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Some court decisions, documents, laws, research papers, etc. which impact the rights of persons of all sexual orientations, including the right of same-sex couples to marry 

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"SSM" in this essay means "same-sex marriage"

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bullet1990, and other years:
bulletHuman Rights Codes These are laws in Canada's ten provinces and three territories which protect the dignity of all persons within their jurisdictions. 
bulletThe preamble to Ontario's code affirms that "the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."
bulletThe body of Ontario's code states: "[I]t is public policy in Ontario to recognize the dignity and worth of every person and to provide for equal rights and opportunities without discrimination that is contrary to law, and having as its aim the creation of a climate of understanding and mutual respect for the dignity and worth of each person so that each person feels a part of the community and able to contribute fully to the development and well-being of the community and the Province."
bulletThis type of wording guarantees equal rights for persons of all sexual orientations (heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual). Civil rights lawsuits have often cited human rights codes.
bulletSee: R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19 for the text of Ontario's code.
bulletSexual orientation as a protected class: "Egan v. Canada," Supreme Court of Canada, 1995-NOV-01. This ruling examined the definition of "spouse" in old age security legislation.
bulletThe act stated that a: " 'spouse', in relation to any person, includes a person of the opposite sex who is living with that person, having lived with that person for at least one year, if the two persons have publicly represented themselves as husband and wife'." In essence, the legislation considered loving, committed living together couples to be spouses if they are of opposite-sexes, and as mere roommates if they were of the same-sex.
bulletThe court decided that the law's definition infringed upon section S 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Canada's constitution) because it gave financial benefits to unmarried opposite-sex couples, while withholding the same benefits from same-sex spouses.
bulletThe court decided that: "Just as the Charter protects religious beliefs and religious practice as aspects of religious freedom, so too should it be recognized that sexual orientation encompasses aspects of 'status' and 'conduct' and that both should receive protection."
bulletConcerning sexual orientation, the court stated that whether or not it "...is based on biological or physiological factors, which may be a matter of some controversy, it is a deeply personal characteristic that is either unchangeable or changeable only at unacceptable personal costs, and so falls within the ambit of [the Charter's section]...15 protection as being analogous to the enumerated grounds."
bulletThe court defined sexual orientation as a protected class and, in effect, rewrote the Charter by adding this class to others which had been specifically mentioned in the Charter. The effect of this decision was immense.
bulletSee the text at: http://www.canlii.org/
bulletDefinition of "spouse:" "M. v. H.," Supreme Court of Canada, 1999-MAY-20. This case was brought by two lesbians who separated in 1992 after having lived together since 1982.
bulletOne sought financial support from the other, but had no legal status because the definition of "spouse" in Ontario family law only recognized couples as spouses if they were of opposite sex.
bulletThe court ruled that the provincial law unconstitutionally denied benefits to same-sex couples: "This denial of a benefit violates the purpose of [the Charter's section]... 15(1). One factor which may demonstrate that legislation that treats the claimant differently has the effect of demeaning the claimant's dignity is the existence of pre-existing disadvantage, stereotyping, prejudice, or vulnerability experienced by the individual or group at issue. In this case, there is significant pre-existing disadvantage and vulnerability and these circumstances are exacerbated by the impugned legislation."
bulletSee the text of this ruling at: http://www.canlii.org/
bulletVarious legal reports about SSM:
bullet"Recognition of rights and obligations in same sex relationships" Alberta Law Reform Institute, 2002-JAN, at: http://www.law.ualberta.ca/ You may need software to read these files. It can be obtained free from:
bullet"Marriage and Legal Recognition of Same-sex Unions. A Discussion Paper," Department of Justice Canada, 2002-NOV, at http://canada.justice.gc.ca/
bullet"The Legal Organization of Personal Relationships," Law Commission of Canada, 2002-JUN-25, at: http://www.lcc.gc.ca./
bulletLower Quebec court authorizes SSM: Hendricks et al. v. Attorney General of Canada, et al., Superior Court of the District of Montreal, 2002-SEP-06. The judgment declared various Quebec and Federal laws invalid because they restricted marriage to opposite-sex couples -- thus not allowing SSM. However, the court suspended their "declarations of invalidity" for a period of two years, presumably to allow the Quebec government to alter its legislation.
bulletBritish Columbia court authorizes SSMs in the future: "Barbeau v. British Columbia," Court of Appeal for British Columbia, 2003-MAY-01.
bulletEight same-sex couples sued the Attorneys General of British Columbia and Canada; five couples also included the Director of Vital Statistics of British Columbia as a respondent and EGALE Canada as a co-appellant.
