Thursday, September 23, 2004

Manitoba Marriage Commissioners Resigning Over Gay 'Weddings'

WINNIPEG.CBC.CA News - Full Story

Marriage commissioners resign over same-sex weddings
Last Updated: Sep 22 2004 06:36 PM CDT

WINNIPEG - Some marriage commissioners in Manitoba have resigned because they don't want to perform ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples.
Last week, a Manitoba judge ruled the traditional definition of marriage is unconstitutional, opening the door for homosexual couples to wed.
A letter from the Vital Statistics office has gone out Manitoba's 600 marriage commissioners ordering them to return their Certificates of Registration if they have a problem performing same-sex marriages.
Gil Dube runs a trucking company, and is also an authorized marriage commissioner in Manitoba. He says he'll quit rather than preside over same-sex unions.
"I will not perform a same-sex marriage, so based on that, I am left with no choice but to resign, back out or whatever," he says.
Leo Tolledo, whose religion rejects same-sex marriage, says he'll find ways to avoid performing them while remaining a commissioner.
"If it's same-sex, then right now probably I'm going to say I'm not available right now, or it conflicts with my schedule," he says.
Even commissioners who are willing to perform same-sex marriages aren't pleased with the government's request. Hugh Bowler, who performed the province's first sanctioned same-sex marriage last week, thinks the government is being heavy-handed.
"I'm not sure that I agree with returning your certificate if you're not comfortable doing a same-sex marriage for the simple reason that any priest or minister has the right not to do it," he says.
The letter did not go out to religious officials who perform marriages. Caroline Kaus of Vital Statistics says the law has to apply to all civil commissioners equally and they will have to decide for themselves if they wish to continue the service.
"When we appoint you, we assure all Manitobans will be treated in an equitable manner," she says. "As such, we want to make sure you're aware of that immediately."
So far, government officials say just a handful of resignations have been received. More are expected in the next few weeks.
Officials say that's not uncommon; while Ontario and Quebec don't keep records on resignations, 11 commissioners have resigned in British Columbia since same-sex marriages became legal in that province.
The province has not placed a deadline on when the commissioners must decide whether they will perform the ceremony for same-sex couples.