cover common-law heterosexuals and people in committed non-sexual relationships such as close friends or relatives who live together, according to Alberta Justice Minister David Hancock. The bill will affect inheritance, employment and pension benefits.



Are civil unions a point for marriage advocates or a point for their opponents?



Coren says that provincial legislation like Alberta’s is “an intelligent and compassionate response to an issue. Yes and no are too limiting.”



Yet Coren recognizes that it is not a welcome compromise for some.



“Maybe in years past lots of people would have accepted it, but now my gay friends call it apartheid.”



So, let’s give opponents half a point: 2-1 queers.



Through all this, press releases from all sides have been flying madly; sorting through the ones from the national queer lobby group Egale Canada and the rightwing Christian group Focus On The Family (FOTF) is like watching Venus and Serena Williams battle it out on the clay courts. When the federal government recently won the right to appeal the Ontario same-sex marriage decision from the Ontario Court Of Appeal, EGALE and FOTF both responded quickly… point… match.



EGALE argued that the appeal was unnecessary, as the government won’t win and therefore a waste of money. FOTF had tried the costs-too-much argument the week before when the federal working paper was released, so it switched to saying that they would rather see this dealt with in the Parliament than the courts.



It’s hard to keep score when people can’t even decide where to play the game.



* For more on the federal discussion paper on same-sex marriage, check out http://canada.justice.gc.ca.