The Province of Prince Edward Island in Canada is located generally north of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. It is one of the maritime provinces at the eastern
seaboard of Canada. Statistics Canada estimates that
the 2004 population of the province totals 137,900 persons -- 0.43% of the total population of Canada. 1
On 2005-JUL-07, it became the first political jurisdiction in Canada whose
government decided to to expand marriage to include same-sex couples without
first having been forced to do so by a court.
PEI and Alberta are generally considered to be the jurisdictions in Canada
that are most resistant to the provision of equal rights for gays and lesbians.
Both provinces were the last to include sexual orientation in their provincial
human rights legislation. PEI and Alberta were also the last provinces to not
allow SSM until after bill C-38 was proclaimed on 2005-JUL-20 and SSM became theoretically
available across Canada. PEI is consistently conservative: its "universal"
health care plan does not pay for the costs of abortions performed in the
province. However, the province is forced to pay for abortions performed
For almost a month, the PEI government ignored the civil rights of same-sex
couples and refused to sell them marriage licenses.
They preferred to ignore the federal law until they had enabling legislation passed,
perhaps in early 2006. However, under pressure, they finally capitulated on
2005-AUG-19 and allowed a lesbian couple from California to marry. With that
act, SSM became available in all ten provinces and three territories for the
first time ever.
The events leading up to legalization of same-sex marriage in PEI:
2004-DEC: According to the Canadian Centre for Cyber
Citizenship: "PEI Premier Pat Binns publicly states that his government
will wait for federal legislation to be enacted before resolving the issue
of same-sex marriage in his province. If the federal government changes the
definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, Binns indicates his
government will comply." 2
2005-JUN-28: Barb Gibson, executive director of AIDS PEI,
suggested that the PEI government government legalize SSM right away without
waiting for the federal government to change the federal marriage act. She
said that the island is three decades behind the rest of the country as far
as sexual orientation and gay rights. She said: "It's also sad to think
in a province that could actually lead, on this particular issue, that they
choose to stand by and wait for the federal government to make the decision.
Thereby not having anyone in government make the commitment to these human
rights issues." 3
2005-JUL-08: Mildred Dover, the Attorney General of Prince Edward
Island announced that the province would be legalizing same-sex marriage.
She claimed that the decision was made because the federal government has
already done so. [Actually, at the time she said this, bill C-38 which would
legalize SSM in PEI and the rest of Canada was being reviewed by the
Senate.] According to the Canadian Press, she said: "We have said
all along that we would comply if the federal government passed same-sex
legislation. They have the power to define marriage. Weíre looking at the
possibility of bringing in an omnibus bill that would say something to the
effect of wherever the word spouse appears in our legislation, it includes
same-sex and heterosexual marriages."
4 She indicated that there are about 50 locations in
provincial legislation where references to spouse, marriage, husband, or
wife may have to be altered to accommodate same-sex couples. The government
may introduce omnibus legislation to change all of the laws at once. She
said that a bill could come as soon as the fall of 2005. 5
Comment by ReligiousTolerance.org: This decision by the Attorney
General is a surprising
development. PEI is a relatively conservative province in which the majority
of citizens are probably opposed to SSM. [We have not seen any public
opinion poll data solely related to this province] The number of adults
opposed to equal rights for gays, lesbians and bisexuals probably massively outnumbers
the number of persons with a minority sexual orientation. The government
does not seem to have anything to gain from this decision, and a great deal
to lose. One would have expected the provincial government act only until after the proposed bill C-38 became law.
2005-JUL-20: Federal law C-38 was proclaimed, making same-sex marriage
legal, in theory, across all the provinces and territories of Canada. This
legislation did not make a massive impact across Canada as only P.E.I,
Alberta, and two territories did not allow SSM when the law was
2005-JUL-22: Two days after the bill was signed into law, PEI
appeared to be the only jurisdiction in Canada where same-sex couples were
not able to marry. Mildred Dover, the province's attorney general,
said: "We were consulting about whether or not we could just scratch out
the words husband and wife, bride and groom, and maybe just put spouse and
spouse. We're not even sure what words you'd use." Same-sex couples can
apply for a marriage license in PEI, but they won't be able to receive one
until the government figures out how to handle two people of the same sex.
Dover said: "We'll do it as quickly as we can. We didn't prepare
beforehand because, if we had prepared and changed all the wording, then
people would say 'Why did you do that when it hadn't passed?' "
Apparently, it never occurred to civil servants in the attorney general's
office to decide on a course of action before the law was passed by the
Senate, so that they would be ready when the need arose.
