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Same-sex marriages (SSM) in Saskatchewan, Canada

The lawsuit that legalized SSM


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Events:

  • 2004-SEP-30: Lawsuit initiated: CFRA radio stated that:
    "Two 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." 1

    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 minister's support."
    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:
    "We're 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 responsibility.

    $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 government."

    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:
      "We 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." 4
    • Lenore Swystun, representing herself and her partner, Kelley Moore, said:
      "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 said:
      "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."

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Josh Pringle, "Same-sex marriage challenge in Saskatchewan," CFRA, 2004-SEP-30, at: http://www.cfra.com/
  2. 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: http://64.233.161.104/
  3. Darren Yourk, "Saskatchewan to allow same-sex marriages," The Globe and Mail, 2004-NOV-05, at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/
  4. Tim Cook, "Court okays gay marriage. Saskatchewan is 7th jurisdiction," The Toronto Star, 2004-NOV-6, Page A17."

Site navigation:

 Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Canada > Saskatchewan > here


Copyright © 2004 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-OCT-11
Latest update: 2008-DEC-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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