Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-11-27
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Canada DoJ triggers marriage scare
News posted Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012
by Lisa Keen, Keen News Service

facebook twitter google +1 reddit email

The Canadian Department of Justice told a court in Ontario this week that a lesbian couple from the United States and England who obtained a marriage license there in 2005 should not be granted a divorce now because they were not legally married in Canada.

The argument triggered a flood of news inquiries, aimed at determining whether the administration of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who opposes same-sex marriage, might be trying to invalidate same-sex marriages through the courts.

However, five of the U.S.'s top LGBT legal groups issued a statement Jan. 12 saying they are not worried.

"No one's marriage has been invalidated or is likely to be invalidated," said the groups. "The position taken by one government lawyer in a divorce is not itself precedential. No court has accepted this view and there is no reason to believe that either Canada's courts or its Parliament would agree with this position, which no one has asserted before during the eight years that same-sex couples have had the freedom to marry in Canada."

Not everyone seems as confident.

Canadian Member of Parliament Olivia Chow told the Canadian Broadcast Company ( CBC ) that she thinks Harper "is hiding behind the law and using a back-door way" to invalidate same-sex marriages.

Another MP, Justin Trudeau, told CBC, "This is what we have been worried about with the Conservative majority for a long time, we're going to see the erosion of gains…."

Liberal Party leader Bob Rae suggested Harper might be trying to defeat same-sex marriage through the courts now.

"I understand Mr. Harper said he didn't know about [ DOJ argument in the divorce case ] and he doesn't see every legal brief that goes before the courts," Rae told reporters Thursday. But he added, "Of all the people in Canada who could actually make that argument, it's a little hard for him to make the argument because my sense of that government is that he controls everything."

At a press conference Jan. 12, Harper said he was unfamiliar with the divorce case in question and that he had "no intention of further re-opening or opening this issue."

The divorce case in question involves a woman who resided in Florida and one who resided in England at the time they acquired a marriage license in Canada in 2005. Their names have not been released. But according to the National Post, a newspaper in Ontario, the women sought a divorce in 2009, but were told Canadian law requires that at least one of them live a year in Canada to obtain the divorce. The women challenged the residency requirement, but in court, the Canadian DOJ pulled out a new twist. It argued that he women could not obtain a divorce because they were never legally married in Canada.

"The government is arguing that since Florida and the U.K.—the home jurisdictions of the estranged couple—don't recognize gay marriages, a gay marriage licence issued in Canada isn't legally valid," reported the National Post. "People living in Canada, Canadian or otherwise, would have no problem, because Canada does recognize same-sex unions. But if your home country or state doesn't, then the government has argued that a Canadian marriage has no standing in law."

Six states in the United States recognize same-sex marriages, but the federal Defense of Marriage Act ( DOMA ) prohibits the federal government from doing so.

The reaction in the United Staes and Canada has been fierce.

"The notion that Canadian law should be dependent on the local laws of every single other jurisdiction on the planet is asinine," said National Post columnist Matt Gurney. "A government that has made so much of standing up for Canada's values on the world stage has no business declaring our own laws subservient to any other land's. We might not have the hard- or soft-power to give our laws much weight abroad, but we can at least honour them in our own country."

However, in fact, many jurisdictions do have this requirement. When Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses in 2004, the state supreme court ruled that only couples from states that did not bar same-sex marriage could obtain licenses in Massachusetts. And Vermont, after it passed its historic civil-union law, required that to dissolve a civil union, a couple had to reside in Vermont for at least a year.

Same-sex couples began obtaining marriage licenses in some provinces of Canada in 2003, and, in 2004 under Prime Minister Paul Martin, same-sex couples could marry anywhere in the country. When Stephen Harper became prime minister in 2005, he initially tried to overturn that marriage equality law but failed.

According to CBC television, about 5,000 couples have come from other countries to marry in Canada.

