SAME-SEX MARRIAGE AND THE SAME OLD CONSTITUTION*

Ronalda Murphy

Abstract


The Reference re Same-Sex Marriage1 is not a major opinion on the rights of same-sex couples in Canada, but it is nonetheless an important and fascinating case. There are only a few lines that are about the “rights” of same-sex couples. Did the Supreme Court of Canada “duck” the issue? Was the Court carefully gauging how much or little political capital it had and making a political decision to say as little as possible on this topic? The Court certainly displayed strategic brilliance, but it did not do so in the name of avoiding the “political” hot topic of same-sex marriage. It is factually difficult to maintain the view that the Supreme Court of Canada is loath to enter into this political debate. It has been the lead social institution in Canada in terms of responding to the claims of gays and lesbians to equality in law,2 and it has never been shy of dealing with topics simply because they involve controversial political issues.3 Rather, the Court’s brilliance lies in its minimalist and almost weary tone. This approach had the effect of taking the wind out of the sails of those opposed to same-sex marriage: the same-sex advocates definitely win the constitutional race,

but they do so because according to the Supreme Court, there is no provincial constitutional headwind that can stop them. In short, provinces can complain all they want about the federal position in favour of same-sex marriage, but the wedding will go on despite and over their objections to the ceremony.


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