Faculty Author Type

Current Faculty [Bruce MacDougall]

Published In

Canadian Journal of Human Rights

Document Type


Publication Date



Marriage ceremonies; Gay marriage; Same-sex marriage; Gay rights; Discrimination; Accommodation


In jurisdictions that recognize same-sex marriages and unions, the question arises as to the extent to which civic officials who normally preside at such unions can refuse such participation for religious reasons. This paper examines this issue in the context of four jurisdictions: Scotland, Canada, the Netherlands and South Africa. What is striking is how different is the process of reaching a resolution in each jurisdiction, though the actual result might be the same. This difference arises because of the jurisdiction-specific reasons why same-sex marriages and unions are recognized, how they are recognized, the status of the officers who preside over the relevant services, and the historical-legal place of religion in each jurisdiction. Against these backgrounds, reasonably similar arguments relating to discrimination and accommodation are raised, but play out differently given the varying contexts. There results from this comparative analysis some lessons that can be transported across jurisdictions but also considerable caution as to the generic quality of such lessons.



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