Marriage commissioner devastated at same-sex ruling
Published Wednesday, January 12, 2011 6:31AM EST
REGINA - The Saskatchewan marriage commissioner who sparked a court ruling about same-sex marriages says he's "devastated" that not one judge saw it his way.
Orville Nichols, a devout Baptist, refused to marry a gay couple in 2005.
On Tuesday, he told a Saskatchewan talk radio show that he has no problem with gay marriages, he just doesn't want to perform them.
"I was hoping we'd win, and I thought if we would lose we wouldn't lose on a 5-0 judgement," he told "John Gormley Live." "That was my devastation."
The two men Nichols refused to marry laid a discrimination complaint with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. The case went before the human rights tribunal, which ruled in 2008 that Nichols discriminated against the couple. It found that as a public servant he was obligated to marry them once they approached him.
Nichols, who has been a marriage commissioner for almost 30 years, was fined $2,500.
He asked the Court of Queen's Bench to reverse the decision, but it upheld the tribunal's ruling. A further appeal is still before the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal.
That appeal court had also been asked by the government to rule on a proposed provincial law that would have allowed commissioners to cite religious grounds in refusing to marry gays or lesbians.
The appeal panel's unanimous decision released Monday said the law would be unconstitutional and would amount to discrimination.
Gay rights activists have applauded the court outcome, saying that marriage commissioners perform a civil service and are not supposed to discriminate.
"The historical marginalization and mistreatment of gay and lesbian individuals is well known," Justice Robert Richards wrote on behalf of three of the five judges. "They have been able to recently claim the right to marry only after travelling a very difficult and contentious road."
The federal government passed legislation in the summer of 2005 allowing same-sex marriages.
"Accordingly, putting gays and lesbians in a situation where a marriage commissioner can refuse to provide his or her services solely because of their sexual orientation would clearly be a retrograde step -- a step that would perpetuate disadvantage and involve stereotypes about the worthiness of same-sex unions," the justice wrote.