Gay marriage arrives in the prairies at last!

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Legal Canada - Gay marriage arrives in the prairies at last

September 16, 2004

Gay marriage arrives in the prairies at last!
Courts protect us from Parliament's neglect

“Words cannot express how much this means to us as a family. Now our daughter will grow up knowing that her family is recognized and valued like those of her friends."
Jordan Cantwell, applicant for marriage, Globe and Mail, Sep. 16, 2004


"The traditional definition of marriage in Manitoba is reformulated to mean a voluntary union for life of two persons at the exclusion of all others," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Douglas Yard ruled today in a Manitoba court room. The decision makes Manitoba the fifth province or territory in Canada to acknowledge that the definition of marriage now includes same-sex couples.

This case marks the first time that Ottawa has not tried to interfere in some way with the delivery of justice. Lawyers for the federal government and the Manitoba government offered no opposition to the move, in an acknowledgment that discrimination against gay and lesbian couples must end. Gay marriage was made legal by Ontario's Court of Appeal on June 10, 2003, setting off a domino effect of justice in British Columbia, Quebec, the Yukon, and now Manitoba.

"The cumulative effect and the overwhelming effect of that judicial authority is to the effect that the traditional definition of marriage is no longer constitutionally valid in view of the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Justice Yard said.

The Manitoba case involved Chris Vogel and Richard North, a couple who first tried to mount a challenge for marriage in 1974 when, like us, they were married after the publication of banns. The ceremony, however, predated the Canadian Charter and the couple was unsuccessful in their attempt to force the Manitoba government to register their marriage (see timeline).

Manitoba matured in post-charter days. Following the first Canadian victory for same-sex marriage (Ontario - July 12, 2002), Manitoba's Justice Minister expressed support for same-sex marriage and he called upon the federal government to end discrimination.

The federal government, under Prime Minister Paul Martin, has fumbled and delayed in responding to same-sex marriage. In the absence of timely action, couples have been forced to go to the courts to break through Parliamentary inaction.

Another case is underway in Nova Scotia, and the New Brunswick government has indicated that it is reviewing its legislation in light of a recent decision involving same-sex couples and adoption.

Meanwhile, the federal government has referred the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada where proposed inclusive marriage legislation will be reviewed on Oct. 6. The Supreme Court is widely expected to echo the decisions that have rang out across the country: same-sex couples must have access to marriage.


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