Course:Law3020/2014WT1/Group P/Natural Law

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Eagan v Canada [1995] 2 SCR 513

  • Challenging the definition of ‘spouse’ in s. 2 because the gay couple couldn’t obtain the spousal support from his husband

Thomas Aquinas and Natural Law Theory

  • The objective of the legislation was to support the legal tradition of marriage - which is usually to say marriage between a man and a woman.
  • Likely if this case were appealed again today, it would be ruled the other way
  • BUT in '95 the gay rights movement was happening, but not super recognised, the reference re Same Sex marriage was 10 years after this, and the dissent in this was very strong, but it failed

Thomas Aquinas and the Natural Law Theorists Would…

  • Agree with the ruling in Eagan
  • The definition of ‘spouse’ was repealed in 2000, so it was too late to help them
  • Natural law was used to justify keeping the definition of ‘spouse’ as it was
  • What was the common good then is not the common good now
  • Parliament really made a distinction between a married couple and single people cohabiting
  • As two single people, they would be placed individually in lower tax brackets, so the government actually argued that they would benefit more as two single people than if they were classified as married.
  • The objective of the law is to uphold the ‘sanctity of marriage’
  • Parliament chose to extend the protections/benefits of marriage to common law couples, therefore they could have chosen to extend to same sex couples
  • Parliament grounded its argument in ‘natural law’, and based much of its argument around the idea that while gay couples have a sexual aspect to their relationship, they do not procreate, which means they do not qualify for the social engineering that Parliament is trying to encourage
  • Family units, increases in population, natural state of being at the base of the argument
  • Dissent focuses on that denying a change in the definition of ‘spouse’ is a violation of s. 15, but state that it is saved under s. 1 because it is ‘for the greater good’

There are 4 reqs for a valid law under legal naturalism, the only one under question in this judgement was #1, was it for the common good?

  • Sopinka quoted in Majority: argued that the job of the courts was to mediate between all groups and their interests, without being the protagonist of any one group
  • This is an indicator of the shift in the concept of the common good today, because today the courts position themselves as a sort of barrier between minority rights and majority choices
  • The courts were also unwilling to second-guess Parliament, but in the presently, the courts overturn Parliament all the time.