The following was a press release issued the day after our marriage, when Ontario refused to register our marriage:

Ontario Unable to Register Same-Sex Marriages

TORONTO -- January 15, 2001 -- "Whether the marriage is solemnized following the issuance of a licence or the publication of banns, it must comply with all applicable provincial and federal laws governing marriage in this province," said Robert Runciman, Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, responding to news media questions about same-sex marriage in Ontario.

In order to be legally married, following either the publication of banns or the issuance of a marriage licence, a couple must have the legal capacity to marry. The capacity to marry is a matter within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government. The federal common law as confirmed by recent federal legislation defines marriage as the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others. Provincial law cannot alter the federal common law or confer capacity to marry.

"Because of personal privacy considerations, it is not appropriate for me to discuss the specific details of any specific situation," said Runciman. "The federal government has jurisdiction over who has the capacity to be married and the provinces have jurisdiction over the process of solemnizing marriages."

Marriage in the Province of Ontario

  • Marriage is defined by federal common law as, "the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others". This definition was recently confirmed by the federal government in the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act.
  • The Constitution Act, 1867 divides jurisdiction over marriage between the federal government and the provinces. Under Section 91, the federal government has jurisdiction over who may marry whom, while under Section 92, the provinces have jurisdiction over the process of solemnization of marriages.
  • Currently, there is litigation underway concerning the issuance of marriage licences to same-sex couples in Ontario. Crown Law Office (Constitutional) is representing the Province in this litigation.
  • In Ontario, the Office of the Registrar General (ORG) administers the Marriage Act which governs how a person may get married. Under this Act, no marriage may be solemnized except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the Act or the publication of banns, provided no lawful cause exists to hinder the solemnization.
  • In addition to the federal definition of marriage, other examples of lawful causes that would hinder the solemnization of a marriage include: a prior existing marriage; a relationship within the prohibited degrees (e.g. brother marrying sister); failure to comply with the prescribed formalities under the Marriage Act; being underage; being impaired (e.g. drugs or alcohol); lack of consent (e.g. coercion or duress); mental disability or illness. These impediments have been established by both common law and legislation.
  • Marriage in Ontario is a two-step process. The first step is to either obtain a marriage licence or have banns read. Whether the marriage is solemnized by licence or banns all applicable provincial and federal laws which govern marriage must be complied with. The second step is the solemnization/registration of the marriage.

Marriage by Banns

  • Publication of banns refers to public notice given in a place of worship, that a marriage between two people is to take place. This gives the congregation an opportunity to voice knowledge of any impediment to the marriage. This is a traditional method of solemnizing a marriage, which has been practised for many years by some denominations and continues to be practised by them.
  • Once a marriage has been solemnized, the person solemnizing the marriage must forward the required forms to the ORG for registration. Upon review, if the documents appear to comply with the law, the ORG registers the marriage. This does not mean the marriage is valid. Only a court may determine whether any marriage is valid.
  • The marriage forms include a portion that can be detached and given to the parties as a record or souvenir of the ceremony. It is not an official document nor is it a certificate of the marriage.
  • · If such a person does not follow the requirements of the marriage, the ORG will address the issue with the solemnizer of the marriage and may advise the denomination's governing body.

The above was issued by the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services