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Debate on Same-Sex Marriages in Canada
Federal government opens public consultations on same-sex marriages
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Dateline: 08/10/02

Public Consultations on Same-Sex Marriages

The Canadian federal government is keeping its options open in dealing with the issue of same-sex marriages in Canada. The federal government has decided to appeal the July 12, 2002 Ontario Divisional Court ruling that said prohibiting gay marriages is unconstitutional. At the same time, Justice Minister Martin Cauchon says his department will release a public discussion paper on the possibilities for same-sex marriages in September 2002 and the issue of same-sex marriages will be referred to a parliamentary committee for public consultations. The federal government will also consult with the provinces.

Law on Same-Sex Marriages

Currently in Canada, the federal government is responsible for defining what constitutes a marriage. Provincial governments are responsible for the administration and procedural requirements of the marriage ceremony and for issuing marriage licenses.

No Clear Consensus in Canada

Justice Minister Cauchon says "there is no consensus, either from the courts or among Canadians, on whether or how the laws require change." While same-sex marriages are not yet legal in any province in Canada, and the legal definition of marriage remains "between a man and a woman," different provinces across the country are dealing with the issue of same-sex marriages in a wide range of ways:

  • In Ontario, although the superior court ordered Parliament to broaden its definition of marriage to include gay men and women, it gave the federal government two years to change federal legislation
  • In Nova Scotia, since June 2001 same-sex couples have been able to file a declaration of domestic partnership which provides many of the rights and obligations of married couples
  • In Quebec, a law passed in June 2002 avoids the term "marriage" and allows same-sex couples to enter into a civil union with parental rights as well as property and inheritance rights.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, in Alberta in June 2002 a private members bill was passed banning same-sex marriages and defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Alberta's Justice Minister did not vote for the bill.


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