For my non-Canadian readers (and for Canadians who may have spent the last five years on a desert island with no access to the news), let me explain that equal marriage has been the law in Canada for quite sometime by an act of the Canadian Parliament. It has been law in Saskatchewan somewhat longer by a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.
For most everyone reading, let me also explain that marriage commissioners are agents of the state and only agents of the state. While they hold the same license as a clergyperson to solemnize marriages, they do not in any way act as agent for any religious body. In fact, the office of marriage commissioner was created precisely so that couples in Saskatchewan could have a wholly secular marriage ceremony.
This is manifestly not an issue of religious freedom.
Churches and other religious institutions, quite properly, are permitted to apply their own canonical requirements to any intended marriage. Thus no clergyperson is obliged to solemnize the marriage of any couple whose situation does not conform to canon law. A Baptist pastor can refuse to marry a same sex couple. A Roman priest can refuse to marry a couple where the husband is divorced from a woman still living. An Anglican priest can refuse to marry a couple whose relationship falls within the prohibited degrees (ie, a man marrying his deceased wife's sister). While they act as agents of the state, they are principally agents of their religious institution, and should that change, their capacity to solemnize marriages is automatically revoked by the province.
Marriage commissioners are civil servants. Like any other civil servant, they are obliged to apply the laws, regulations and policies of the province. Religious convictions are, in this matter, irrelevant. If they cannot comply with the law, there is nothing which compels them to become marriage commissioners. (Indeed, if they are governed by such religious scruple, isn't it counterintuitive for them to participate in a system specifically designed to provide for a non-religious means to solemnize a marriage?)
Now, as a matter of reasonableness, there might have been a case for creating a temporary exemption for those who were already marriage commissioners when the law changed. That is to say, the small number of existing marriage commissioners who scrupled at same sex marriage could have been grandfathered -provided that they assisted any same sex couple to find another marriage commissioner - but that the exemption would not extend to any new marriage commissioners. Existing marriage commissioners had no legal entitlement to that situation, and the previous government chose not to extend it to them.
Apart from being reprehensible and cowardly, what the Saskatchewan Party government proposes in patently absurd. It is analagous to saying that pacifists should be allowed to serve in the military but, should the balloon ever go up, they wouldn't have to put themselves in harms way so long as another soldier could be found to put his or her life at risk. I have a great deal of respect for pacifists. Most of them understand that they shouldn't be in the military, and so long as the state does not compel them to military service, the system works.
The SP editorial makes some other comparisons to show just how odious this proposal is:
Would the minister go to bat for a social conservative who objects, justified on grounds of "traditional values" or religion, to wed a mixed-race couple? How about a Hindu doctor who refuses to treat a person he believes to be of a lower caste?
. . .
Surely Mr. Morgan wouldn't be asking the court if it's legally acceptable for a government manager to refuse to hire a First Nation worker based purely on her race, as long as he is able to identify another manager at a Crown corporation who's willing to hire her?
If this were about race or caste or even religion, even Don Morgan would be able to recognize this for what it is. Instead of being the Minister of Justice for all the people of Saskatchewan, he has chosen to pander to hatred. Words like "reprehensible" and "coward" are barely sufficient.