TORONTO, January 12, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - In a statement released today, The United Church of Canada has called on the Canadian government to reassure non-resident same-sex couples, and the clergy who married them, that Canada recognizes their marriages as valid.
"The legitimacy of the love expressed in the covenant of marriage is not dependent on where a couple lives," says the church's Moderator, Mardi Tindal. "Canada recognizes same-sex marriage in its legislation, and therefore, all such marriages that are duly licensed should be considered legitimate."
Tindal adds that she's very concerned about the shock and pain that today's news headlines may have caused, given how long a struggle it has been for same-sex couples to be recognized in the first place.
"I have been married for several decades to a man I deeply love. I cannot even imagine how it would feel to be told my marriage is no longer valid," says Tindal.
The United Church of Canada is well-known for its advocacy in support of same-sex marriage. In a submission to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004, the church argued that same-sex couples should have the right to be legally married. When the Canadian government introduced same-sex marriage legislation in 2005, the church called it a "win-win" solution.
At that time, the church said,
"Marriage will be enhanced, not diminished, religious freedom will be protected, not threatened, and Canadian society will be strengthened, not weakened, as a result of this legislation."
"If Canada is prepared to marry non-resident same-sex couples, then we must be prepared to work with them when a relationship ends and a couple seeks a divorce."
She explains that many United Church ministers have officiated in good faith at weddings for same-sex couples, providing a spiritual blessing to a legal commitment. It would be a significant disappointment, not only to the couples involved but also to the ministers who have performed these marriage ceremonies, to be told that some of these marriages are not valid.
"As followers of Jesus Christ, The United Church of Canada believes that God calls us foremost to an expansive love that crosses boundaries and borders," says Tindal. "We look forward to the government's confirmation that irrespective of the willingness of other states or countries to recognize same-sex marriage, Canada has and will stand by its decision."