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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriages


Same-sex marriages (SSM) in Canada

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cartoon about marriage in canada

cartoon about SSM in Canada

Two opposing sound bytes about the federal Bill C-38 which legalized same-sex marriage in Canada during mid-2005:

bullet "Since the beginning of history marriage has changed very little." Focus on the Family Canada. 1
bullet "There are eight different family/marriage structures in the Bible. Consider the legalization of same-sex marriages in Canada in 2003 onwards; same-sex marriages in Massachusetts in 2004;  inter-racial marriages in 1967 and marriage by African Americans in the 19th century." From an Email by a person who prefers to remain anonymous.

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Brief summary of SSM in Canada:

Holland and Belgium were the first political jurisdictions in the world to allow same-sex couples to marry. In mid-2003, the province of Ontario became the third. Subsequent lawsuits in other provinces forced other reluctant provincial governments to legalize SSM.

On 2005-FEB-01, the Canadian federal government, under the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, introduced bill C-38 to legalize SSM in all ten provinces and three territories.

By 2005-JUL-19, courts had ruled that same-sex couples could marry in eight out of the ten provinces of Canada, and in one out of the three territories. A court case was active at the time in the Northwest Territories. The two provinces that had traditionally been the slowest to grant lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons equal rights are also the most religiously conservative: Alberta and Prince Edward Island. They remained intransigent on the matter of marriage equality.

Bill C-38 passed its final vote in the House of Commons during the evening of 2005-JUN-28. The vote was close: 158 to 133. The bill passed its final vote in the Senate by a vote of 47 to 21 with three abstentions on 2005-JUL-19. It was signed into law on 2005-JUL-20 by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. The Governor General, who usually proclaims legislation, was incapacitated at the time for medical reasons.

The main result of the bill was symbolic: same-sex couples could marry anywhere in Canada for the first time. The government considered their relationships equal to those of opposite-sex couples. Previous to this date, about 10% of Canadian same-sex couples lived in provinces and territories where they could not marry. After this date, they were able to do it more conveniently. They could marry within their province or territory without the nuisance of having to go elsewhere in Canada to marry.

Four and a half years later, during 2006-DEC, the Conservative Party under Prime Minister Stephen Harper mounted an attack on SSM by attempting to reopen debate on bill C-38. His motion was defeated in the House of Commons.

The federal Conservative Party, still under Prime Minister Harper, resumed the attack during 2012-JAN, in the court. This time, they attempted to forcibly terminate marriages that had been solemnized by visitors to Canada. This provoked instantaneous and strong opposition. The Government quickly retreated.

Starting on 2013-OCT-24 and continuing at least until 2014-FEB, "" conducted a poll of Canadians, asking the question: "Should the government allow same sex marriage?." Over 95,000 Canadians had voted by 2014-FEB-20:

Among those who expressed an opinion results were:

pie chart giving polling results

4% were uncertain, refused to answer, or expressed a different point of view. 3

It is important to remember that for this poll, and all other polls taken over the Internet, the vote is not based on a random selection of persons. Only individuals who have Internet access, who come to the ISideWith web site, and who were motivated to respond to the poll were counted. If a truly random selection had been made, one could expect a slightly different result.

During a Conservative Party convention during 2016-MAY, the delegates voted 1036 to 462 to delete the party's traditional opposition to marriage equality from their policy book. There is some speculation that the Conservative Party may lose members and votes in future elections because of their decision in favor of marriage equality.

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Topics covered in this section:

bullet Background material: timeline-gay-marriage-in-canada-2005 to now.htm
bullet Brief overview of SSM in Canada

bullet Introduction to SSM <<< Americans in particular should read this first


Major events and current status of SSM in Canada: <<< This is also important

bullet Marriage laws in Canada

Timeline of the granting of LGBT rights in Canada:

bullet Timeline of recent SSM court decisions, government actions, etc
bullet Predictions of long term effects of same-sex marriage in Canada
bullet Do you want to get married in Canada?
bullet Text of court decisions, documents, research papers, etc.
bullet Positions taken towards SSM by various groups in Canada
bullet Reactions by conservative Christians:
bullet Focus on the Family's "Mom & Dad" ads
bullet Bishop Henry's pastoral letter and resultant human rights commission complaints
bullet Religious pressure on MPs by the Roman Catholic Church

bullet Public opinion:

Polling data from:

bullet Anecdotal comments about SSM

bulletSSM activity at the provincial / territorial level:
The following essays discuss the process by which SSM was legalized one province and territory at a time across Canada. This material is primarily of historical interest at this time, because a federal law made SSM available everywhere in Canada -- except for Prince Edward Island (PEI). On 2005-JUL-20. PEI capitulated when faced with a lawsuit.

bullet Alberta: Forced to recognize SSM by federal legislation.

bullet British Columbia: Forced by court order.

bullet Manitoba: Forced by court order.

bullet New Brunswick: Forced by court order.

bullet Ontario: Forced by court order.
bullet Part 1 From the reading of the banns to the Ontario Divisional Court decision.
bullet Part 2 Reactions to the decision; Parliamentary commission.
bullet Part 3 Appeal to, and decision of, the Ontario Court of Appeals.
bullet Part 4 Initial reactions to the court decision.
bullet Part 5 Later reactions.
bullet Part 6: Attempts by religious and social conservatives to appeal the ruling.
bullet Part 7: Housekeeping amendments by the legislature
bullet One child with three legal parents: Ontario court decision
bullet One child with three legal parents: Ontario court decision

bullet Newfoundland / Labrador: Forced by court order

bullet North West Territories: Forced by federal legislation

bullet Nova Scotia: Forced by court order.

bullet Nunavut: Forced by federal legislation

bullet Prince Edward Island: Forced by federal legislation

bullet Quebec: Forced by court order.

bullet Saskatchewan: Forced by court order.

bullet Yukon: Forced by court order.

