Ontario drags its feet on same-sex rights



"It would be nice if politicians would do the right thing for a change without a lawsuit. However, if that's what it takes, we will keep on suing them until we have full equality."
Douglas Elliott, lawyer, Roy Elliott Kim O'Connor



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Legal Canada - Legal Ontario - Ontario drags its feet on same-sex rights

May 18, 2004

Ontario drags its feet on same-sex rights
Many changes overdue 1 year after court order

While running for office last fall, Dalton McGuinty claimed to support same-sex marriage. The person now serving as Attorney General, Michael Bryant, seemed to be concerned about upholding human rights too. But campaign trail commitments and carrying through on them aren’t in synch right now. It's time to call Liberal commitments to question!

Ontario’s Court of Appeal changed the definition of spouse to include same-sex couples almost a year ago. On June 10, 2021, the Chief Justice of Ontario [Roy McMurtry, photographed between Joe Varnell andKevin Bourassa], Celebrating justice and same-sex marriage with the Law Society of Upper Canadaalong with two other judges (Justice James MacPherson and Justice Eileen Gillese), decided in the Halpern case that the definition of spouse was unconstitutional.

The Court stated: “...it is our view that the dignity of persons in same-sex relationships is violated by the exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution of marriage. Accordingly, we conclude that the common-law definition of marriage as “the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others” violates s.15(1) of the Charter.” The Court ordered a new definition of marriage in effect immediately that included “the voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others.”

Certainly giving gays and lesbians the choice to legally marry was a landmark human rights victory. But Ontario’s statutes have never been amended to reflect this court-imposed decision. Dozens and dozens of statutes – including the Insurance Act, the Family Law Act, and the Pension Benefits Act — do not reflect the definition of spouse established by Ontario’s highest court. Even the Human Rights Code, arguably the most important of Ontario’s statutes, continues to define in law “marital status" to the exclusion of same-sex couples by continuing the loathesome, exclusionary distinction between “same-sex partners” and opposite-sex couples established by the Tory government. And for no good reason.

"It would be nice if politicians would do the right thing for a change without a lawsuit," said lawyer Douglas Elliott in response to the Ontario government's poor implementation of same-sex marriage and its ongoing battle against pensions for surviving same-sex partners. "However, if that's what it takes, we will keep on suing them until we have full equality."

Ontario’s Liberal government has had plenty of time to get its act together and amend its statutes to comply with the 2003 Court of Appeal decision. Please take a minute to call or write the Premier and the Attorney General and voice your objections to this foot dragging.

Tell them they should respect their highest court and get on with amending Ontario's statutes to reflect the Halpern decision. Tell them this kind of justice is well overdue and doesn’t cost a thing. And if they equivocate, tell them their interest in human rights is ringing hollow.

Premier Dalton McGuinty
Ph: (416) 325-1941
Fax: (416)-325-9895
Legislative Bldg, Room 281,
Queen's Park,
Toronto, ON, M7A 1A1

Attorney General Michael Bryant
(responsible for all of Ontario’s laws and the Human Rights Code)
Phone: (416) 326-4000
Fax: (416) 326-4016
11th Floor,
720 Bay St.
Toronto, ON, M5S 2K1

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