Liberation of Marriage







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Legal Canada - The liberation of marriage - Part II - Part III - Part IV

September 22, 2004

Gay nuptials legal in Nova Scotia by Friday?
Federal & provincial governments "must do better"

Nova Scotia is about to become the 6th region in Canada, and the first province in the Atlantic area, to comply with the law of the land by giving same-sex couples access to marriage. The decision is widely expected to be aligned with Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, the Yukon, and Manitoba.

A Nova Scotia court is expected to announce its decision on Friday, September 24. Couples in Nova Scotia launched their challenge on Aug. 13, 2004. Shortly afterwards, Premier John Hamm announced the province would not oppose the couples, although he said ( The Toronto Star, Aug. 17, 2004) that "Nova Scotia has refused to proactively begin issuing (marriage) licences."

Since couples first began winning their cases in Canada (July 12, 2002), no province has been willing to give couples access to same-sex marriage, unless ordered to do so by a provincial court.

P.M. Paul Martin, and Justice Minister Irwin Cotler are responsible for sending mixed messages to the provinces, while botching things at a federal level through their handling of the Supreme Court of Canada reference. The review was unnecessarily delayed, and has increasingly become irrelevant to about 85% of Canadians who will already be living in a province that allows gay marriage.

"Gays and lesbians have had to turn repeatedly to the courts to eke out equality rights because politicians have not had the courage to address them ... But forcing a same-sex couple to ask a court to strike down a law the government has already agreed is unconstitutional shows just how unwilling many politicians are to fight for their gay and lesbian constituents. Like many previous cases on gay and lesbian rights, it also placed onerous costs and unnecessary emotional strain on the couple and is an affront to their human dignity ... legislators must take greater responsibility for the rights and well-being of all their constituents, no matter who they are. Just like other Canadians, gays and lesbians hold jobs, own property, raise children, get old, love and are loved. Their rights are a matter of fundamental human dignity and politicians must do better."
Editorial, The Toronto Star, Sep. 18, 2004

Ross Boutilier and Brian Mombourquette are one of the couples involved in the Nova Scotia marriage challenge. The couple considered the possibility of getting married in Ontario, but their long-time hope was to get married in Nova Scotia where the couple have long been active working in the community (Ross and Brian are members of Safe Harbour Metropolitan Community Church, the same denomination that was involved in the landmark Ontario marriage case).

"We do it because we love what we've achieved here with this church, with our friends, our family and at work," Brian and Ross (Photo by, 2004)Brian said as he embarked on this marriage challenge with Ross (see "Halifax Pride: the next great leap forward"). "Both of us have constantly and consistently stood up and said that we are a couple and we want to have what we deserve as a couple. Our colleagues have respected us, and our friends have come to love and care for us as we are, and our family is just so accepting, and our church is where we draw our strength."

After Nova Scotia achieves the new standard for human rights in Canada, half of Canada's 10 provinces and two territories will remain standing for discrimination against same-sex couples. Alberta has vowed to fight all the way (the Metropolitan Community Churches will have their world congress in Alberta next year, primed to launch a campaign for marriage equality in Calgary if that province is still holding out).

Sadly, the federal government is on the sidelines, avoiding the issue without regard for the law or for people. The stewards of our rights allow violations, while couples like Ross and Brian step forward to work for rights that so many take for granted.

Canada can claim credit for being a country that has expanded human rights for its citizens, but when it comes to marriage equality, the credit belongs to so many, except our governing politicians.

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