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Legal Canada - Ontario - Thinking of getting married in Canada?

June 13, 2003

Thinking of getting married in Canada?
Joint Advisory From Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, National Center for Lesbian Rights, ACLU Lesbian & Gay Rights Project, and Freedom to Marry

On June 10, the high court of Ontario, Canada's most populous province, ruled that the exclusion of same-sex couples from civil marriage infringes human dignity, harms families, and violates the constitution. The court ordered The morning after - a new reality with same-sex marriagean immediate end to this cruel discrimination. Within hours, same-sex couples began marrying.

American couples, different-sex or same-sex, may go to Canada to marry. Canada, like the United States, has no residency requirement for marriage (though it does have a one-year residency requirement for divorce). See http://www.cbs.gov.on.ca/mcbs/english/marriages.htm for a description of how to marry in Canada.

American couples who go to Canada to marry should realize that the decision is not just a political gesture, but rather is about taking on all the responsibilities, legal obligations, joys, and wonder of being married. When couples who marry in Canada come home -- although they might face uncertainties and discrimination -- they will be as married as any people on the planet. That means, for example, the couples will identify as married on applications/forms for jobs, apartments, credit, mortgages, insurance, medical treatment, and taxes.

Useful Links:

Online Marriage Services

Ontario Government: Getting Married

Ontario Marriage Licence Application
(Old forms are still in use - modify the usage of "Bridegroom" and "Bride" as appropriate)

Toronto Marriage licence requirements

Getting Hitched in Canada

What you need to get married in Canada, 365gay.com

Deciding whether to get married in Canada

We got married in Canada, What's Next?

Read the full decision from
Court of Appeal for Ontario
June 10, 2003

The good news is that couples returning home married will have a unique chance every day to role model what married same-sex couples look like, and show that marriages of same-sex couples strengthen those families and the larger community while harming no one. This is critically important because as GLBT Americans, we are involved in a civil Ontario Registrar General is adjusting to the new world of same-sex marriage ... slowly.rights struggle and have not yet won the freedom to marry in any state -- although that may soon change with cases pending in the Massachusetts high court (GLAD) and in the New Jersey courts (Lambda Legal). As in any civil rights struggle, we still have other layers of discrimination to undo, both in the states and with the federal law that discriminates against the marriages of same-sex couples.

While many marriages will be respected to varying degrees in various places, and even in surprising places, many married Toronto Same-Sex Marriage Licence  Statisticscouples will also experience discrimination. Some but not all businesses, states, and others will refuse to honor these lawful marriages, along with the federal government. And couples with a member in the military, or on public assistance, or in the U.S. on a visa will face particular complexities. Couples must be prepared to live with a level of uncertainty while we continue our work to end marriage discrimination here.

But we can and we will peel away the layers of discrimination we now face. It is simply no longer debatable that our families exist and that we need the same protections marriage provides for our families and our children. Everyone can help. People can join and work with local, state, and national organizations to repeal discriminatory state laws and the federal anti-marriage law as unfair and harmful to GLBT families and their children. (Contact us to get a list of organizations.). They can focus public attention on how they have been treated - the discrimination and harms the marriage exclusion causes their families and the proof that the sky does not fall when a community respects same-sex couples' marriages. And people should continue to use the available legal tools such as wills and health-care proxies, and should consult with attorneys and financial advisors, to protect their families during the lengthy process of sorting these issues out.

Note: plan ahead to find someone who will marry you (and a witness for each person being married). Ask the clerk who is administrating marriage licences for more information. Welcoming faith communities include Metropolitan Community Churches, Unitarian Fellowships, and United Churches.

Toronto Justice Harvey Brownstone is more than happy to conduct a same-sex marriage for couples wishing to have the ceremony performed by a judge. An appointment must be made by email well in advance. Justice Brownstone is available to perform wedding ceremonies in his chambers any weekday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the North York Family Court, located at 47 Sheppard Avenue East, 2nd Floor (steps from the Sheppard subway station). Couples must bring their marriage license and a cheque for $75, payable to "The Minister of Finance". Justice Brownstone's staff sends the cheque, together with the tear-off portion of the marriage licence to the Registrar, so that the marriage can be registered by the government. No fee is payable to Justice Brownstone for his services. If couples wish Justice Brownstone to marry them at an off-site location, or on an evening or weekend, this can be arranged, depending on his availability. Please contact:
harvey.brownstone@jus.gov.on.ca

For those who contemplate litigation as a response to discrimination against their marriage, it is critical to remember that any legal case has profound implications beyond the individuals involved. Please contact the organizations below who have the most experience litigating on marriage, civil unions and the rights of GLBT people and who have definite thoughts about what, when and where litigation is and is not advisable for taking our movement forward. Couples should absolutely not race across the Your marital name in Ontario; how to change your name after a same-sex marriage.border just to set up lawsuits; the wrong cases could set us back for years. We will be strongest if we work together.

Again, this is a civil rights struggle, and we must bring all of our resources to each part of the struggle: telling stories, politically organizing, engaging non-gay allies, working in legislatures, and very selectively litigating. Together we can win marriage equality here in the United States.

Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund (Lambda Legal)
212-809-8585
Freedom to Marry
212-851-8418

Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto Weddings

How can you get married in Ontario? First, go to a city hall and ask for a marriage licence. Fill out the application, pay your $110 fee and obtain your validated licence. Finally to get married you require:

  • a justice of the peace to marry you (the clerk at the marriage licence application desk can give directions), or
  • a church willing to perform the marriage ceremony (Metropolitan Community Churches, Unitarian churches, and some United churches are already performing marriages for same-sex couples).

External link to the Metropolitan Community Church of TorontoReverend Dr. Brent Hawkes, senior pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto will marry same-sex couples.

The simplified wedding takes about 10 minutes, or the couple can include a scripture reading and a prayer in a 20 minute ceremony:

  • The fee for either service is $300 (a minimum payment of $150 in cash, the remaining can be paid using credit/debit cards).
  • A valid Ontario Marriage License is required.
  • The weddings will take place at MCC Toronto
  • Participants must meet with an MCC Toronto wedding coordinator prior to the wedding day.

Contact Bill Estey (416-406-6228 extension 170) to schedule a wedding.



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