TV & Radio
Alberta issues first same-sex marriage license
Thursday, July 21, 2005 Updated at 4:31 PM EDT
Edmonton — Alberta marriage licences are now being issued to gay couples, much to the distress of Premier Ralph Klein.
“It's a sad day for the majority of Albertans who believe in the traditional definition of marriage,” Mr. Klein said in an interview Thursday. “We have to obey the law of the land, and it's unfortunate that such a law would be passed.”
His words drew an immediate rebuke from one of the gay people who obtained a marriage licence Wednesday after the proclamation of federal legislation to allow same-sex marriages across Canada.
“I'm disappointed that he used words like ‘unfortunate' and ‘sad,'” said Mickey Wilson. “My hope was that they would buy into the fact that we're all citizens of Alberta.”
“It's really unfortunate that he's chosen to continue to alienate and continue to speak words that in my personal opinion promote hatred.”
Mr. Klein said he's not opposed to protecting the rights of gays on other fronts, but his Conservative government has been steadfastly against creating a law that allows same-sex marriages.
“We always believed that gay people should be protected relative to discrimination in terms of housing, jobs and so on,” said the premier. “But when it comes to marriage, we draw the line.”
He said he believes that represents the majority opinion in Alberta.
Stephen Harper, the federal Conservative Opposition leader, offered only brief comment on the issue Thursday when asked about the next move his party would be taking.
“I've said it will be an issue in the election and our government will have our own vote in the Parliament and it will be a free vote,” Harper said during a stop in Burlington, Ont.
Grant Hill, a former Conservative MP from Calgary, also said he would be working toward a “political solution.” Mr. Hill, who leads the group United Families Canada, said he wants to see the gay marriage issue returned to the Commons for “a true free vote.”
“Homosexual couples in Canada are well taken care of without going down the road of full-fledged marriage,” said Mr. Hill.
“Marriage has more than the purpose of just romance between two individuals. There is a fairly significant societal component to marriage both for children and for responsibility.”
But Mr. Wilson, an ordained minister who serves a gay congregation in Edmonton, said many gay couples want a church wedding and the traditional bond that comes with a marriage.
Wilson also said he doesn't believe that most Albertans oppose gay marriage, as suggested by the premier.
“Ralph Klein's continued attitude diminishes the value of our relationships,” he said. “Ours is going to be a fairly big wedding and our friends want to be at the church with us and alongside of us to uphold the values we carry in our hearts.”
Mr. Klein said his government won't flout the new law, but will offer protection to officials who perform marriages.
The Alberta cabinet will pass a regulation to ensure that marriage commissioners are not forced into officiating at same-sex weddings if they don't want to for moral or religious reasons, he said.
Mr. Klein himself has conducted weddings in the past and presided over the wedding vows of his former finance minister, Pat Nelson.