Jubilation As Canada Becomes Third Country to Recognize Gay Marriage

Wed. June 18, 2003 12:00 AM by 365gay.com

Toronto, Ontario - Gay and lesbian couples across Canada will soon be permitted to marry. The federal government announced Tuesday that it would not appeal an Ontario court ruling that declared a ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional.

"It's a great day, it's a great day for gay and lesbian people in Canada," said New Democratic MP Svend Robinson, one of a handful of gay members of Parliament. "And I commend the Prime Minister. I think he's shown a real leadership here today."

While gays may legally marry now in the province of Ontario as a result of last week's court decision, the rest of Canada will have to wait for Parliament to pass legislation, expected in the fall.

"I'm encouraged they are moving forward with legislation, said Gilles Marchildon, Executive Director of Canada's national LGBT rights group Egale.

Canada will join The Netherlands and Belgium as the only countries in the world where gay marriage is legal.

Prime Minister Chretien would not say whether members of his Liberal Party would be allowed a free vote when the legislation is voted on. If it should be defeated, a possibility considered unlikely, Egale is ready.

"It would set the stage for a further court battle," Marchildon said. A defeat in the House of Commons would mean the issue would go to the Supreme Court. Having already approved the draft legislation, the High Court would most certainly declare heterosexual only marriage illegal and force the Commons to approve the bill.

The Canadian Alliance party is threatening a major battle over the legislation. "I'm angry," said Stephen Harper, the Alliance leader.

"They're trying to railroad this through with the help of the courts," said Harper. New Democrats, the Bloc Quebecois, and some members of the Conservative Party will support the legislation.

Marchildon said he and his partner are considering getting married in Ottawa.

"We're considering it now that it is an option that is available, Marchildon said.

In Vancouver an excited Peggy Anderson said she and her longtime partner were planning a Christmas wedding. "By then the law will be passed and we'll be legal in British Columbia."

In Toronto, gay city councilor Kyle Rae announced that he and his partner Mark Reid would wed on Thursday. The ceremony at an art gallery in the city's gay village will make Rae the first gay politician in Canada to marry.

Since the Ontario Appeals court handed down its decision last week gay and lesbian couples have been rushing to get marriage licenses.

As of Tuesday evening 131 licenses have been granted by the Toronto clerk's office. 55 per cent went to male couples and 45 per cent were to female couples. Nearly a dozen other licenses have been handed out in other communities across the province.

About a quarter of the licenses have been given to couples from outside the province, many of them from the United States.

"People are coming from all over," said Rae. "We can barely keep up with the demand."

With several hundred thousands tourists expected in Toronto for Pride celebrations at the end of this month, Rae said the city clerk's office will be open both the Saturday and Sunday of Pride weekend, June 28 and 29.

And, how does one refer to his or her same sex partner. "That's up to the individual couple," Marchildon said. "Some men will refer to their husband and others their spouse or partner."

by Jan Prout
365Gay.com Newscenter
Toronto Bureau
©365Gay.com® 2003

This article originally appeared on 365gay.com. Republished with permission.