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MARRIAGE DIGEST: Canadian man could be fined for not performing ‘gay marriage’; Conservatives win in Mich. court

REGINA, Saskatchewan (BP)–Americans who think “gay marriage” won’t impact religious liberties may want to take a look at their neighbors to the north.

A marriage commissioner in Saskatchewan could be fined $5,000 by a government body because he refused to perform a “gay marriage” in 2005, saying it conflicted with his Christian beliefs. The man, 70-year-old Orville Nichols, gave the two homosexuals the name of another commissioner, who subsequently conducted the ceremony on the date the men wanted.

But the homosexual couple nevertheless filed a complaint with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission alleging discrimination by Nichols. The province’s Human Rights Tribunal heard the case Jan. 31 and will determine what action to take.

Canada is one of only five countries that grants homosexual couples marriage licenses. Marriage commissioners hold government positions and perform ceremonies for the public.

“My religious upbringing, my religious beliefs don’t allow me to do same-sex marriage,” Nichols said, according to Canadian Press. “I don’t have a problem with them getting married. I will not perform the service.”

Nichols said in the past he had refused to perform some heterosexual marriages, too, such as those who didn’t take it seriously or were involved in abusive relationships, CanWest News Service reported.

The Saskatchewan attorney general argued in court that Nichols was violating the provincial charter and human rights code.

The controversy began in 2005, when one of the homosexual men called Nichols and asked if he could perform a marriage ceremony on a specific date. Nichols said he could and then asked for the name of the man’s fiancé. He then learned it was another man.

“There was a lengthy pause … all of a sudden he said he would not marry us,” the man, known only as M.J. in court, said, according to Canadian Press.

Janice Gingell, an attorney for the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, said Nichols is required by law to perform the ceremony. Her office is asking the tribunal to fine Nichols $5,000 in Canadian dollars and order him not to refuse any other ceremonies.

“It’s a service which has no religious connotations whatsoever,” she told Canadian Press. “It’s specifically designed to take place outside of the framework of religious institutions.”

But Nichols’ attorney, Mike Megaw, said it is impossible to separate one’s religious views from one’s actions.

“Freedom of religion allows more than the ability to hold those views. It is the ability to act on those views,” Megaw said. “The attorney general seems to be suggesting that as a public official, rights are not something to which Mr. Nichols is entitled.”

NO DOMESTIC BENEFITS IN MICH. — The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Feb. 1 that the state’s constitutional marriage amendment prevents government institutions such as state agencies and universities from granting domestic partner benefits to homosexual couples and other unmarried couples.

The amendment, passed in 2004 by a margin of 59-41 percent, prevents the recognition of “gay marriage” or any other “similar union.” The 3-0 ruling by the appeals court overturned a lower court ruling from 2005.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a religious liberties organization, filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the appeals court to reverse the earlier ruling.

“Michigan law expressly prohibits marriage substitutes,” ADF attorney Dale Schowengerdt said in a statement. “As the court recognized, government entities are free to give health and other benefits to employees, as long as it’s on an equal basis, without basing them on a marriage-like status.”

‘GAY MARRIAGE’ IN VERMONT? — Vermont already recognizes same-sex civil unions, but some legislators there want the state to recognize full-fledged “gay marriage.” Bills legalizing “gay marriage” are being introduced in both the state House and Senate. Neither bill has a great chance of passing this session, although supporters have made strides in recent years. The Senate bill has 10 sponsors out of 30 senators, while the House bill has 33 sponsors out of 150 representatives.

Vermont adopted a landmark civil union law in 2000 granting homosexual couples the legal benefits of marriage. It was court-ordered.

“I don’t see any likelihood, with the current political structure in Vermont, that a gay marriage bill is going to be enacted into law,” Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin said, according to the Associated Press. “Since the bill isn’t likely to become law, we’re not going to be having hearings in the Senate.”

Democrats control both chambers.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage.

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  • Michael Foust