Same-sex marriage in Canada
|Civil unions and|
Same-sex marriage in Canada
was progressively introduced in several provinces by court decisions beginning in 2003 before being legally recognized nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act
on July 20, 2005. On June 10, 2003, the Court of Appeal for Ontario
issued a decision immediately legalizing same-sex marriage in Ontario, thereby becoming the first province where it was legal. The introduction of a federal gender-neutral marriage definition made Canada
the fourth country in the world, and the first country outside Europe
, to legally recognize same-sex marriage
throughout its borders. Before the federal recognition of same-sex marriage, court decisions had already introduced it in eight out of ten provinces
and one of three territories, whose residents collectively made up about 90% of Canada's population. More than 3,000 same-sex couples had already married in those areas before the Civil Marriage Act
Most legal benefits commonly associated with marriage
had been extended to cohabiting same-sex couples since 1999.
The Civil Marriage Act
was introduced by Prime Minister Paul Martin
's Liberal minority government
in the House of Commons of Canada
on February 1, 2005 as Bill C-38
. It was passed by the House of Commons on June 28, 2005, by the Senate
on July 19, 2005, and it received royal assent
the following day. Following the 2006 election
, which was won by a Conservative
minority government under new Prime Minister Stephen Harper
, the House of Commons defeated a motion to reopen the matter by a vote of 175 to 123 on December 7, 2006, effectively reaffirming the legislation. This was the third vote supporting same-sex marriage taken by three Parliaments under three Prime Ministers in three different years, as shown below.
Same-sex marriage by province
Same-sex marriage was legally recognized in the provinces and territories as of the following dates:
- June 10, 2003: Ontario
- July 8, 2003: British Columbia
- March 19, 2004: Quebec
- July 14, 2004: Yukon
- September 16, 2004: Manitoba
- September 24, 2004: Nova Scotia
- November 5, 2004: Saskatchewan
- December 21, 2004: Newfoundland and Labrador
- June 23, 2005: New Brunswick
- July 20, 2005 (Civil Marriage Act): Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories
Note that in some of these cases, some marriages were in fact legal at an earlier date (for example, an Ontario ruling held that marriages performed in January 2001 were legal when performed), but the legality was questioned. As of the given dates, the legality was authoritatively established.
The decision of the Ontario government to recognize two marriages that took place in Toronto
on January 14, 2001, retroactively makes Canada the first country in the world to have a government-legitimized same-sex marriage (the Netherlands
, which legalized same-sex marriage before Canada, had their first in April 2001 and June 2003, respectively).
Provinces and territories with same-sex marriage before its nationwide legalization on July 20, 2005.
Did not permit
Same-sex marriage was originally recognized by law as a result of cases in which courts in eight out of ten of Canada's provinces, and in one of its three territories, ruled existing bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Thereafter, many same-sex couples obtained marriage licences in those provinces; like opposite-sex couples, they did not need to be residents of any of those provinces to marry there.
The legal status of same-sex marriages in these jurisdictions created an unusual jurisdictional issue. According to the Constitution of Canada
, the definition of marriage is the exclusive responsibility of the federal government; this interpretation was upheld by a December 9, 2004 opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada
(Re Same-Sex Marriage
). Until July 20, 2005, the federal government had not yet passed a law redefining marriage to conform to recent court decisions. Until the passage of Bill C-38
, the previous definition of marriage remained binding in the four jurisdictions (two provinces, two territories) where courts had not yet ruled it unconstitutional, but void in the nine jurisdictions (eight provinces, one territory) where it had been successfully challenged before the courts. Before the enactment of federal legislation recognizing same-sex marriage, therefore, the application of federal marriage law differed depending on the province or territory.
Given the Supreme Court ruling, the role of precedent in Canadian law
, and the overall legal climate, it was very likely that any challenges to legalize same-sex marriage in the remaining four jurisdictions would be successful as well. Indeed, federal lawyers had ceased to contest such cases
and only Alberta
's Conservative provincial government remained officially opposed.
Alberta Premier Ralph Klein
threatened to invoke the notwithstanding clause
of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
which many law experts argued would not work.
On June 17, 2003, Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien announced that the government would present a bill, which would allow same-sex couples equal rights to marry.
A draft of what would become Bill C-38
was released on July 17, 2003, by the Liberal Minister of Justice, Martin Cauchon
. Before introducing it into Parliament, the federal cabinet submitted the bill as a reference
to the Supreme Court (Re Same-Sex Marriage
), asking the court to rule on whether limiting marriage to heterosexual couples was consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and if same-sex civil unions
are an acceptable alternative.
On December 9, 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada
ruled that the marriage of same-sex couples is constitutional, that the federal government has the sole authority to amend the definition of marriage, and the charter's protection of freedom of religion
grants religious institutions the right to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.
Following the Supreme Court's decision, Liberal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler
, introduced Bill C-38
on February 1, 2005, to legalize marriage between persons of the same sex across Canada. The Paul Martin government supported the bill but allowed a free vote
by its backbench
MPs in the House of Commons. Defeat of the bill in Parliament would have continued the status quo
and probably incremental legalization, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, via court challenges. This trend could have been reversed only through Parliament passing a new law that explicitly restricted marriage to opposite-sex couples notwithstanding
the protection of equality rights
afforded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
or by amending the Canadian Constitution
by inserting the clause "marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman", as was recommended by several conservative religious groups and politicians.
Given the composition of the House of Commons at the time, such a measure would have been very unlikely to pass. Conservative Alberta Premier Ralph Klein
proposed putting the question to the public at large via a national referendum,
but his suggestion was rejected by all four party leaders.
