Despite the fact that same-sex marriage became legal across Canada in 2005, Alberta’s Marriage Act continues to explicitly define marriage as “a heterosexual union”, a definition added to Alberta’s legislation in 2000 during Ralph Klein’s reign as premier. Same-sex couples have been able to obtain marriage licenses since 2005, yet Alberta’s Marriage Act specifically excludes these unions from the definition of marriage.
Recently, debate has opened up and changes have been proposed that would remove the gender specific definition of marriage, bringing Alberta’s legislation in line with 21stCentury ideals and the Charter. Progressive Conservative MLAs were to vote on proposed changes to the Marriage Act during a closed-door meeting this past Thursday, April 17, 2014.
While some Albertans may fail to appreciate the issue with the current legislation, on the basis that same-sex couples have the “right” to obtain a marriage license and live and be married in Alberta, the issue is not a practical one but a moral and societal one. The current legislation is contrary to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Human rights are about mutual recognition and respect and corresponding societal obligations. There ought not to be any tolerance or even indifference of or toward any legislation in effect in Alberta, or in Canada, that does not provide all citizens with equality in treatment or status, and in fact does the opposite. The contradiction presented by Alberta’s Marriage Act sends the message to the LGBTQ community that they and their marriages, while tolerated and permitted, are not respected or viewed as equal to heterosexuals and heterosexual unions.
We will have to wait to see the results of Thursday’s vote, but I would suggest this change is long overdue.