Important milestones in lesbian/gay/bisexual rights in Canada:
2000: The Federal government passed omnibus bill C23 which
amended 68 federal statutes to extend full
benefits and obligations to persons in same-sex relationships. One
significant exclusion was their right to marry.
2000: The government of Alberta passed Bill 202 which states
that the province will use the notwithstanding clause to refuse marriage to same-sex couples in the event a court decides in
favor of SSM. The bill is meaningless, because only the federal government,
not the provincial and territorial governments, defines who may marry. However,
it probably made a large percentage of the voters in Alberta happy.
2000-DEC-20: A long-term running battle between the Little Sisters Book & Art Emporium in Vancouver, BC, and Canada Customs came to a sudden end. For years, Customs had confiscated erotic and
informational GLBT literature at the border while allowing erotic heterosexual
material to be imported into Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada declared the enabling law under which Customs operated to be unconstitutional. 1
same-sex couples were married in a church service in Toronto. Kevin Bourassa & Joe Varnell, and Anne & Elaine Vautour could
not obtain marriage licenses from the Province of Ontario. Thus, they had gone through through the ancient ritual of
the reading of the banns. Their upcoming marriages had been previously announced in church on three consecutive Sundays. This can be done instead of purchasing a marriage license. After they were married, the Ontario government refused to register their
marriages. However, two and a half years later, on 2003-JUN-10, the Ontario Court of Appeal retroactively recognized the marriages, thus making Kevin and Joe the first same-sex couples
in the world -- at least in recent centuries -- to be have been legally married!
The certificate of marriage for the first gay marriage
solemnized in modern times was Ontario License, #M555228.
Three months later, the first same-sex couple in the world to go through the normal procedure of obtaining a marriage license, subsequently marrying, and then registering their marriage were living in the Netherlands.
2002: Marc Hall won a lawsuit against Monsignor John Pereyma Catholic High School in Oshawa, ON. The
school had prohibited him from bringing his boyfriend to the school
2002: The Ontario Superior Court ruled unanimously that
restricting marriage to one man and one woman is unconstitutional. The
court gave the Ontario and Federal governments 24 months to change their
legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry. The Ontario government
decided against appealing the ruling. The federal government released a public
opinion poll indicating that most Canadian adults favor allowing the marriage of same-sex
couples. Three days later, the federal government started the process of appealing the
ruling to the Ontario Court of Appeals.
2002: In November, an Ekos poll found that 45% of Canadians
2003-JUN-10: The Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously ordered the
Ontario government to issue marriage licenses to same-sex adult couples and to recognize the two earlier marriages ,
and to register their marriages. Michael Stark and Michael Leshner made North American history by being the first same-sex couple in that area of the world to obtain a marriage license. They weremarried a few hours later. This court ruling also recognized earlier marriages performed after the reading of the banns. More details.
2003-JUN-17: The Federal Government threw in the towel. They
felt that they had to recognize the unanimous decisions of three senior
provincial courts legalizing SSM. At a caucus meeting, the Liberal party decided to not
appeal the decisions of the Ontario and British Columbia appeal courts to
the Supreme Court of Canada. Rather, it decided to introduce legislation
to Parliament which will legalize same-sex marriage across the country. More details.
2003-JUL-08: The British Columbia Court of Appeal unanimously ordered the
British Columbia government to immediately sell marriage licenses to same-sex adult
couples, and to register their marriages.
2003-AUG-14: The United Church of Canada voted overwhelmingly
to endorse SSM at their general council meeting in Wolfville, NS.
2003-SEP-09: A gay-positive group initiated a class-action suit
against the federal government on behalf of same-sex couples who were denied Canada Pension Plan benefits when one partner died before 1998. They won the
2003-SEP-16: A motion by the conservative Alliance Party in
Parliament was defeated. It would have declared that marriage in Canada
was restricted to a union of one man and one woman. It would have required
Parliament to invoke the notwithstanding clause.
That would have over-ridden the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and deprive same-sex couples of the right to marry.
2003-SEP-17: Bill C-250 was passed. It added sexual orientation
to the existing list of four protected classes in Canada's hate propaganda
legislation. Hate speech against persons on the basis of their sexual
orientation is now a criminal offense. Exceptions are made in the law for
religious hate speech. All Canadians are protected
by the law: heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals.
2004-JUN: A lesbian couple filed the first same-sex divorce petition
after their one-year-old marriage broke down.
2004-DEC-08: The Supreme Court of Canada handed down a 19 page ruling
on the Federal Government's "Proposal for an Act respecting certain
aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes." --
commonly referred to as its "reference." It involved four
questions concerning same-sex marriage. The court's decisions were
unanimous. It determined that the Federal Government has the sole
right to determine who may marry in Canada, that the proposed federal
SSM legislation was constitutional, and that churches and other
religious institutions can freely discriminate against same-sex couples
by refusing to marry them for any reason. Unfortunately, it refused to rule on whether the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires SSM.More details
2005-FEB-01: Bill C-38, which would make SSM available across
Canada, was introduced to parliament. More
2005-MAY-04: The House of Commons voted in favor of
C-38 at the second reading stage -- approval in principle -- by a vote
of 163 to 138. More details.
2005-MAY-09: The governing body of the Anglican Church of Canada
decided to delay its decision on SSM until 2007.
2005-JUN-28:The House passed the bill by a vote of 158 to 133. More details.
2005-JUL-19: The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 47 to 21 with three abstentions.
2005-JUL-20: Bill C-38, which theoretically made same-sex marriages available across Canada was signed into law by the
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. Normally, this action is taken by the Governor General. However, she was
incapacitated by a medical problem. Same-sex couples anywhere in Canada could theoretically be married.
A decade later, minus 24 days, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. It legalized gay marriage everywhere in the U.S. except for Territory of American Samoa. Most people in that territory are considered American residents, not American citizens. Thus, the High Court rulings do not neccesarily apply there.
2005-JUL-22: The Prince Edward Island government decided to not make marriage licenses available to its same-sex couples,
in violation of federal law. Alone among the provinces and territories, they decided that they first had to pass enabling