In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada
ruled in M. v. H.
 2 S.C.R. 3 that same-sex couples in Canada were entitled to receive many of the financial and legal benefits commonly associated with marriage. However, this decision stopped short of giving them the right to full legal marriage. Most laws which affect couples are within provincial rather than federal jurisdiction. As a result, rights varied somewhat from province to province.
On January 14, 2001, Reverend Brent Hawkes
forced the issue by performing two same-sex marriages, taking advantage of the fact that Ontario law authorizes him to perform marriages without a previous license, via the issuance of banns of marriage
. The registrar refused to accept the records of marriage, and a lawsuit was commenced over whether the marriages were legally performed. In other provinces, lawsuits were launched seeking permission to marry.
In 2002 and 2003, court decisions in the superior courts of Ontario
and British Columbia
held that the restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples was discriminatory and contrary to the equality clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms
- in Ontario, a trial court decision: Halpern v. Canada (Attorney General) 95 C.R.R. (2d) 1 (Ontario Superior Court, July 12, 2002)
- in Quebec: Hendricks v. Quebec  R.J.Q. 2506 (Quebec Superior Court, September 6, 2002)
- in British Columbia: Barbeau v. British Columbia 2003 BCCA 251 (Court of Appeal for BC, May 1, 2003)
The courts in each case suspended the effect of the declarations of invalidity for two years, to allow the federal government to consider legislative responses to the rulings. However, on June 10, 2003, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled on an appeal in the Halpern
case. The court agreed with the lower court that the traditional definition of marriage was discriminatory and that same-sex marriage was legally permitted. However, unlike the previous three court decisions, the Court of Appeal did not suspend its decision to allow Parliament to consider the issue. Instead, it ruled that the 2001 marriages were legal and same-sex marriage was available throughout Ontario immediately: Halpern v. Canada (Attorney General)
 O.J. No. 2268, 2003 CanLII 26403
The federal government had appealed the trial decisions to the provincial courts of appeal, but following the decision on the Ontario Court of Appeal, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien
announced on June 17, 2003 that the federal government would not seek to appeal the decisions to the Supreme Court. Instead, the government would propose a draft Civil Marriage Act
and refer it to the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion.
In 2003, the couples in Halpern v. Canada
appealed the decision, requesting that the decision take effect immediately instead of after a delay. On June 10, 2003, the Court of Appeal for Ontario
confirmed that current Canadian law on marriage violated the equality provisions in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in being restricted to heterosexual couples. The court did not allow the province any grace time to bring its laws in line with the ruling, making Ontario the first jurisdiction in North America
to recognize same-sex marriage. The first same-sex couple married after the decision were Michael Leshner and Michael Stark
. Consequently, the city of Toronto
announced that the city clerk would begin issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples. The next day, the Ontario Attorney General
announced that his government would comply with the ruling.
The court also ruled that two couples who had previously had a wedding ceremony in the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto
using an ancient common-law procedure called the reading of the banns
would be considered legally married.
On September 13, 2004, the Ontario Court of Appeal declared the Divorce Act
also unconstitutional for excluding same-sex marriages. It ordered same-sex marriages read into that act, permitting the plaintiffs, a lesbian couple, to divorce
British Columbia decision
A ruling, quite similar to the Ontario ruling, was issued by the B.C. Court of Appeal on July 8, 2003. Another decision in B.C. in May of that year had required the federal government to change the law to permit same-sex marriages (see above). The July ruling stated that "any further delay... will result in an unequal application of the law between Ontario and British Columbia".
A few hours after the announcement, Antony Porcino and Tom Graff became the first two men to be legally wed in British Columbia.
On March 19, 2004, the Quebec Court of Appeals ruled similarly to the Ontario and B.C. courts, upholding Hendricks and Leboeuf v. Quebec
and ordering that it take effect immediately.
The couple who brought the suit, Michael Hendricks and René Leboeuf
, immediately sought a marriage licence; the usual 20-day waiting period was waived, and they were wed on April 1 at the Palais de justice de Montréal
Given the populations of Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, more than two-thirds of Canada's population lived in provinces where same-sex marriage had been legalized after the Quebec decision.
On July 14, 2004, in Dunbar & Edge v. Yukon (Government of) & Canada (A.G.)
, 2004 YKSC 54, the Yukon Territorial Supreme Court issued another similar ruling with immediate effect.
Rather than reproducing the Charter equality arguments used by the other courts, the Court ruled that since the provincial courts of appeal had ruled that the heterosexual definition of marriage was unconstitutional, it was unconstitutional across Canada. The position was strengthened by the Attorney General's refusal to appeal those rulings. It further ruled that to continue to restrict marriages in Yukon
to opposite-sex couples would result in an unacceptable state of a provision's being in force in one jurisdiction and not another.
On August 16, 2004, federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler
indicated that the federal government would no longer resist court cases to implement same-sex marriage in the provinces or territories.
On September 16, 2004, Justice Douglas Yard of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench declared the then-current definition of marriage unconstitutional. The judge said that his decision had been influenced by the previous decisions in B.C., Ontario and Quebec.
This decision followed suits brought by three couples in Manitoba
requesting that they be issued marriage licences. Both the provincial and federal governments had made it known that they would not oppose the court bid. One of the couples, Chris Vogel and Richard North, had legally sought the right to marry, in a high-profile case in 1974, but had been denied.
Nova Scotia decision
In August 2004, three couples in Nova Scotia
brought suit in Boutilier v. Canada (A.G) and Nova Scotia (A.G)
against the provincial government requesting that it issue same-sex marriage licences. On September 24, 2004, Justice Heather Robertson of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court
ruled the then-current law unconstitutional. Neither the federal nor the provincial governments opposed the ruling.
