March 18, 2004
court decision released tomorrow
A long-awaited decision in the Quebec same-sex marriage case will be released tomorrow by the province's highest court: the Court of Appeal. Montreal couple Michael Hendricks and René Leboeuf won their case in Quebec's lower court in 2002, however, the court delayed the legalization of gay marriage for two years, in order to give the federal and provincial governments time to adjust to the new reality.
The federal government decided to appeal the case after Ontario's highest court declared our marriage to be valid and opened marriage to other same-sex couples in that province. The Canadian and Québec governments decided to drop the Quebec appeal and get on with introducing new legislation to include same-sex couples in the definition of marriage. However the Catholic Church and an alliance of evangelical fundamentalists insisted on imposing their faith-based bigotry on civil law by banding together keep the appeal alive.
Hendricks and Leboeuf, the last remaining same-sex couple in Canadian court fighting for the right to marry, returned to court on January 26, 2004 seeking to quash the appeal of the religious hate-mongers. In light of the victories for equality in Ontario and British Columbia, most observers expect the couple to be successful. The court's decision will be released at 9:00 a.m., however there is a media embargo until 11:00 a.m. in order to give everyone time to read the decision and prepare a response.
"It will be a sleepless night," Michael Hendricks told us when he phoned to give us the news. "And at my age, that can't be a good thing."
Hendricks (62) and Leboeuf (48) have been together thirty-one years. They have the wedding clothes and rings ready for tomorrow, in anticipation that the courts will agree to quash the appeal and rule that it is discriminatory to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. The couple is less certain as to whether the courts will allow the couple to get married immediately following the ruling, as couples did in Ontario and British Columbia.
Québec has a banns process that is a holdover from the days when religious practices and civil law commingled in the province. Couples are required to wait 20 days after initiating the process to get married before they can actually do the deed, in order to ensure there are no legal objections to the marriage.
In light of the couple's very public profile, Hendricks and Leboeuf hope the courts will wave the waiting period. After all, the couple has been in courts since 2001 seeking this long deserved right.
If Quebec joins Ontario and British Columbia in giving same-sex couples access to marriage, approximately 71% of Canada's population will live in a province that respects the Charter right of gays and lesbians to marry. A victory will mean that defenders of equality will go to the Supreme Court of Canada with unanimous support from provincial courts and help ensure a successful hearing on the proposed legislation that will be reviewed by Canada's highest court, prior to the roll-out of equal marriage legislation for the rest of Canada.