“Certainly there’s been an impact and an effect on what you can say,” says Canadian civil rights lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos.
A clash of rights
Mr. Polizogopoulos’ practice specialises in the defence of charter freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of association. He says that Canada’s last decade under a same-sex marriage definition has led to many more cases than anyone expected.
“What we’ve seen is there has been certain speech that has been censored or reprimanded, particularly if it’s been critical of same-sex marriage,” he says.
Mr. Polizogopoulos remembers religious and civil rights groups worried about a loss of freedom of speech prior to the change in law but, at the time, few people gave their concerns any credence.
“Looking back, there were a number of religious groups, or free speech groups, that were voicing these concerns. They were told they were fear mongers or they were simply promoting hate or unequal rights,” he says.
“Now that we’ve looked back, more than a decade later, certainly we’re seeing that they were not completely unreasonable or completely wrong in some of their concerns.”
Canada has experienced a wave of legal action at many levels against individuals and organisations that have sought to maintain their belief in traditional marriage.
“We’ve seen religious marriage officials receive complaints for refusing to officiate same-sex marriages, we’ve seen universities that subscribe to traditional Biblical marriage lose or be denied certain accreditation,” Mr Polizogopoulos lists.
“We’ve seen private Christian schools receive human rights complaints as well.”
There is no doubt in this lawyer’s mind that, despite the promises, Canada’s transition to a new definition of marriage has been anything but smooth.
“There is what seems to be a clash of religious freedom versus the equality of rights on the basis of sexual orientation,” Mr Polizogopoulos says.
Supplied and authorised by Michael Kellahan, Freedom for Faith, Level 3, 13-15 Bridge Street, Sydney NSW.
About the Organisation: Freedom for Faith is a legal think tank that protects and promotes religious freedom in Australia and beyond.