Five couples brought suit in Saskatchewan
for the recognition of their marriage in a case that was heard by the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench
in chambers on November 3, 2004.
On November 5, 2004, the judge ruled that excluding same-sex couples from marriage violated the Charter's right to equality and that the common-law definition was discriminatory, thereby bringing same-sex marriage to Saskatchewan.
Newfoundland and Labrador decision
Two lesbian couples brought suit on November 4, 2004 to have Newfoundland and Labrador
recognize same-sex marriage. As with the previous decisions, the provincial government did not oppose the suit; moreover, the federal government actually supported it. The case went to trial on December 20 and the next day, Mr. Justice Derek Green ordered the provincial government to begin issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples, an order with which the provincial government announced it would comply.
New Brunswick decision
Two same-sex couples brought suit in April 2005 to request an order requiring the government of New Brunswick
to issue same-sex marriage licences. This was granted in June 2005. The Progressive Conservative Premier of New Brunswick
, Bernard Lord
, who personally opposed same-sex marriage, pledged to follow a directive to provide for same-sex marriages from the courts or from Parliament.
Proceedings in the Northwest Territories
On May 20, 2005, a gay male couple with a daughter brought suit in the Northwest Territories
for the right to marry. The territorial justice minister, Charles Dent
, had previously said that the government would not contest such a lawsuit. The case was to be heard on May 27 but ended when the federal government legalized same-sex marriage.
Discussion in Parliament, 1995–2003
The shift in Canadian attitudes towards acceptance of same-sex marriage and recent court rulings caused the Parliament of Canada
to reverse its position on the issue.
On 18 September 1995, the House of Commons
voted 124-52 to reject a motion introduced by openly gay Réal Ménard
calling for the legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
A 2006 study by Mark W. Lehman suggests that between 1997 and 2004, Canadian public opinion on legalizing same-sex marriage underwent a dramatic shift: moving from minority support to majority support and that this support was the result of a significant shift in positive feelings towards gays and lesbians
The first bill to legalize same-sex marriage was a private member's bill
tabled in the House of Commons by New Democratic MP Svend Robinson
on March 25, 1998. Like most private members' bills it did not progress past first reading, and was reintroduced in several subsequent Parliaments.
In 1999, the House of Commons overwhelmingly passed a resolution to re-affirm the definition of marriage as "the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others".
The following year this definition of marriage was included in the revised Bill C-23
, the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act 2000
, which continued to bar same-sex couples from full marriage rights.
In early 2003, the issue once again resurfaced, and the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights
proceeded to undertake a formal study of same-sex marriage, including a cross-country series of public hearings. Just after the Ontario court decision, it voted to recommend that the federal government not appeal the ruling. *Proceedings of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights
during the same-sex unions hearings]
Civil status is of provincial jurisdiction in Canada. However, the definition of marriage is a federal law. On June 17, 2003, then Prime Minister Chrétien announced that the government would not appeal the Ontario ruling, and that his government would introduce legislation to recognize same-sex marriage but protect the rights of churches to decide which marriages they would solemnize.
A draft of the bill was issued on July 17. It read:
- 1. Marriage, for civil purposes, is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.
- 2. Nothing in this Act affects the freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.
The draft bill was subsequently referred to the Supreme Court; see below.
On September 16, 2003, a motion was brought to Parliament by the Canadian Alliance
(now the Conservative Party) to once again reaffirm the heterosexual definition of marriage. The same language that had been passed in 1999 was brought to a free vote, with members asked to vote for or against the 1999 definition of marriage as "the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others."
Motions are not legislatively binding in Canada, and are mostly done for symbolic purposes. The September vote was extremely divisive, however. Prime Minister Chrétien reversed his previous stance and voted against the motion, as did Paul Martin
(who later became Prime Minister) and many other prominent Liberals. Several Liberals retained their original stance, however, and thus the vote was not defined purely along party lines. Controversially, over 30 members of the House did not attend the vote, the majority of whom were Liberals who had voted against legalizing same-sex marriage in 1999. In the end, the motion was narrowly rejected by a vote of 137-132.
Supreme Court Reference re Same-Sex Marriage
In 2003, the Liberal government referred a draft bill on same-sex marriage to the Supreme Court of Canada
, essentially asking it to review the bill's constitutionality before it was introduced. The reference
as originally posed by Prime Minister Chrétien asked three questions:
- 1. Is the annexed Proposal for an Act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes within the exclusive legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada? If not, in what particular or particulars, and to what extent?
- 2. If the answer to question 1 is yes, is section 1 of the proposal, which extends capacity to marry to persons of the same sex, consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? If not, in what particular or particulars, and to what extent?
- 3. Does the freedom of religion guaranteed by paragraph 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protect religious officials from being compelled to perform a marriage between two persons of the same sex that is contrary to their religious beliefs?
Prime Minister Paul Martin
later added a fourth in January 2004:
- 4. Is the opposite-sex requirement for marriage for civil purposes, as established by the common law and set out for Quebec in s. 5 of the Federal Law-Civil Law Harmonization Act, No. 1, consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? If not, in what particular or particulars and to what extent?
The addition of a fourth question considerably delayed the opening of the court reference until well after the June 2004 general election, raising accusations of stalling.
The consultative process was held in the autumn of 2004.
In its hearings that began in October 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada accused the government of using the court for other goals when the government declined to appeal rulings that altered the definition of marriage in several provinces.
"Justice Ian Binnie
said it 'may not fulfill any useful purpose' to examine traditional marriage all over again, 'given the policy decision of the government'".
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the government has the authority to amend the definition of marriage, but did not rule on whether or not such a change is required by the equality provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
. The court stated that such a ruling is not necessary because the federal government had accepted the rulings of provincial courts to the effect that the change was required. The court also ruled that given freedom of religion in the Charter of Rights, and wording of provincial human rights codes, it was highly unlikely that religious institutions could be compelled to perform same-sex marriages, though because solemnization of marriage is a matter for provincial governments, the proposed bill could not actually guarantee such protections.
Debate prior to C-38's introduction
State recognition of same-sex relationships in North America & Hawaii.1
Other type of partnership
Same-sex marriages recognized, but not performed
Binding decision overturning a ban on same-sex marriage not in effect
May include recent laws or court decisions which have created legal recognition of same-sex relationships, but which have not entered into effect yet.
On December 9, 2004, Prime Minister Paul Martin
indicated that the federal government would introduce legislation expanding marriage to same-sex couples. The government's decision was announced immediately following the court's answer in the Reference re: Same-Sex Marriage
The parliamentary bill caused rifts in the House of Commons, especially among the governing Liberals
. Many Liberal MPs indicated that they would oppose the government's position in favour of same-sex marriage at a free vote. The majority of each of the Liberal Party
, the New Democratic Party
and the Bloc Québécois
voted in favour of the bill; the majority of the Conservative Party voted against the bill.
In 2000, Alberta
had amended its Marriage Act
to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. The law included a notwithstanding clause
in an attempt to protect the amendment from being invalidated under the Charter. However, the amendment was invalid since, under the Canadian Constitution
, the definition of marriage is a federal right. (See "Same-sex marriage in Alberta
" for further discussion of the issue.)
Complicating matters, Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper
indicated that a Conservative government would work to restore the prohibition on same-sex marriage if Parliament voted to do so in a free vote.
Following the court decision on December 9, Albertan Premier Klein suggested that a national referendum
be held on same-sex marriage, a measure Prime Minister Martin rejected.
Legislative progress of the Civil Marriage Act
, the Civil Marriage Act
, was introduced to Parliament for its first reading
in the House on February 1, 2005.
Prime Minister Martin launched the debate on February 16. The bill passed second reading
on May 4 and third reading
on June 28, with votes of 164-137 and 158-133, respectively.
It then moved to the Senate
, and received its first reading on June 29. Debate was launched on July 4, and a Liberal closure
motion limited debate on the bill to only four hours. Second reading and committing the bill occurred on July 6, with a vote of 43-12. The Senate passed Bill C-38
on third reading by a margin of 47 to 21 on July 19, 2005.
It received royal assent
, at the hand of the Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin
(in her capacity as the Deputy of the Governor General of Canada
), on July 20, 2005.
Same-sex marriage in the 39th Parliament
The Conservative Party
, led by Stephen Harper
, won a minority government
in the federal election on January 23, 2006
. Harper had campaigned on the promise of holding a free vote
on a motion to re-open the debate on same-sex marriage.
The motion would re-open the same-sex marriage debate, but did not prescribe restoring the "traditional" definition of marriage.
A news report from CTV on May 31, 2006, showed that a growing number of Conservatives were wary about re-opening the debate on same-sex marriage. One cabinet minister stated he just wanted the issue "to go away", while others including Chuck Strahl
and Bill Casey
were undecided, instead of directly opposed.
Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay
noted that not a single constituent had approached him on the issue, and Conservative Cabinet Minister Loyola Hearn
was against re-opening the debate.
By November 2006, the debate had shifted and it was the supporters of same sex marriage that were arguing for a fall vote on the issue and the opponents who were lobbying for a delay.
On December 6, 2006, the government brought in a motion asking if the issue of same-sex marriage debate should be re-opened. This motion was defeated the next day in a vote of 175 (nays) to 123 (yeas).
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
afterwards told reporters, "I don't see reopening this question in the future".
Recognition of foreign legal unions
In Hincks v. Gallardo 2013 CanLII 129
(7 January 2013), the Ontario Superior Court of Justice
decided that same-sex partners who entered into UK civil partnerships
are to be treated as married for the purposes of Canadian law.
From June 2003 (date of the first same-sex marriages in Ontario) to October 2006, 12,438 same-sex marriages were contracted in Canada.
|Province||Date of legalization||Number of same-sex marriages
June 10, 2003
July 8, 2003
March 19, 2004
July 20, 2005
September 24, 2004
September 16, 2004
November 5, 2004
June 23, 2005
|Newfoundland and Labrador
December 21, 2004
|Prince Edward Island
July 20, 2005
July 20, 2005
By 2011, 21,015 same-sex marriages had been celebrated in Canada.
Additionally, there were 43,560 same-sex cohabiting couples.
According to the 2016 Census, there were 72,880 same-sex couples residing in Canada that year, of which 24,370 (33.4%) were married.
In British Columbia, 38.5% of all same-sex couples were married, compared to 38.2% in Ontario and 22.5% in Quebec. 10,020 children were living in same-sex families.
Other same-sex partner benefits in Canada
Other kinds of partnership
As mentioned above, Canadian cohabiting same-sex couples are entitled to many of the same legal and financial benefits as married opposite-sex couples. In 1999, after the court case M. v. H.
, the Supreme Court of Canada
declared that same-sex partners
must also be extended the rights and benefits of common-law relationships.
The province of Quebec
also offers civil unions
to same-sex couples. Nova Scotia
's domestic partnerships
offer similar benefits. Legislative changes in 2001–2004 extended the benefits of common-law relationships in Manitoba
to same-sex couples as well as those of different sex.
In 2003, Alberta passed a law recognizing adult interdependent relationships
. These relationships provide specific financial benefits to interdependent adults, including blood relations.
Recognition in other provinces and territories
The legal status of same-sex marriages in provinces and territories that did not perform them was uncertain prior to the passage of the Civil Marriage Act. One of the couples that brought suit in Nova Scotia acted so that their Ontario marriage would be recognized.
The Premier of Alberta
, Ralph Klein
, wanted to prevent same-sex marriages from being performed or recognized in Alberta
, but eventually admitted that the province's chances of doing so were slim to none, and said Alberta would obey the legislation.
By contrast, the other remaining province without same-sex marriage, Prince Edward Island
, announced that it would voluntarily bring its laws into compliance with the federal legislation.
In October 2003, Premier Paul Okalik
announced that Nunavut
would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other provinces and territories.
The Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada
(CIC) acknowledges same-sex marriages contracted in Canada between immigration applicants and Canadian citizens
or permanent residents. Canadians may also sponsor their same-sex common-law or civil union partners for family-class immigration
, provided they meet various requirements, including proof of legitimacy, and cohabitation for at least one year.
After the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act
, CIC adopted an interim immigration policy which did not recognize same-sex marriages which took place outside Canada. For example, a Canadian citizen, legally married in the Netherlands
to his or her same-sex Dutch partner, might not sponsor his or her Dutch partner for immigration as a spouse, despite the fact that both Dutch law and Canadian law made no distinction between opposite-sex and same-sex civil marriages, and despite the fact that CIC did recognize a Dutch opposite-sex marriage.
On December 12, 2006, New Democratic Party MP Bill Siksay
introduced a motion in the House of Commons of Canada
Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration calling on the CIC to immediately rescind the interim policy and "recognize legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples performed in jurisdictions outside Canada for purposes of immigration in exactly the same way as the legal marriages of heterosexual couples are recognized"; the committee voted to recommend that the government do this.
In late January 2007, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley
informed the committee that this would be done.
In February 2007, the CIC website was updated to reflect the fact that the policy had been updated.
Since September 2003, military chaplains
have been allowed to bless same-sex unions
and to perform these ceremonies on a military base.
On December 19, 2003, an Ontario court ruled that survivor benefits for Canadians whose same-sex partners died should be retroactive to April 1985, the date the Charter of Rights came into effect. The federal government appealed. On March 1, 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada
ruled that the federal government must pay Canada Pension Plan
benefits to surviving same-sex spouses.
Initial news reports indicated that the court limited retroactive benefits to only 12 months' worth, but in fact, some survivors may be entitled to benefits dating back to 2000.
The first province to allow adoption of children by same-sex couples
in Canada was British Columbia in 1996.
Since then, adoption by same-sex couples has been legalized in Ontario (1999),
Nova Scotia (2001),
Newfoundland and Labrador (2002),
the Northwest Territories (2002)
and Yukon (2003).
In Alberta, stepchild adoption was legalized in 1999 and eight years later, in 2007, joint adoption became legal.
New Brunswick legalized joint adoption in 2008,
while Prince Edward Island did so in 2009.
Nunavut legalized it in 2011, and thus became the last province or territory in Canada to do so.
Same-sex divorce in Canada
On September 13, 2004, a lesbian couple known as "M.M." and "J.H." (the initials of their representing attorneys) in Ontario were granted Canada's first same-sex divorce
. Their initial divorce application had been denied based on the fact that the federal Divorce Act
defines spouse as "either of a man or a woman who are married to each other". However, Madam Justice Ruth Mesbur of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice
ruled in M.M. v J.H
. that the definition of "spouse" in the Divorce Act
In June 2005, a lesbian couple residing in British Columbia
obtained a similar ruling.
The Civil Marriage Act
in 2005 amended the Divorce Act
to permit same-sex divorce. However, prior to 2013, a married couple (same-sex or opposite-sex) could file for divorce in Canada only if at least one spouse was then residing in Canada and had been for at least one full year when the divorce was filed.
In 2012, after the Attorney General of Canada
suggested in a divorce case brought in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that non-residents of Canada did not have valid marriages if such marriages were not recognized by their home jurisdictions,
the Conservative government announced that they would fix this "legislative gap".
A government bill, the Civil Marriage of Non-residents Act
, positively declaring such marriages legal in Canada and allowing non-residents to divorce in a Canadian court if prohibited from doing so in their home jurisdictions, was introduced and received first reading on February 17, 2012, and passed third and final reading on June 18, 2013. The bill then received a quick passage through the Senate and passed third and final reading on June 21, receiving royal assent on June 26.
The law came into effect on August 14 by Order of the Governor General
in Council made the previous day.
Church and state
Based on the 2001 census, 80% of the Canadian population have been initiated into one of the three main Abrahamic
, and Christianity
All three have texts that have sections interpreted by some to declare sexual relations between people of the same sex as forbidden and sinful. For example, the Qur'an
(7:80-81, 26:165) and the Bible (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27, I Timothy 1:9-10, etc.) are frequently interpreted to explicitly forbid homosexuality
. (see related article, "Homosexuality and religion
However, some major religious groups spoke in favour of legalizing same-sex marriage. The largest Protestant
denomination in the country, the United Church of Canada
, offers church weddings to same-sex couples and supports same-sex marriages, testifying to this effect during the cross-country Justice Committee hearings. Unitarian Universalist
congregations also solemnize same-sex marriages, as do the Religious Society of Friends
(Quakers) and the Metropolitan Community Church
and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
. The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada
passed an initial proposal in July 2016 to perform same-sex marriages in their churches. The measure must be approved a second time at the next General Synod in 2019 to come into force.
Some progressive Jewish congregations have also supported same-sex marriage.
In July 2003, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church
in Canada protested the Chrétien government's plans to include same-sex couples in civil marriage
. This was significant because Catholicism has a larger number of adherents in Canada than any other religion or denomination, with 43.6% of the population identifying themselves as Catholic.
The church criticisms were accompanied by Vatican claims that Catholic politicians should vote according to their personal beliefs rather than the policy of the government.
Amid a subsequent backlash in opinion, the Church remained remarkably quiet on the subject, at least in public, until late 2004, when two Catholic bishops clearly stated their opposition to same-sex marriage. The Bishop of Calgary, Frederick Henry
, in a pastoral letter urged Catholics to fight against the legalization of same-sex marriage, calling homosexual behaviour "an evil act".
Bishop Henry's letter also seemed to urge the outlawing of homosexual acts, saying "Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the State must use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good."
Two human rights complaints were filed against Henry soon afterward under the Alberta Human Rights act, one of which was dropped at the conciliation stage.
Brethren spoke out against same-sex marriage in a letter written to Prime Minister Martin in February 2005.
The group has historically not involved themselves with politics.
The Humanist Association of Canada
, which endorses a non-theistic, non-religious ethical philosophy to life and full separation of church and state
, has been supportive of same-sex marriage. Local affiliate groups of the Humanist Association offer officiancy (marriage commissioner) services across Canada.
Representatives of the World Sikh Organization
testified before the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in favour of the Civil Marriage Act
In 2012, a poll by Forum Research
showed that 66.4% of Canadians approved of legalized same-sex marriage, while 33.6% were opposed. Support for same-sex marriage was highest in Quebec (72%) and British Columbia (70.2%), while lowest in Alberta (45.6%).
A May 2013 Ipsos poll of residents of 16 countries found that 63% of respondents in Canada were in favour of same-sex marriage and another 13% supported other form of recognition for same-sex couples.
Right after same-sex marriage was legalized
in the United States
by the Supreme Court
in June 2015, a poll by Forum Research
showed that 70% of Canadians approved of same-sex marriage, while 22% disapproved.
In May 2016, members of the Conservative Party of Canada
voted 1,036–462 to change the party's political platform from defining marriage as "a union between one man and one woman" to a neutral stance. As a compromise, the party did not elect to support the right to same-sex marriage, allowing members "the freedom to hold personal opinions against same-sex marriage."
A 2017 CROP
poll showed that 74% of Canadians found it "great that in Canada, two people of the same sex can get married". 26% disagreed. Support for same-sex marriage was higher among women (79%) than among men (70%) and higher among French speakers (82%) than English speakers (73%). Those with a higher income, a university degree or who were born in Canada were also more likely to support same-sex marriage. When divided by age, young people were overwhelmingly in support (82% among 18-24-year-olds and 86% among 25-34-year-olds) and, while people over 65 were less likely to be in favour, same-sex marriage still enjoyed 66% popular support among people of that age group. The most supportive province was Quebec (80%), followed by 78% in the four Atlantic
provinces, 75% in British Columbia, 73% in Ontario, 70% in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and 68% in Alberta.
- Hull, Kathleen (2006), Same-sex marriage: the cultural politics of love and law, Cambridge Univ. Press, ISBN 0521672511
- Lahey, Kathleen A; Alderson, Kevin (2004), Same-sex marriage: the personal and the political, Insomniac Press, ISBN 1-894663-63-2
- Larocque, Sylvain (2006). Gay Marriage: The Story of a Canadian Social Revolution. Toronto: James Lorimer & Company. ISBN 1-55028-927-6.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Same-sex marriage in Canada
- "Canada passes bill to legalize gay marriage". The New York Times. June 29, 2005. Retrieved November 3, 2013.
- "First same-sex marriage in the world now recognized". Samesexmarriage.ca. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Nova Scotia legalizes same-sex marriages". CBC. September 24, 2004. Retrieved November 3, 2013.
- "The Canadian Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Decision: An Interesting Contrast to the United States's Law". Findlaw. Retrieved July 11, 2008.
- "Ralph Klein: Alberta's populist premier". CBC. September 12, 2006. Retrieved November 3, 2013.
- "Same-sex Marriage and the Notwithstanding Clause" (PDF). Institute for Research on Public Policy. Retrieved May 5, 2011.
- Font size Print E-mail Share By Melissa Cheung (June 18, 2003). "Canada Will Legalize Gay Marriage". Cbsnews.com. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- Krauss, Clifford (June 18, 2003). "Canadian leaders agree to propose gay marriage law". Nytimes.com. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Canadian government will defend us". Samesexmarriage.ca. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Same Sex Marriages Bill Goes to Supreme Court". Canadaonline.about.com. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Supreme Court OK's same-sex marriage". Cbc.ca. December 10, 2004. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- Marech, Rona (December 10, 2004). "Top court in Canada OKs gay marriage / Lawmakers sought ruling before introducing bill". Articles.sfgate.com. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Majority support keeping traditional definition of marriage". Catholic Civil Rights League. Retrieved July 11, 2008.
- "Klein urges same-sex marriage referendum". December 11, 2004. Archived from the original on October 3, 2006. Retrieved June 27, 2008.
- "Liberal MP still pushing gay marriage referendum". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Archived from the original on December 14, 2004.
- Halpern v. Canada (Attorney General),  O.J. No. 2268, 2003 CanLII 26403 (Ont. C.A.)
- "Text of decision in Halpern v. Canada".
- "Ontario Court Allows Same-Sex Marriages". Canadaonline.about.com. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- Carter, Lee (June 11, 2003). "Ontario legalises gay marriage". BBC News. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Ontario judge grants first same-sex divorce". Cp24.com. Archived from the original on October 3, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Canada grants world's first same-sex divorce". Catholicnewsagency.com. September 15, 2004. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Text of Barbeau v. British Columbia (A.G.), 2003 BCCA 406". July 8, 2003.
- "Same-Sex Marriage Now Legal in B.C.!". Egale.ca. Archived from the original on February 3, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Same-Sex Marriages Now Legal in BC". Canadaonline.about.com. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Text of the decision in Hendricks and Leboeuf v. Quebec" (PDF).
- "Quebec legalizes gay marriage". August 4, 2004. Archived from the original on December 23, 2008.
- "Quebec Allows Same-Sex Marriages". Canadaonline.about.com. March 19, 2004. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Text ofDunbar & Edge v. Yukon & Canada decision". Archived from the original on .
- "NewsWrap for the week ending August 21, 2004 (As broadcast on This Way Out program #856)". Queer Resources Directory. August 23, 2004. Retrieved July 11, 2008.
- "Manitoba recognizes same-sex marriages". CBC News. September 16, 2004. Retrieved June 27, 2008.
- "Winnipeg couple marries". CBC Archive. February 21, 1974.
- "Sask. court approves same-sex marriage". CBC News. November 5, 2004.
- N.W. v. Canada (Attorney General) Archived March 15, 2014, at the Wayback Machine., 2004 SKQB 434 (CanLII), para. .
- "Court Extends Equal Marriage to Newfoundland and Labrador". Egale.ca. December 21, 2004. Archived from the original on February 3, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- Campbell, Colin (December 22, 2004). "Newfoundland Legalizes Gay Marriage". New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Newfoundland legalizes same-sex marriage". Cbc.ca. December 21, 2004. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "New Brunswick ruling clears way for gay marriage". CBC News. June 23, 2005. Retrieved July 11, 2008.
- "Court legalizes gay marriage in New Brunswick". Ctv.ca. Archived from the original on March 5, 2010. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Wednesday, April 26, 1995 -- PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS (188)". collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- "The Réal Thing", The Advocate, 31 October 1995
- Affect Change, Mark W. Lehman (2006).
- "Private Member's Bill - C-383, First Reading (36-1)". parl.gc.ca. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- "Same-sex Marriage in Canada". January 1, 2007. Retrieved June 27, 2008.
- "Modernization of Benefits Act, 2000 (Section 1.1)". Archived from the original on January 4, 2009.
- "Parl.gc.ca". Parl.gc.ca. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "The Battle Over Same-sex Marriage". PBS: The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. June 30, 2005. Retrieved July 22, 2008.
- "How the MPs voted". CBC News. September 17, 2003. Retrieved June 27, 2008.
- "Same-sex Marriage (SSM) in Canada - Past Predictions of the Fate of SSM Legislation".
- "Martin's machinations move marriage Supreme Court Reference to Oct. 2004". February 20, 2004.
- "Text of the decision in Reference re Same-Sex Marriage". Archived from the original on September 13, 2008.
- "Canada Supreme Court rules for gay marriage". MSNBC. December 9, 2004. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- Liberals to introduce same-sex marriage bill in January, CBC News, December 10, 2004
- "Same-sex Marriage in Canada". January 1, 2007. Retrieved July 22, 2008.
- "Same-sex marriage law passes 158-133". CBC. June 29, 2005. Retrieved July 22, 2008.
- "Alberta's Marriage Act 2000". Canlii.org. Archived from the original on January 4, 2009. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Tories reopen same-sex marriage debate". Toronto: Globe and Mail. November 29, 2005. Archived from the original on January 6, 2009. Retrieved July 22, 2008.
- "Ottawa won't have referendum on same-sex marriage". CBC. December 12, 2004. Retrieved February 19, 2010.
- "Bill C-38 reaches House of Commons". Samesexmarriage.ca. January 14, 2001. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- Campbell, Colin (February 2, 2005). "Same-Sex Bill Hits Parliament". New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Government of Canada to introduce legislation to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples". Justice.gc.ca. September 4, 2009. Archived from the original on April 30, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Same-Sex Marriage Advances In Canada". Washingtonpost.com. June 29, 2005. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Gay Marriage Is Extended Nationwide In Canada". The New York Times. June 29, 2005. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- Associated Press (June 29, 2005). "Canada approves gay marriage". London: Guardian. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "It's a quiet thing: equal marriage is law". Samesexmarriage.ca. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Canada Legalizes Gay Marriage". Foxnews.com. July 20, 2005. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Gay Marriage Approved". Canada; Netherlands; Spain; Belgium: New York Times. July 21, 2005. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Progress of C-38 through Parliament". Archived from the original on June 17, 2006.
- "Many Tories wary about 2nd gay-marriage vote". May 31, 2006. Archived from the original on October 18, 2006. Retrieved June 27, 2008.
- "Pro gay marriage group demands PM hold vote on issue". CBC. November 21, 2006. Retrieved April 4, 2011.
- "Gay marriage critics, supporters lobby MPs ahead of free vote". CBC. October 24, 2006. Retrieved April 4, 2011.
- "MPs defeat bid to reopen same-sex marriage debate". Cbc.ca. December 7, 2006. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Same Sex Marriage Motion Falls In Ottawa". Citytv.com. Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Canada upholds gay marriage law". BBC News. December 8, 2006. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Harper declares same-sex marriage issue closed". Ctv.ca. December 7, 2006. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- Ottawa, The (December 8, 2006). "Same-sex debate: 'Time to move on'". Canada.com. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Harper Flip Flops on Same Sex Marriages". Lilithgallery.com. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- "Civil partnership as marriage: The recognition of foreign same-sex unions under Canadian law [Case note on Hincks v. Gallardo, 2013 ONSC 129]". academia.edu. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- "Over 12,000 Married Same-sex Couples".
- Same-sex couples and sexual orientation... by the numbers Statistics Canada
- Same-sex marriage more popular than ever in Canada
- Same-sex couples in Canada in 2016
- "Alberta's Adult Interdependent Relationships Act and you". Alberta Ministry of Justice. Retrieved July 22, 2008.
- "Alberta backs down on same-sex marriage". Ctv.ca. July 13, 2005. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- Siksay fights discriminatory marriage policy, Equalmarriage.ca.
- Conservatives moved to recognize legal gay and lesbian marriages in other jurisdictions Archived October 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine., NDP Archives
- "Sponsoring your same-sex partner as a spouse".
- "Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy Interim Guidelines for Canadian Forces Chaplains". Archived from the original on May 23, 2005.
- "Text of decision in Hislop v. Canada". Archived from the original on .
- "Top court limits retroactive survivor benefits". Archived from the original on March 3, 2007.
- "Smith & Hughes working on Same Sex Benefits Case".
- "BCLASS-Legacy". leg.bc.ca. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- "Legislative Assembly of Ontario Bills and Lawmaking Past and Present Bill 5 Amendments Because of the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in M. v. H. Act, 1999". Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- format=PDF An Act to amend certain Statutes respecting Domestic Relations (No. 2)
- "Law Reform (2000) Act". nslegislature.ca. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- "NEWFOUNDLAND OKS GAY ADOPTION". ebscohost.com. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- "Bill n°84 : An Act instituting civil unions and establishing new rules of filiation - National Assembly of Québec". assnat.qc.ca. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- The Charter Compliance Act
- "Canadian Parliamentary Review - Article". revparl.ca. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- Unknown, Government of Yukon, , Unknown,. "Table of Public Statutes - C - Legislation- Government of Yukon". gov.yk.ca. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- Yukon, Government of. "30th Legislature, Session 2, Wednesday, May 8, 2002 – 1:00 p.m." gov.yk.ca. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- "Sexual Orientation and Legal Rights (92-1E)". parl.gc.ca. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- "canada.com - Page Not Found". Archived from the original on – via Canada.com.
- "Captcha". canlii.org. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- Domestic Relations Act
- Canada, Province of Prince Edward Island,. "Government of PEI:" (PDF). gov.pe.ca. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- "Captcha". canlii.org. Archived from the original on .
- "Captcha". canlii.org. Archived from the original on .
- "Lesbian couple seeking country's first same-sex divorce". CBC News. July 21, 2004. Archived from the original on March 1, 2007.
- M. M. v. J. H., 2004 CanLII 49968 (ON SC), retrieved on 2016-02-05
- "B.C.'s first gay divorce granted". CBC News. June 15, 2005. Archived from the original on January 6, 2009.
- Section 3 of the Divorce Act (Canada)
- Kirby, Cynthia. "Legislative Summary of Bill C-32: An Act to Amend the Civil Marriage Act," 9 March 2012, revised 19 June 2013, accessed 6 October 2013.
- Makin, Kirk (January 13, 2012). "Ottawa affirms legality of same-sex marriages performed in Canada - The Globe and Mail". The Globe and Mail. Toronto.
- "Government Announces Royal Assent for Amendments to the Civil Marriage Act," Department of Justice Canada, 27 July 2013 Archived October 1, 2013, at the Wayback Machine., accessed 6 October 2013.
- Text of Bill C-32, "An Act to Amend the Civil Marriage Act," Parliament of Canada, accessed 6 October 2013
- "Civil Marriage of Non-Residents Act: Order Fixing August 14, 2013 as the Day on which Section 4 of the Act Comes into Force," Canada Gazette, 28 August 2013, accessed 6 October 2013.
- Statistics Canada website, Population by religion, by province and territory (2001 Census) Archived June 15, 2006, at the Wayback Machine., URL accessed May 14, 2006
- 2001 Canadian Census - Long Form, Question 22, URL accessed December 21, 2011
- "Anglicans to allow same-sex marriage after vote recount". cbc.ca. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
- Statistics Canada (January 25, 2005). "Population by religion, by provinces, and territories". Statistics Canada. Archived from the original on February 9, 2006. Retrieved May 14, 2006.
- "Complaints before the Alberta Human Rights Commission concerning Bishop Henry's pastoral letter". religioustolerance.org. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. November 3, 2005. Retrieved July 30, 2007.
- Hutterites take rare political stand against gay marriage, CBC News.
- Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Afternoon session. July 13, 2005. Parliament of Canada.
- "One twentieth of Canadians claim to be LGBT" (PDF). Forum Research. June 28, 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on .
- "Same-Sex Marriage". Ipsos. 7–21 May 2013. Archived from the original on March 14, 2016.
- "US court ruling boosts approval of same sex marriage in Canada" (PDF). ©Forum Research Inc. 29 June 2015.
- "Conservatives 'get a little more Canadian,' shift to neutral on same-sex marriage". CBC News. 28 May 2016. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
- I find it great that in our society, two people of the same sex can get married, CROP Panorama