WINNIPEG: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF.ca) for the cargued onscience rights of a Manitoba marriage commissioner, Kevin Kisilowsky, in the Court of Queen’s Bench on Thursday, September 8, 2016.
Kevin Kisilowsky was stripped of his license to perform marriages by Vital Statistics, because his religious beliefs preclude him from performing same-sex ceremonies. In September of 2004, Vital Statistics informed Mr. Kisilowsky that he must perform same-sex ceremonies regardless 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 only that the government accommodate his religious beliefs as required by law, 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.”
More than 99% of marriage commissioners in Manitoba are willing, able and available to perform same-sex ceremonies. There is no practical need to force a small number of individuals, like Kevin, to do this as well.
Further Background Information
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.
Marriage commissioners have always been given discretion and latitude to respect religious and cultural differences. Before the legalization of same-sex marriages, marriage commissioners were allowed personal discretion about which heterosexual couples to marry (or not marry), without having to provide an explanation. In other words, it was OK to refuse a service. It was also OK to refer a couple to another marriage commissioner, regardless of whether or not this might hurt the couple’s feelings.
Marriage is an institution deeply rooted in religion and culture. Accommodations have always been allowed to accommodate these differences. A Muslim marriage commissioner, for example, wouldn’t be forced to perform a Jewish wedding.
Kevin is only requesting that the government continue to respect his religious freedom, and continue to allow him to provide his services as a marriage commissioner, without being required to violate his conscience.