Jim Culbert wants
to apply to be a Justice of the Peace so that he can marry same-sex
couples in his tourist facility. He asked: "Why weren't they ready? They
knew it was going to come. You can't tell people, 'Oops sorry, you'll have
to go over to Nova Scotia or New Brunswick. We're not ready for you'."
6 Apparently, the province could
say this to its gay, lesbian, and bisexual citizens.
2005-JUN-25: LifeSiteNews.com reported
"Mildred Dover, the province's attorney general, has said that the
province will delay issuing certificates to same-sex couples until they
have had the opportunity to amend all the state laws pertaining to
marriage. That process could take up several months; it is also unclear
what would happen if the provincial legislature opposed the amendments.
However, despite the province's past reluctance to have anything to do
with same-sex 'marriage' Dover insisted that the delay did not indicate
that the province was opposing the newly signed federal law."
"The main problem, Dover explained, had to do with the obvious
confusion surrounding what language to use in describing a so-called
same-sex 'marriage'; marriage certificates have said 'husband' and
'wife' since the inception of Canada as a nation, and before." 7
[In common with many other conservative news sources, LifeSiteNews refers
to SSM as "same-sex 'marriage'." The place "marriage" in quotation marks to
signify that they don't consider SSM to be a real form of marriage.]
2005-AUG-19: Dr. Chris Zarow and Constance Majeau are a same-sex couple
from California who wanted to get married in PEI during their family
reunion. Constance was born in Montreal, QC but had strong family ties to
Prince Edward Island. Aided by some low-key pressure by gay-positive
agencies, the couple's campaign was successful. The province had initially
refused to accept their application for a marriage license. However, after
they called the Premier's office, the Attorney General's office and the
Department of Health, the provincial government reversed its position and
granted their application to marry in what was to become the first same-sex
marriage in the province. Staff at the Vital Statistics office came in on a
holiday Friday to give them their license. They were married that afternoon.
The ceremony was held in the
floral garden of the Rainbow Lodge in Vernon Bridge, PE. 9 Rev. Barry King of the P.E.I.
Interfaith Ministry conducted the service. He said: "Today we celebrate
the beginning of a journey for Connie and Chris. This journey is filled with
joy because itís filled with love. Connie and Chris chose this path because
they love each other." After prayers and vows were exchanged, he said: "I
hereby pronounce you married partners in life."
Chris Zarow said she is pleased that: "From now on any
couple can walk into the Vital Statistics office and simply fill out the
paperwork as simple as anyone else. No one else will have to fight this
Jim Culbert, owner of the Rainbow Lodge, said: "It was a wonderful
experience to have the first gay marriage on Prince Edward Island
here...Iíve been fighting for this for quite a while. Itís important that
people can have their choices in what they want in life." 10,11
This wedding has a Canada-wide symbolism. For
the first time, any couple, opposite-sex or same-sex, can obtain a marriage
license anywhere in Canada and have their marriage registered by the
province or territory.
2005-NOV-18: LifeSiteNews.com reported that:
"Prince Edward Island's Conservative government is amending the
provinceís marriage laws to remove all references to husband and wife in
favour of the gender-neutral 'spouse,' to come in line with the new
federal law granting same-sex 'marriage'."
"Weíre following the lead of the federal government on this," claimed
Health Minister Chester Gillan, according to a CP report. "We didn't
have a lot of pressure from the public, actually, but this was
necessary. We had to do this. The legislation also proposes to create protections that would
exempt clergy from being forced to perform the same-sex 'weddings,'
instead allowing non-religiously-affiliated marriage commissioners to
perform the duty."
"A [sic] Provincial and Territorial Position on Same-Sex Marriage. A
jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction look at how this issue is playing out across the
country," Canadian Centre for Cyber Citizenship, 2005-APR-20, at:
"P.E.I. should allow same-sex marriage: AIDS PEI," Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation, 2005-JUN-28 at:
"P.E.I. Pre-Empts Feds: Government Decides to Legalize Gay 'Marriage',"
LifeSiteNews, 2005-JUL-08, at:
"P.E.I. at a loss for words
over same-sex marriage," CBC News, 2005-JUL-22, at:
"Prince Edward Island Delays Issuing Same-Sex 'Marriage' Certificates
Citing Language Problems," LifeSiteNews.com, 2005-JUL-25, at:
Terry Vanderheyden, "P.E.I. Amending Marriage Laws to Replace 'Husband',
'Wife', 'Bride', 'Groom' With Gender-Neutral 'Spouse.' Preparing for same-sex
'marriage'," LifeSiteNews.com, 2005-NOV-18, at:
Rainbow Lodge is a bread and breakfast located about 15 minutes east of
Charlottetown on PEI. See:
Wayne Thibodeau, "Lesbian couple make mark with vows," The Guardian,
2005-AUG-20. Online at: