Defying a May 20 Canadian Supreme Court decision, the House of Commons in Canada overwhelmingly adopted a declaration that marriage is a union of a man and a woman. The 216-to-55 vote angered homosexual activists who lobbied for legalized same-sex marriages.

Before the vote, Archbishop Adam Exner of Vancouver spoke to Register correspondent James Mahony about the Court's decision, M. vs. H., which struck down a part of Ontario's Family Law Act that limited “spousal” support obligations to opposite-sex couples.

Mahony: You have no doubt seen news reports about the Supreme Court's recent M. vs. H. decision?

Archbishop Exner: I have seen some, not all of them. I think I understand what the Supreme Court did. It's a sad day for Canada, and a step backwards for Canadian society. And I'm saying that because society depends on the strength of the family.

This Supreme Court decision further erodes the strength of family in Canada, and that is sad. When family is strong, society is strong. When the family weakens, the whole society becomes weak, because the family is the smallest social unit of society, and the welfare of society is directly dependent on the health and strength of the family.

Secondly, I think it's a dangerous decision because it could well lead to a re-definition of marriage, which would be a further step backward.

Thirdly, it seems to me that in other instances and particularly in this instance, the Supreme Court seems to be taking on a legislative role, which I find difficult to accept.

You know, we elect a parliament to legislate, and here we have courts knocking down established legislation. That, in effect, is exercising a legislative role, which is not, I think, proper.

And finally, granting spousal benefits to same sex couples, I think, is basically unfair because it excludes other pairs in stable and economically dependent relationships, and to me, that's not fair ball.

And by “other pairs,” what did you have in mind?

A daughter and mother, for example, that are economically codepen-dent and that have lived together for a long time. There are many such groupings. Say, bachelor brothers, who are not sexually active. Why are they excluded? Because they're not sexually active? You know, this raises the question about equity. It just does-n't seem fair.

So, you feel the decision singles out those who are sexually involved for benefits, while excluding other couples?

Yes, it appears that way. Why exclude other pairs that are in stable relationships and are economically dependent on each other?

You know, I don't see why whether or not a couple is sexually active has anything to do with it. Whether with survivor benefits, or benefits of any kind, I think a stable relationship and economic codependence should be the determining factors, not whether or not people are sexually active.

What about those who claim the court's decision is “taking society in a new direction?”

Well, that may be, but I think it's the wrong direction. I have some strong convictions about the nature of marriage, which flow from natural law, I think. It's not just a faith belief, but it's also natural law and factual evidence that shows that children are brought into this world, for the most part, by people who are married, in a stable family relationship. And once that falls apart, I think we're asking for a lot of trouble.

Critics of the court decision say it equates marriage with other non-marital relationships. Does it?

It uses the word “spousal” for same-sex couples, and wrongly does so, because it gives a different meaning to the word. It erodes the very concept of spouse and the concept of marriage. A same-gender couple can't be spouses, and they can't be husband and wife. They're just not biologically equipped to be husband and wife. So why use husband-and-wife terms when referring to same-gender couples? It just doesn't make sense.

Yet, Canadian gay activists say the decision just recognizes equality by giving same-sex couples the same rights that opposite-sex “common law” couples already have.

But there's a difference between opposite-sex “common law” partners, and same gender couples, because even “common law” couples do bring children into the world, which same-sex couples cannot do. There's a fundamental difference there.

But generally, the matter of courts striking down legislation of this kind is of concern to you?

Certainly. This isn't the only case where the Supreme Court has struck down legislation. It's not the first time. I think it's a dangerous and non-democratic way of doing things. Parliament should make those kinds of decisions, and then if the general public doesn't like them, they can vote them out. But what can you do with a Supreme Court decision? Not much.

James Mahony writes from Calgary, Alberta