Peter Freiberg, a U.S. journalist who married his same-sex partner, legal activist Joe Tom Easley, in Toronto in 2003, said he was "very surprised" at the news.

"The parliament voted and [ Harper ] just dropped the issue," said Freiberg. Frieberg said he and Easley did consider obtaining an additional marriage license in California in 2008, when it was possible to do so.

"But Lambda advises against that," said Freiberg. "They advised very strongly against it because, if anything should ever come up in court, it looks frivolous to go around and get married in different places, and the Canadian license is as good as any other license."

In its statement Jan. 12, Lambda and the four other groups noted that "Canada's Parliament codified the equal right to marry for same-sex couples in 2005."

"The message for same-sex couples married in Canada remains the same as it is for same-sex couples validly married here in the United States: take every precaution you can to protect your relationship with legal documents such as powers of attorney and adoptions, as you may travel to jurisdictions that don't respect your legal relationship," said the statement. "There is no reason to suggest that Canadian marriages of same-sex couples are in jeopardy, or to advocate that people try to marry again elsewhere, as that could cause these couples unnecessary complications, anxiety, and expense."

The statement was issued by Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Freedom to Marry and the ACLU.

Evan Wolfson, head of the national Freedom to Marry group, noted that Canada's minister of justice, Rob Nicholson, seemed to be "backpedaling" already on the divorce-case argument. In a statement released Jan. 12, Nicholson said, "I want to be very clear that the Government has no intention of reopening the debate on the definition of marriage.

This case today involved the fact that, under current law, some marriages performed in Canada could not be dissolved in Canada.

I will be looking at options to clarify the law so that marriages performed in Canada can be undone in Canada."

©2012 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

facebook twitter google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Cook County Clerk's office celebrates marriage equality milestones 2019-11-20 - To commemorate the upcoming 15,000th marriage license for same-sex couples in Cook County—and the sixth anniversary of then Gov. Pat Quinn signing marriage ...

Gay News

Same-sex marriage overturned in Caymans 2019-11-08 - The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal has ruled in favor of the government, overturning Chief Justice Anthony Smellie's previous ruling that legalized same-sex ...

Gay News

ACE Comic Con has same-sex marriage proposal 2019-10-29 - At ACE Comic Con, which took place Oct. 11-13 in Rosemont, John Chambrone proposed to his boyfriend, Richard Owen—while Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson ...

Gay News

WORLD Marriage news, Oscar Wilde, Ugandan activist dies, Iris Prize 2019-10-22 - People of the same sex are now allowed to get married in Northern Ireland, the BBC reported. It's been legal in England, Wales ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Marriage advocate divorcing, Black gay couple, trans death 2019-10-08 - A Utah state lawmaker who filed a lawsuit that successfully overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage is separating from his husband, U.S. ...

Gay News

Kol Hadash Congregation embraces LGBTQ inclusivity 2019-10-02 - Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation, which is housed inside North Shore Unitarian Church in Deerfield, has been a leader in LGBTQ-inclusivity since its founding ...

Gay News

WORLD Japanese case, Jamaica event canceled, Putin's law 2019-09-24 - A Japanese court awarded damages to a woman who broke up with her same-sex partner because of infidelity—recognizing their common-law partnership despite same-sex ...

Gay News

WORLD Gay leaders, Mexican trans women, Czech marriage bill 2019-09-17 - In a notable meeting between two out heads of government, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg hosted his counterpart from Serbia, Ana Brnabic, ...

Gay News

Arizona Supreme Court grants Phoenix stationary shop license to discriminate 2019-09-16 - (Phoenix, AZ, September 16, 2019) — The Arizona Supreme Court today issued a 4-3 decision reversing a lower court ruling that had denied ...

Gay News

Same-sex couple sues State Dept. for treating daughter as born out of wedlock 2019-09-12 - BALTIMORE, MD—Today, Immigration Equality, Lambda Legal, and pro bono counsel Morgan Lewis filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Maryland against ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.