Alberta may invoke notwithstanding clause over same-sex marriage

Alberta's justice minister may invoke the notwithstanding clause under the Charter to prevent officials from being forced to conduct same-sex marriages if doing so is against their religious beliefs.

Alberta's justice minister says he may invoke the notwithstanding clause under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to protect officials in his province from having to marry same-sex couples.

Justice Minister Ron Stevens says his goal is to protect officials, including religious officials, from being forced to perform same-sex marriages if it goes against their religious beliefs.

"We will do what we feel is necessary in that regard to protect the marriage commissioners and their religious beliefs," Stevens said Tuesday in Edmonton.

"If, in fact, that does require the notwithstanding clause, it is our intention to use it, but we haven't made the decision on whether that's necessary yet," he told the Edmonton Sun newspaper.

On Tuesday, the province said in a news release it will introduce and pass legislation during the next sitting of the Alberta legislature. The law would be retroactive to July 20, the date same-sex marriage got royal assent as the law of the land.

As well, the Ralph Klein government will protect religions from being forced to make their places of worship available for same-sex marriages.

The passing of same-sex legislation in Ottawa came after gay and lesbian couples launched lawsuits in different provinces demanding the right to marry.

Courts in eight provinces agreed that the traditional definition of marriage violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.