"Rhetorical hysteria" was one legal expert on Cardinal Marc Ouelett's anti-same-sex-marriage-bill remarks. While the cleric was testifying to the Canadian Senate that priests could go to jail for even discussing homosexuality, he didn't find support in the legal community.
The Globe and Mail (requires free registration) report went to academicians who study hate-crime prosecution. A key point is that "...the hate-crimes law does not apply in cases where the statements made are proved to be true or in cases where they are expressed in good faith or in an attempt to voice an opinion on a religious subject." Few such prosecutions have occurred and those only for cases where the speakers were trying to foment hatred.
University of Toronto political science professor David Rayside called remarks like the Cardinal's "rhetorical hysteria." He noted that the Roman Catholic Church has not been prosecuted for refusing to marry divorces people or ordain women priests. For non-religious organizations, the latter type of discrimination would clearly violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The kindest spin on the Cardinal's bluster came from Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. (By the bye, he is in Israel at the Maccabiah Games, representing Canada in ping pong masters division play. Keen.) He commented, "when people speak out of a sense apprehension, if not anguish, then they may overstate their case.