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Actually, Canada has 1st legal same-sex marriage

The AP, and in fact many other media outlets, have it wrong.

Though Holland legalized same-sex marriage on April 1, 2001, the first legal same-sex marriages in the world had already occurred -- in Canada, back in January of the same year.

It took the Divisional Court of Ontario (Canada) until July of 2002 to recognize that the marriages had indeed been legal. Canada's federal government appealed, and the Court of Appeal for Ontario upheld the original ruling in June of 2003. Soon afterward, the federal government reversed its opposition to same-sex marriage and declined to appeal.

Same-sex marriages are now performed routinely in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. Three separate court cases in three separate provinces (Quebec being the other province -- but note that the ruling in Quebec did not require immediate performance of same-sex marriages) leave no doubt that same-sex couples are entitled to the same marriage-related benefits, and subject to the same marriage-related responsibilities, as opposite-sex couples.

I grew up in Toronto, and when the appeals court decision was announced last summer, my partner and I went to be married. We have in our hands a regular marriage certificate, issued by the Province of Ontario.

All that remains to be done in Canada is for the federal government to pass national legislation on the issue. In hopes of crafting a law that will withstand challenges from religious and conservative groups, the federal government has asked the Supreme Court of Canada for advisory rulings on several key points.

For example, the law will probably allow churches that oppose same-sex marriage not to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

The appeals court based its decision on Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a sweeping civil rights law authored by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in the early 1980's. Though Trudeau probably didn't anticipate same-sex marriage, he was a champion of individual rights. In the late 1960's, as Justice Minister, he remarked that "the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation". Canada de-criminalized homosexuality 35 years before the U.S. did. Let us hope the U.S. catches up on same-sex marriage.

Paul Marcelin-Sampson,
Santa Cruz
rpms [at]

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