A isregarding recent Supreme Court rulings, the Alberta Legislature recently amended the Marriage Act to forbid the marriage of same-sex couples.
The Marriage Amendment Act, which passed third reading March 15, was brought to the legislature by Red Deer South MLA Victor Doerkson.
The Bill, number 202, alters the definition of marriage within the Marriage Act.
"I’ve presented a positive statement about the value of marriage, reflective of our legal history, also a reflection of our religious history," said Doerkson. "That history is that marriage is between a man and a woman and I’ve restated that in the preamble."
Gay and Lesbian Academic Students and Staff Male Co-chair Alex Shevalier was disappointed with the government’s decision.
"It’s disturbing that this is happening in Alberta in this day and age," he said. "Every other provincial government is making strides towards equalization between heterosexual and homosexual couples so this sends a clear message that the Alberta government is not tolerant of gay rights and gay issues."
Doerkson said that his decision to present the Private Member’s Bill was based on his commitment to family and considerable research in the social sciences.
"I tabled quite a list of resources that I had looked at which do reflect the societal benefits of marriage, in particular when it comes to the raising of children," says Doerkson. "As a foundation for society, that’s the base from which we build."
University of Calgary Political Science Professor Dr. Ted Morton does not think the amendment will have serious repercussions.
"It’s a small symbolic gain for the social conservatives and a small symbolic loss for the gay rights advocates," he said. "In terms of a political impact, it’s section two that is more important."
The second part of the bill invokes a notwithstanding clause with regards to the Canadian Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as the Alberta Bill of Rights. The clause allows the government to disregard past Supreme Court judgements on the issue and avoids further interpretation of the Act by the courts.
"This states that Alberta will not have policy dictated by the supreme courts," said Morton. "It’s the first time since 1989 that a government has used the notwithstanding clause. It indicates that the government is willing to tell the courts they think they are wrong."
The use of the clause is important throughout Canada, since once the clause is invoked, it is easier for future bills to also invoke it.
Doerkson thinks the clause was necessary to maintain accountability.
"It’s the only mechanism that the legislatures have to assert themselves in that area," he said. "I think in some of these matters, the legislatures do have the responsibility to make the decisions. Ultimately, if people don’t like the decisions that we’ve made, they have the opportunity to un-elect us, which you can’t do with the courts. "