"Canada has always been in the vanguard in relation to many societies in the world. We have met our responsibilities."
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, after announcing that Canada would not appeal any more marriage cases,
June 17, 2003

 

 

 

 

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Same-sex marriage arrives in B.C. (flag designed by Greg Gomes)

 

 

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June 22, 2003

The liberation of marriage
Waiting for the next province, and then?

"It would be a good thing if the provinces went ahead to recognize same-sex unions based on the Ontario court decision, but that's up to the provinces."
Canada's Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, Montreal Gazette, June 21, 2003

"Canada's actions have fired up U.S. same-sex marriage advocates, who say the move will put increasing pressure on this nation to follow suit."
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, June 20, 2003


Events have been unfolding at an unprecedented rate since the June 10 decision of the Court of Appeal of Ontario and the impacts are reaching far beyond Canada's borders.

"One of the most exciting and pivotal events to happen in years to the gay rights movement in the United States just occurred - in another country entirely," Michelangelo Signorile wrote in Newsday (June 20).

We have been unable to keep up with the many happy stories that have appeared in the media, including the smallest of community newspapers, as each town and city celebrates their first same-sex marriage.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario changed the definition of marriage for all of Canada, not just Ontario, on June 10. The court order for compliance, however, applied only to the province of Ontario. In the rest of Canada, couples are either coming to Ontario to get married, or asking their province to begin recognizing their right to marriage too. Both are effective strategies for ensuring this country includes same-sex couples in the marriage laws, as the Prime Minister promised on June 17. Many are impatient for provinces to follow Ontario's lead. There is no better time to right a wrong then now. Especially when one has the power to do so.

Canada's Justice Minister agrees. Couples expect equal marriage now. Parliament is expected to pass a new law for equal marriage when it returns to sit in the fall session, but a province doesn't have to wait for Parliament. Provinces are empowered now: there are no longer any federal hindrances to equal marriage."Go to Toronto."
Alberta Justice Minister
David Hancock,
Edmonton Journal, June 18, 2003

Who will be first? Maybe Quebec, where the province has already shown its willingness to go as far as was provincially possible, by introducing civil unions last year. Or will it be British Columbia, whose Court of Appeal decision in May of this year cleared the way for marriages in that province as of July 2004? Three of the couples in the B.C. case have gone back to the court, asking that it withdraw its suspension of remedy and order the province to begin issuing marriage licenses to couples now [Ed note: BC began allowing same-sex couples to marry on July 8, 2004]. Or will it be some other province, acting in accordance with the law without more direction from either the federal government or the judiciary. It's now possible to go further and pressure is mounting, as citizens expect their home provinces to live up to Charter rights.

The liberation of marriage is something that happens in practice, not just in law. Like many liberations, law is sometimes the last to catch up to the new world order. Ultimately, it is up to the couples, with support from allies, to demand their rights and protections from their governments.

The example set by Ontario, and now by our federal government, is a contribution to the advancement of human rights across Canada, and around the world, most notably in the United States.

"Like it or not, Canada's decision sets the stage for a new wave of legal challenges here," said an editorial in the Oregonian (June 21). A headline in the Chicago Tribune (June 22) read, "U.S. lags on gay rights."

"Canada's recognition of equality for gays and lesbians strengthens the bonds of families everywhere," wrote Eduardo Hernandez in a letter to the editor, Honolulu Star-Bulletin (June 20, 2003). "Even more, it inspires a new generation of people to stand up for civil rights and equality."

In the same paper an editorial said, "The most important effect the Canadian policy could have on the United States will be to demonstrate that same-sex marriages will not be disruptive to the institution of marriage."

Perhaps, with the Justice Minister's encouragement, and the ongoing efforts of many others, we'll see some provinces step forward to accept the marriages of gay and lesbian couples sooner, rather than later. That too, would be a great demonstration for the many observers who are watching Canada undergo this change. "What this presents for American couples is an opportunity to easily enter into a legal marriage and come back to the United States with a powerful tool to break down the remaining discrimination here."
Lavi Soloway, Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force,
New York Times, June 17, 2003.

Already, without full implementation in Canada, the arrival of equal marriage in Ontario is a boost for people around the world who are working for such rights. Yesterday we spoke with Nigel Christie (LeGaLE) from New Zealand. He explained that his country's rights and protections are very similar to Canada's Charter. Nigel is hopeful that change will come soon to New Zealand, but he's also contemplating nudging justice along with the help of an Ontario marriage case to bolster a chance at victory. So are others, elsewhere in the world.

Government support has already had a tremendous impact here in Ontario. A new pride in Canada's rights and freedoms has emerged, even an outward patriotism that is more common in our American friends. Today's morning service at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto began with our pastor carrying a rainbow flag and a Canadian flag to front of the church. The standing congregration sang the national anthem.

There were more than a few of us with tears in our eyes. It is a feeling that others will soon know in places beyond Ontario.


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