Same-sex marriages (SSM) in Saskatchewan, Canada
The lawsuit that legalized SSM
- 2004-SEP-30: Lawsuit initiated: CFRA radio stated that:
same-sex couples are going to court to challenge Saskatchewan's marriage
laws. Lawyers will ask that the province's Marriage Act and the
common-law definition of marriage are unconstitutional because they deny
same-sex couples a marriage license or a civil marriage ceremony. Three
other same-sex couples may also enter the challenge."
The plaintiffs consisted of five same-sex couples: Erin Scriven and
Lisa Stumborg; Lenore Swystun and Kelley Moore; James Hein-Blackmore and
William Hein-Blackmore; Nicole White and Julie Richards; and Martin
Bonneville and Ted Atkins.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada mentioned on their web site that "A
lesbian couple has challenged the definition of marriage in Saskatchewan."
Nichole White and Julie Richards are one of the couples who
have launched the lawsuit. They recently applied for and were denied a
marriage license. White said:
"Julie and I
are in love. We want to commit our lives to one another and we want that
to be recognized by the government. Like so many other queer couples
across the country, we think it should be legalized....."We do have an
NDP government (so) I'm knocking on wood and crossing my fingers that it
won't be that hard a struggle. I do believe we've got the justice
The "NDP" refers to the New Democratic Party, a socialist group with a long history of respect for civil rights
and universal health care.
Greg Walen is the lawyer who represents the couple. He will seek a
declaratory judgment ordering that the common-law definition of marriage
be changed to include "two people to the exclusion of others,"
rather than "two people of the opposite sex." He said:
hoping that when the declaratory judgment comes down, the marriage
commissioner will be directed to issue marriage licenses to same-sex
couples. Recently, the [Saskatchewan] minister of justice
indicated that he's waiting for a same-sex couple to actually bring an
application before the court. He says the province won't stand in their
way but he wants the court to rule. So somebody has to start the
application. We anticipate that there will be little if any opposition
to the application." 2
According to CNN: "The Saskatchewan court is expected
to rule this month." i.e. by the end of 2004-OCT.
- 2004-NOV-05: Ruling handed down: Madam Justice Donna
Wilson of the Family Law Division of the Court of Queen's
Bench sided with courts in five other provinces and one Canadian
territory. She ruled that existing provincial laws discriminated against
same-sex couples. She wrote: "The common-law definition of marriage
for civil purposes is declared to be 'the lawful union of two persons to
the exclusion of all others'." This was not much of a surprise,
because neither the provincial nor the federal government intervened in
the case. The federal government declined to intervene because the
matter is before the Supreme Court of Canada. The
Saskatchewan government decided to not be involved because they regard
the specification of who can marry in Canada to be a federal
$10,000 in court costs were awarded against the provincial and
federal governments. Each government will pay
$1,000 to each of the five couples. 3
The plaintiffs' lawyer, Greg Walen of the Saskatoon law firm
Scharfstein, Gibbings, Walen, & Fisher, said:
"We've turned the corner.
We only have several other provinces to go." -- four to be exact. On
another occasion, he said:
"The judge found that it is
unconstitutional to exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage and
changed the law to include them. The judge agreed with the Ontario Court
of Appeal that 'the dignity of persons in same-sex relationships is
violated by the exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution of
marriage'....The judge agreed with the Yukon court that the
province had a choice whether or not to issue marriage licenses to
same-sex couples, and it chose not to. As a result, costs were awarded
on an increased scale against both the province and the federal
Some comments by the plaintiffs:
- Erin Scriven and Lisa Stumborg expect to take advantage of the
ruling immediatley, on the following weekend. They had a covenanting ceremony on
OCT-09 at St. Thomas-Wesley United Church in Saskatoon. They will
have a second ceremony to make their marriage official. Scriven
said: "It's about legitimacy. This will probably continue to have
an impact on us for the rest of our lives." Stumborg said:
are committed to one another and wish to be together for the rest of
our lives. Now we'll have a civil ceremony to 'legalize' our
marriage. We leave for our honeymoon on Sunday, and now we can be
legally married before we leave! To me, the right to marry is
important because we would like to have children and we see this as
a way of solidifying our family."
- Cicely McWilliam of Canadians for Equal Marriage said
that the court decision means that 85% of Canadians now have access
to equal marriage. He said: "Of course we're anxious to see it in
the rest of the provinces and territories and we're very anxious to
have a final resolution at the federal level."
- Lenore Swystun, representing herself and her partner, Kelley
"Marriage signifies societal recognition and
affirmation of a relationship between two people who love each other
and are committed to each other. Kelley and I had a commitment
ceremony January 25, 2002, but for us, equal marriage is simply
about acknowledging our basic human rights."
- Nicole White and Julie Richards plan to marry in mid-2005. White
"It's nothing revolutionary. I've found the person that I
want to spend the rest of my life with. My father was there when I
proposed to Niki. He said it was one of the happiest moments of his
life. He'll be thrilled that now he can be there for our wedding."
- James and William Hein-Blackmore actually married in British
Columbia on 2004-JUL-06. James said:
"What this means to me is
peace of mind. The day we were married was a great day of happiness
as we professed our love to one another. But not having our marriage
recognized here in Saskatchewan was a great burden. Now I know that
no matter what happens in our lives or our health, I can rest
assured that my husband will have all the legal rights to handle
things the way we want them."
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Josh Pringle, "Same-sex marriage challenge in Saskatchewan,"
CFRA, 2004-SEP-30, at:
- Betty Ann Adam, "Same-sex couple seeks right to wed. Saskatoon
couple taking provincial, federal gov'ts to court," The Star
Phoenix, Saskatoon, 2004-OCT-1, at:
- Darren Yourk, "Saskatchewan to allow same-sex marriages," The
Globe and Mail, 2004-NOV-05, at:
- Tim Cook, "Court okays gay marriage. Saskatchewan is 7th
jurisdiction," The Toronto Star, 2004-NOV-6, Page A17."
Copyright © 2004 to 2008 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-OCT-11
Latest update: 2008-DEC-03
Author: B.A. Robinson