Pension Committee to Debate Extending Same-Sex Benefits

Article excerpt

In the wake of a Supreme Court decision extending spousal benefits to same-sex couples, the Anglican Church must once again wrestle with whether to follow suit.

"This issue will be brought to attention of the pension committee when it meets in October," said Jenny Mason, director of the pension fund. There are 2,900 people paying into the pension plan and more than 1,900 people receiving a pension. The plan covers lay and ordained people from every diocese in Canada except Montreal which has its own plan.

The debate over extending benefits -- and there is sure to be a vigorous one if history is any indicator -- is expected to pit those who view this as a human rights issue and favour extending benefits, against those who see it as a theological issue and oppose extending benefits on the basis that the church regards homosexual behaviour as sinful.

After such a debate in 1996, the church extended general health benefits to same sex-couples after Health Canada changed its definition of spouse to include gay and lesbian partners, said Ms. Mason. Though the pension committee has received periodic requests since then to include same-sex couples in the pension plan, the church refused on the grounds that it was required to use the Income Tax Act's definition of spouse in order to register the plan. The advantage of a registered plan is that contributions are tax deductible for both employees and employers. …

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