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Same-sex marriages in Canada

Brief overview of same-sex marriages (SSM) in Canada

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Sound bytes about marriage and Bill C-38 which legalized same-sex marriage:

bullet "...only the sexual union of a man and a woman has the potential to produce children." Focus on the Family Canada. 1 (They appear to have been unaware of the lesbian marriage and baby boom, and the widespread adoption of children by male gay couples.)
bullet "Either a sexual union, or artificial insemination, or in-vitro fertilization are precisely the way in which a lesbian couple produces children." Anon; from a visitor to this site responding to the above quote.

bullet "Canada is a unique political project. As an open society, we have taken up the challenge of equality amidst diversity and we have proudly made this a touchstone of our identity." Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of Foreign Affairs. 2
bullet "We are at the crossroads of our national history. Bill C-38 is a serious threat to our basic liberties and will further erode religious freedom in Canada. Moreover, it will only get worse if we allow this legislation to pass: churches will lose their tax-exempt status; public discourse on homosexual behavior will be silenced and the faith community will be further marginalized, perhaps banished, from the policy debate." 3

bullet "[This] shows that we're a liberal society who realizes that the majority doesn't get to decide which minority gets rights." "Adam" 4

Status of SSM before 2005-JUL-20 -- the day when SSM was legalized across Canada:

Map of Canada 5

At that time, 89.3% of Canadians lived in political jurisdictions where SSMs were routinely performed. In each case, SSM was forced on a reluctant provincial or territorial government by a court.

The two provinces and two territories which still prohibited SSM as of 2005-JUL-19 are shown in yellow. They were:

bullet Northwest Territories (containing 0.13% of the population of Canada)
bullet Alberta (10.0%)

bullet Nunavut territory (0.09%)
bullet Prince Edward Island (PEI; 0.43%)6

2005-JUL-20: The day when same-sex marriages were legalized (almost) all across Canada :

The Canadian Senate passed bill C-38 the late evening of 2005-JUL-19.The bill was officially proclaimed as law on JUL-20. At that time, SSM theoretically became available across Canada.

However, there was one hold-out. Prince Edward Island (PEI) on the Eastern seaboard of Canada, alone, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This situation was apparently unique in the country. Fortunately, there is a fixed link -- a bridge -- between the Island and mainland, so couples were able to simply drive across the bridge into New Brunswick, purchase a license, and get married there. Women seeking abortions have to do the same thing, because there are no abortion clinics in PEI.

As of 2005-JUL-20, 99.6% of the population of Canada lived in a jurisdiction where same-sex couples could marry. On 2005-AUG-19, PEI capitulated, and this became 100%. Faced with a lawsuit filed by a lesbian couple seeking to get married in PEI, that government backed down and found a way to obey the revised marriage law of Canada.

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What same-sex marriage (SSM) is, and is not, in Canada:

SSM is not:
bullet The same thing as "homosexual marriage" or "gay marriage." There are many bisexuals in the country who form committed, loving relationships with members of the same sex and marry.
bullet A battle among persons of different sexual orientations: homosexuals, bisexuals and heterosexuals.
bullet A battle between religion and secularism, because various Christian denominations take opposing views on SSM. So do adherents of Islam, Judaism, other organized religions, Humanists, Atheists, Agnostics, secularists, etc.

SSM was primarily a battle among:
bullet Religious conservatives, social conservatives, and the elderly, most of whom oppose SSM, and
bullet Religious liberals, social liberals, sexual minorities, civil rights advocates, and young adults who favor SSM.
bullet The battle continued, to a degree after bill C-38 was signed into law. Some religiously conservative individuals and groups promised to work against the reelection of any member of parliament who voted in favor of SSM. However, the controversy over SSM faded into the background quickly as Canadians generally accepted same-sex marriages as a fundamental human right.
Ultimately, SSM is seen as a moral question:
bullet A minority of Canadian adults regard all homosexual behavior -- including that within a loving committed relationship -- to be profoundly immoral. Many would like to have it re-criminalized. Many feel that granting marriage rights to same-sex couples will damage and perhaps destroy the institution of opposite-sex marriage, and perhaps harm the culture of Canada beyond repair.
bullet The majority of Canadian adults favor SSM and regard marriage as a fundamental human right. Many feel that maintaining second-class citizenship for same-sex couples is profoundly immoral. Most feel that granting marriage rights to those same-sex couples who want to marry strengthens the institution of marriage.

2006-DEC: Federal Conservative Party attacks same-sex marriage:

The Federal Conservative Party under Prime Minister Stephen Harper fulfilled an earlier campaign promise by raising a motion in the House of Commons to reopen debate on C-38. The motion was defeated. More details.

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2012-JAN: Conservative federal government again attacks same-sex marriage:

After many years of dominance by the Federal Liberal party, control of the federal government switched to the Conservative Party of Canada after the 2006 elections. Since a great deal of support of the Conservatives comes from evangelical Christians, we expected that Prime Minister Harper would start to dismantle many of the unique features of the Canadian culture by limiting abortion access, bringing back capital punishment, dismantling Canada's universal health care system and banning same-sex marriage.  We were pleasantly surprised when none of our predictions came to pass during the 39th parliament elected in 2006 or the 40th parliament elected in 2008. However, during 2012-JAN -- less than a year after the 41st election in 2011-MAY, when the Conservative Party had achieved majority control of both the House of Commons and the Senate -- the government made the first moves to dismantle the health care system and limit same-sex marriage . The federal Department of Justice intervened in a divorce petition by a lesbian couple, one of whom had come to Canada from England and the other from Florida to get married. According to The Mark news:

"... the federal lawyer argued that because their home jurisdictions don't recognize gay marriage, their marriage wasn't legal in the first place. Hence, they shouldn't be allowed to get divorced."

The status of about 5,000 same-sex couples who came to Canada to be married because they could not be married in their country of residency is now in doubt. More details.

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

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

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality> SSM menu > SSM submenu > Canada> 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. "Canada pushes for international commitment on gay rights," Today's Family News, 2005-MAR-18.
  3. "dM Action Update,", 2005-JUN-17.
  4. "Adam," posting to the discussion on the "Same-sex marriage bill" in, 2005-JUL-29, at:
  5. This image is derived from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. at:
  6. "Population, provinces and territories," Statistics Canada, 2003 estimates. See:
  7. The red and white banner is is a custom graphic copied from Tania's site at:
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