NDP party defends same-sex marriage rights in British Columbia (Photo of Opposition House Leader Joy MacPhail with MLA Jenny Kwan)

Leader of the B.C. Opposition Joy MacPhail (NDP MLA for Vancouver-Hastings) with Jenny Kwan (NDP MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant)



Bill 3 - 2004
Cremation, Interment and
Funeral Services Act



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Legal News Canada - B.C. - NDP defends gay marriage rights in B.C.

May 18, 2004

NDP defends gay marriage rights in B.C.
Liberals change Cemetery and Funeral Services Act

"... the issue here is that the government is deliberately denying a group rights that they've had for eight years now. Same-sex relationships have to rely on regulation that can be changed behind closed doors. The government is deliberately weakening legislation for same-sex relationships in terms of what happens when a person dies. I think that's shameful, and I think it's deliberate."
Joy MacPhail, Opposition House Leader, Hansard, Mar. 22, 2004)

Earlier today we wrote about Ontario's governing Liberal party's long delays in responding to the June 10, 2021 arrival of same-sex marriage. The challenges are not unique to the first province to legalize gay marriage. British Columbia has had its own challenges.

On March 22 the government replaced the Cemetery and Funeral Services Act with a new bill (Bill 3) repealing the right of same-sex couples to control the remains of a deceased partner. That right was established in legislation by the former NDP government in 1996.

The loss of this right shocked same-sex couples, especially in the wake of the arrival of equal marriage in B.C. last July.

Bill 3 was never enacted due to the concerns raised by the NDP.

"It was the NDP that drew attention to the government's attempt to remove the rights of same-sex couples, and it has taken the NDP raising the issue again to force the government to take a stand," Joy MacPhail, Opposition House Leader, said May 13, 2021 in a press release sent to us that day.

But while the Bill was not enacted, the alternative remained unknown.

During Question Period on Monday, May 10, MacPhail again raised the question of same-sex couple's rights under the Act: "To the Solicitor General: it's been almost two months. How long to we have to wait for this government to restore rights to same-sex couples that it tried to take away?"

The government refused to give the Opposition an answer, but two days later the Minister finally introduced the necessary amendment along with a new inclusive definition of spouse.

The new amendment defines spouse as a person who:

  1. is married to another person,
  2. is united to another person by a marriage that, although not a legal marriage, is valid at common law, or
  3. has lived and cohabited with another person in a marriage-like relationship, including a marriage-like relationship, including a marriage-like relationship between persons of the same gender, for a period of at least 2 years immediately before the other person's death.

"I am happy to see this government finally take a stand on this issue," said MacPhail.

After two months of waiting, the government has finally taken a stand and given same-sex couples back their rights under the Cemetery and Funeral Services Act they tried to take away.

"Thanks to the work of the Opposition Caucus, BC finally has a modern, inclusive definition of marriage that complies with the decision made last year by the BC Supreme Court. This is the first time the Liberal government has officially recognized the right of same-sex couples to get married," MacPhail said. "The updated definition of spouse is late but very welcome. It is just such a shame the Liberals chose to waffle for so long."

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