The Justice Centre represented Kevin Kisilowsky who was stripped of his license to perform marriages by the Government of Manitoba because his religious beliefs preclude him from performing same-sex ceremonies.
Kevin Kisilowsky was a biker, and involved in a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol prior to becoming a Christian. After finding God, Kevin became involved with Christian outreach to bikers, including people involved in drugs, alcohol, or crime. Kevin is still a biker, and now leads a Christian biker outreach ministry.
As a missionary evangelist, Kevin’s outreach includes inner-city gang youth, street people, prison inmates and members of various motorcycle clubs. In his outreach, he meets people, helps them with their practical needs, prays with them and shares his Christian faith. Kevin became a marriage commissioner in Manitoba out of a desire to serve the people in his outreach ministry, by performing marriages for people not involved in a formal church but desiring a God-inspired marriage ceremony.
In September of 2004, Vital Statistics informed Mr. Kisilowsky that he must perform same-sex ceremonies in violation of his religious beliefs. The Manitoba Human Rights Commission provided no assistance to Kevin Kisilowsky in regard to his complaint that the government was discriminating against him on the basis of his religious beliefs.
More than 99% of marriage commissioners in Manitoba are willing, able and available to perform same-sex ceremonies. In his court application, Mr. Kisilowsky asked that the government accommodate his religious beliefs by not forcing him to perform a service that violates his Charter section 2(a) freedom of conscience and religion.
In his sworn affidavit, filed with the court, Mr. Kisilowsky states:
“I am not requesting that the government cease performing marriages for same-sex couples, only that my religious rights be respected and accommodated to enable me to continue my services as a marriage commissioner without being required to violate my religious conscience and perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.”
“In a diverse and tolerant society, individuals can and should be accommodated in the public sphere,” stated lawyer and Justice Centre president John Carpay. “Same-sex marriage remains a contentious issue in Canada. It is one thing to make marriage available to same-sex couples. It is quite another to force each and every marriage commissioner to perform such ceremonies. There is no practical need for doing so.”
At the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, the application judge held that any interference with Mr. Kisilowsky’s religious rights was not more than trivial or insubstantial.
The Manitoba Court of Appeal reversed this finding, finding that Mr. Kisilowsky was forced to make a choice between manifesting his religious beliefs and having his registration as a marriage commissioner cancelled.
The Court however concluded that Manitoba had provided reasonable accommodations to Mr. Kisilowsky allowing him to apply for a temporary commissioner appointment and being willing to process such applications on an expedited basis.