Marriage Equality - 21st Century
Marriage Equality - 21st Century
On July 6, 2001, omnibus legislation received Royal Assent in Saskatchewan. The Miscellaneous Statutes (Domestic Relations) Amendment Acts amended the definition of spouse in 24 provincial statutes. The amendments go even further than the Quebec and Ontario legislation, because they not only equalize the benefits and obligations of heterosexual and same-sex partners, they also grant cohabiting common law partners (including same-sex partners) the same benefits as married spouses. The amendments cover such areas as adoption, spousal support, inheritance rights, pensions, survivor benefits, and matrimonial property. Also on July 6, 2001, omnibus legislation received Royal Assent in Manitoba, amending 10 provincial statutes to extend spousal rights and responsibilities to cohabiting same-sex couples in areas such as superannuation, dependants relief, family maintenance, survivors benefits, pension benefits, and workers compensation benefits.
However, Nova Scotia also amended its Vital Statistics Act to permit two individuals who are cohabiting or intend to cohabit in a conjugal relationship to make a domestic-partner declaration which, once registered, immediately confers upon each domestic-partner the same rights and obligations as a married spouse under 12 provincial statutes, including the Fatal Injuries Act, the Intestate Succession Act, the Maintenance and Custody Act, the Matrimonial Property Act, and the Pension Benefits Act.
Although many of the discriminatory laws and practices that violated our equality rights have been amended, repealed, and/or successfully challenged in the courts -- and contemporary public opinion is considerably more tolerant of lesbianism, homosexuality, and bisexuality than it once was -- we nevertheless continue to suffer marginalization and inequality in many aspects of our lives. The extent of our individual vulnerability varies depending on such factors as whether we live in large urban centres with established lesbian and gay communities, whether we are isolated from support networks due to factors such as youth, old age, or linguistic barriers, whether we are subjected to compounded forms of discrimination as racialized people, people with disabilities, transgendered people, or poor people, etc., but all of us suffer some degree of discrimination and marginalization on account of our sexual orientation.
We have had to cope with some obstacles,
although they have not been as serious as the difficulties we know that others
have faced. However, we do experience burdens as a same-sex couple as a result
of the everydayness of being different. For example, we never know
when we might be challenged or how the next person that we deal with might react.
Whether it is saying goodbye at the airport, or taking our dog to the vet, or
dealing with a dentists receptionist, we never know when our relationship
will be treated with derision or disrespect. I am careful not to speak as freely
about my partner as heterosexuals do, because I am never sure what people will
think. Although there are many supportive people in our community, we often feel
grateful when someone treats us with dignity and respect, and then we feel chagrined
that we have to feel grateful because someone was nice to us.
I remember very clearly
our first date. We were walking together through Ottawas Byward market on
our way to dinner at a local restaurant. On the way, we passed a street preacher
denouncing homosexuality... I remember feeling the warmth and excitement of being
on a date with someone that I was looking forward to getting to know better slowly
drain out of me, to be replaced by a chilling anger and shock at the fact that
this stranger was proclaiming his hate for people like Jérôme and
myself...when I look back at what should have been the wonderful and joyous discovery
of new love, my memory of our first date together is forever tainted by that unpleasant
Heterosexuals have often judged gays and
lesbians for not maintaining long-term relationships, but if they (heterosexuals)
had to carry home the burden of not being able to talk naturally and openly about
their families, their week-end, their spouse, but in fact had to hide it, they
would soon find it difficult as well. Having a society tell you constantly that
your love is bad, that therefore you are bad, is an all-pervasive undermining
of your innate loving goodness. It takes a very strong person to see through this
heavy smokescreen and keep honouring a loving relationship when everything around
you tells you that you are a bad person for doing so.
see same-sex relationships as merely physical, and do not realize that same-sex
couples experience the same range of romantic, spiritual and emotional feelings
as any heterosexual married couple.
My mother, stepfather,
brother, and sister-in-law have been very accepting of me and my relationship
with Melinda. However, the marriage of my brother and his wife is still seen by
many others as more serious than my relationship with Melinda, even though we
have been together nearly three times as long. When a couple is married, people
just accept that the commitment is genuine and that the spouse is a member of
the family. Melinda and I do not have that option, and sometimes it feels as though
we are always having to prove or justify our relationship to others.
a general matter, lesbians and gays believe that the right to marry is a personal
decision that same-sex couples are entitled to make for ourselves and not one
which is to be imposed upon us by the State because it views our relationships
as less worthy of recognition that heterosexual relationships. / Even for couples
who choose not to marry, the process of exploring with a partner whether or not
to marry can lead to a greater understanding of the values and priorities of each
partner, and deepen the mutual understanding and respect underpinning the relationship.
Although same-sex couples can of course currently have such discussions about
the nature and priority of marriage, the discussion can never be anything more
than abstract or theoretical so long as we are denied the actual option to marry.
(Information Provided by EGALE Canada)