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bullet SSM activity at the national level:
The following essays discuss the process by which a federal law was developed which enlarged the definition of marriage in Canada to include all loving committed couples -- both opposite sex and same-sex.
bullet Federal parliamentary commission on SSM & discussion paper

bullet Federal government decision to legalize SSM.

bullet Initial reactions to the government decision
bulletTimeline of subsequent developments:
bullet 2003-JUN-25 to AUG-11 Draft marriage act; Supreme Court reference
bullet 2003-AUG-12 to AUG-21 Civil union option; Alliance Party motion
bullet 2003-AUG-22 to SEP-7 Various rallies & attacks on government
bullet 2003-SEP & OCT Motion shelved; attempts to appeal lower court decision
bullet 2003-NOV to 2004-SEP-15 4th reference added; First SSM divorce. SSM in Quebec

bullet 2004-SEP-16 to OCT-04 SSM in Manitoba & Nova Scotia.
bullet 2004-OCT-04 to OCT-07 The hearing before the Supreme Court.
bullet 2004-OCT-08 to NOV-26 Private member bill; "spouse" redefined; survivor pensions.
bullet 2004-DEC-01 to DEC-11 Supreme Court of Canada decision; interpretations.
bullet 2004-DEC-12 to 2005-JAN-20 Posturing prior to the recall of Parliament.
bullet 2005-JAN-21 to JAN-31: More posturing.
bullet 2005-FEB-01 to FEB-02: Bill C-38 "Civil Marriage Act" is introduced to Parliament.
bullet 2005-FEB-03 to FEB-15: Debate continues.
bullet 2005-FEB-16 to FEB-18: Debate continues.
bullet 2005-FEB-19 to MAR-29: Debate continues. Conservative amendment fails.
bullet 2005-MAR-30 to JUN-14: Bill's second reading, committee review.
bullet 2005-JUN-15 to JUN-28: Bill is passed by the House of Commons.
bullet Reactions to the passage of C-38 in the House.
bullet 2005-JUN-29 to JUL-17: Bill is considered by the Senate and committee.
bullet Three selected speeches for and against C-38 in the Senate.
bullet 2005-JUL-18 and 19:  Bill is debated by the Senate.
bullet 2005-JUL-19:  Senate debate continues.

star 2005-JUL-19 and 20: Debate concludes. Bill is passed by the Senate and signed into law.

bullet Positive reactions to the SSM law.
bullet Negative reactions to the SSM law
bullet Subsequent development during 2005

bullet 2006-JAN to JUN activity SSM to be revisited?
bullet 2006-JUL to NOV activity More speculation on the future of SSM

2006-DEC:  Federal Conservative party attacks SSM by attempting to reopen debate on SSM

bulletIs the matter settled?   Part 1   Part 2

bullet The Federal Government's "Reference" to the Supreme Court
bullet The path forward; predicted future timeline
bullet Same-sex parenting: a massive study commissioned by Liberals, suppressed by Conservatives
bullet Potential roadblocks to implement SSM across Canada
bullet Will provincial governments be able to opt out of registering SSM? The answer is no
bullet The rights of clergy and others to refuse services to same-sex engaged couples

bullet Briefs submitted to the government by various groups:
bullet Analysis of a brief submitted by the Interfaith Coalition on Marriage and Family
bullet United Church of Canada submission
bullet Evangelical Fellowship of Canada submission

bulletDevelopments after 2006:

2007: Ontario court decision: a child with three legal parents

bullet 2011: Saskatchewan: Conflict with marriage commissioners


2012-JAN to now: Federal Conservatives reopen attack on SSM. Census data. Other topics: 

  • Part 1  2102-JAN: Federal Conservatives attack SSM, then stage a speedy retreat.
  • Part 2  2012-JAN: Attack and retreat (Continued)
  • Part 3  2012-JAN to SEP: Problem surfaces over visitors who married in Canada and find that they cannot obtain a divorce.
  • Part 4  2013-MAY to JUN: Bill C-32 to fix the divorce problem finally solved.
  • Part 5  2016: The Conservative Party of Canada modifies its platform to take neutral position on gay marriage.


2016: Ontario: Passage of "All families are equal act," for same-sex couples and infertile opposite-sex couples"

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Site navigation:
"SSM" means "same-sex marriage"

Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > SSM menu > SSM submenu > here

Home >Religious information > Basic info > Canada> here

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > SSM menu > SSM submenu > here

References used:

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

  1. "Redefinition of Marriage: A Focus on the Family Q&A,", undated, at:
  2. The red and white banner is is a custom graphic copied from Tania's site at:
  3. "Should the government allow same sex marriage?," ISideWith, as of 2014-FEB-20. at:

Copyright 1998 to 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2019-FEB-16
Author: B.A. Robinson

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