Gay Marriage in Canada

On July 20, 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world, and the first country outside Europe, to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act which provided a gender-neutral marriage definition. Court decisions, starting in 2003, had already legalized same-sex marriage in eight out of ten provinces and one of three territories, whose residents comprised about 90% of Canada’s population. Before passage of the Act, more than 3,000 same-sex couples had already married in those areas.┬áMost legal benefits commonly associated with marriagehad 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 Canadian House of Commons 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.

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, the marriage was in fact legal at an earlier date (for example, the 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 by the Ontario government to recognize the marriage that took place in Toronto, Ontario, on January 14, 2001, retroactively makes Canada the first country in the world to have a government-legitimized same-sex marriage (the Netherlands and Belgium, which legalized same-sex marriage before Canada, had their first in April 2001 and June 2003, respectively).

On September 13, 2004, a lesbian couple known as “M.M.” and “J.H.” 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 that the definition of “spouse” in the Divorce Act was unconstitutional.

In June 2005, a lesbian couple residing in British Columbia obtained a similar ruling.

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 by the Supreme Court of the United States in June 2015, a poll by Forum Research showed that 70% of Canadians approved same-sex marriage, while 22% disapproved.

Meet gay Canadians online.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Same-sex marriage in Canada, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.