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Legal issues in Canada - British Columbia
May 18, 2004
NDP party defends gay marriage rights in BC
Last March, same-sex couples in B.C. almost lost the right to control the remains of a deceased partner. Thanks to the vigilance of the NDP opposition party, and Joy MacPhail, the slight-of-hand by the governing Liberal party was caught. The Liberals finally revised the definition of spouse, last week, in response to same-sex marriage. "It is just such a shame the Liberals chose to waffle for so long," MacPhail said.
March 27, 2004
Vigilance required, even in victory
British Columbia's Liberal government has shown that even as couples celebrate same-sex marriage, vigilance against discrimination remains important. This week, B.C. gay and lesbian couples lost the right to make decisions if their spouse died. The Liberal House leader promised the law would not be enacted, but how did it get so far?
January 21, 2004
BC marriage commissioners must perform
British Columbia's Vital Statistics Agency (part of the Ministry of Health Planning) issued a letter yesterday to all of its marriage commissioners, advising them of the agency's expectation that all commissioners will comply with the Canadian Charter and the new common law definition of marriage. The move further underscores the importance of the separation of faith-based beliefs from government policy and services.
July 8, 2003
Same-sex marriage arrives in B.C.!
Today, British Columbia became Canada's second province to allow same-sex marriage, in a victory for all Canadians who believe in equality and human rights. Attention now turns to Quebec, where a delayed court remedy is still in effect, and to the rest of Canada, where provinces have no excuse to maintain discrimination against gays and lesbians. Justice keeps on rolling across Canada: which province is next?
May 1, 2003
Court of Appeal Supports Equal Marriage
Couples seeking their right to same-sex marriage in British Columbia won their second attempt for justice in the province's highest court. The B.C. Court of Appeal agreed that the couples' Charter rights have been violated, and said that the violation could not be justified. The court followed the lead of Ontario & Quebec, giving the government until July 12, 2004 to adhere to the Charter and deliver equal marriage!
Court Discrimination On Appeal
"If Robin and I had been able to get married, I believe that it would have been
easier for our children because the relationship would have felt more official
in their own minds, and they might have been more comfortable talking about it
with friends. I also believe that we would have been more readily accepted by
my family and by our community. Same-sex marriage is a first step in changing
the climate of public opinion. This change is also fundamentally important for
the children of new generations."
"The hearing made me reflect on family, in all its forms. Families that are birthed, co-partnered, befriended, formed on the spur of the moment, united by accident, by social need, by war or, in this case, by political cause. Families know, intuitively after their creation, how to draw on what they share, in order to support each other. I'd like to paint a little action video clip of our family, this one that's fighting this cause for equal rights, hoping some of the colours will splash out to you, our larger family."
Read Appealing to Family by Robin Roberts (PDF doc)
The EGALE Factum for the B.C. Court of AppealOn March 28, 2002, the lawyers representing EGALE in the B.C. marriage case filed their factum, detailing the arguments that will be used in the appeal of Justice Pitfield's decision.
The Court issued its decision in October 2001 and ruled that the prohibition against same-sex marriage was discrimination against gays and lesbians as defined under the Canadidan Charter, but Justice Pitfield ruled that marriage discrimination was justified. View the decision:
In 1999 one couple, and in 2000 another couple sought to obtain marriage licenses from the BC Director of Vital Statistics, but were rejected. The BC Government issued a written statement, however, expressing its support for same-sex marriage and calling upon the federal government to enact laws explicitly permitting same-sex couples to marry. Under the constitution, the federal government has jurisdiction over who can marry, while the provincial governments have responsibility for administering the law.
The BC Government issued legal proceedings against the federal government, seeking the right to marry same-sex couples, and claiming that the restriction of marriage to heterosexuals violates the right to equality enshrined in the Charter of Rights. Subsequently, two more petitions were initiated; one was brought by EGALE and five same-sex couples, (Melinda Roy & Tanya Chambers, Robin Roberts & Diana Denny, Tess Healy & Wendy Young, Shane McCloskey & David Shortt, and Bob Peacock & Lloyd Thornhill). The other petition was brought on by the BC Partners.
The three BC partners (Elizabeth & Dawn Barbeau, Murray Warren & Peter Cook, and Jane Hamilton & Joy Masuhara) have also issued a human rights complaint against the BC Government.
In November of 2000, the BC Supreme Court made an order that the proceedings be heard together, and that evidence in one hearing was to be considered evidence in the other. To avoid duplicating submissions, Egale focused on common law, s.15 (right to freedom from discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation),and s.1, while the focus of the BC Partners was on other Charter rights, such as s.2 (freedom of expression and association), s.7 (right to life,liberty and security of the person), s.8 (mobility rights) and s.28 (gender equality).
Liberal Government Favours Discrimination
When the new BC Liberal Government took power, it withdrew its legal action, purportedly on the basis that it didn't want to be in the position of sueing the federal Liberal government. However, because of the court's November order, all the evidence filed by the Attorney General was able to be used in the proceedings.