bulletThere were three interveners. One was a group of liberal rabbis. Ironically, he other two had the phrase "for marriage" in their names, but were opposed to marriage by same-sex couples.
bullet"The Court declared that the common law definition of marriage as 'the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others' constituted a common law bar to same-sex marriage and was of no force or effect on the basis that it violated [section]... 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and could not be saved under [section]...1. The Court reformulated the common law definition of marriage as: 'the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others'."
bulletSee the text at: http://www.canlii.org/
bulletIt initially suspended these remedies until July 12, 2004, to allow the province to accommodate the changes in law.
bulletOntario court authorizes SSMs: "Halpern v. Canada (Attorney general)," Court of Appeal for Ontario, 2003-JUN-10. This is the blockbuster ruling which immediately made SSM available in Ontario. That led to similar rulings in courts across Canada.
bulletSeven same-sex couples initiated a lawsuit against the Ontario government asking that they be sold marriage licenses and have their marriages registered by the province.
bulletThe Court noted that:
bullet"The question at the heart of this appeal is whether excluding same-sex couples from another of the most basic elements of civic life ‑ marriage ‑ infringes human dignity and violates the Canadian Constitution."
bullet"The definition of marriage in Canada, for all of the nationís 136 years, has been based on the classic formulation of Lord Penzance in Hyde v. Hyde and Woodmansee (1866), 'I conceive that marriage, as understood in Christendom, may for this purpose be defined as the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.'  The central question in this appeal is whether the exclusion of same-sex couples from this common law definition of marriage breaches....the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ....in a manner that is not justified in a free and democratic society under [Section]... 1 of the Charter."
bulletThey decided that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms did give same-sex couples the right to marry. They ordered the Government of Ontario to start issuing marriage licenses immediately. The first SSM was solemnized within hours.
bulletSee the text of the ruling at: http://www.canlii.org/
bulletBritish Columbia court authorizes SSMs immediately: "Barbeau v. British Columbia," Court of Appeal for British Columbia, 2003-MAY-01.
bulletNoting that SSMs were now legal in Ontario, the appellants applied to re-open their appeal and request a lifting of the "suspension of remedies"  which would have delayed their marriages until mid-2004.
bulletThe court ruled that it was: "...apparent that any further delay in implementing the remedies will result in an unequal application of the law as between Ontario and British Columbia, with same-sex couples being denied the right to marry in British Columbia until July 12, 2004 while same-sex couples in Ontario may marry as and when they choose to do so....In these circumstances, the Court is satisfied that it is appropriate to amend the order in these appeals to lift the suspension of remedies, with the result that the declaratory relief and the reformulation of the common law definition of marriage as 'the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others' will take immediate effect."
bulletSee the text at: http://www.canlii.org/
bulletQuebec court authorizes SSM: "Catholic Civil Rights League v. Hendricks," The Quebec Court of Appeal, 2004-MAR-19.
bulletThe Catholic Civil Rights League, who was an intervener in the Quebec SSM case, appealed the 2002-SEP-06 decision of the Superior Court of the District of Montreal to the Quebec Court of Appeal. Again we see an irony: a "civil rights league" is arguing to withhold marital civil rights from same-sex couples.
bulletBy the time that the higher Quebec court considered the lawsuit, the Attorney General of Canada had decided to not to "appeal the judgments rendered in Ontario and British Columbia." Also, he had discontinued his own appeal in Quebec. The court decided that "the Attorney General created a new legal context:" Laws that restricted marriage to opposite-sex couples were no fully longer in force. The precedent has been set that SSM is constitutionally guaranteed across the country.
bulletThe court decided that the Catholic Civil Rights League had no standing and could not appeal the case. One reason was that: "the sole question at issue is that of civil marriage, and, on the other, an explicit provision of law allows any member of the clergy to refuse to solemnize a marriage when a religious impediment exists."
bulletThe Quebec Court of Appeal decided to "refuse to render a judgment on the merits of the appeal." They dismissed it.
bulletThey further decided to eliminate the delay in implementing the lower court's ruling. Same-sex couples were able to marry immediately in Quebec.
bulletAn unofficial English translation of the court ruling is at: http://www.jugements.qc.ca/
bulletYukon Territory authorizes SSM: Dunbar & Edge v. Yukon et al., Supreme Court of the Yukon Territory, 2004-JUL-14.
bulletThe court noted that "The Attorney General of Canada concedes that the opposite sex requirement for marriage is unconstitutional, as not consistent with the equality rights guarantee set out in [section]...15(1) of the Charter and is not justifiable."
bulletThe court denied the request by the Attorney General to delay the granting of a marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the Yukon until after Parliament has had a chance to change the marriage act.
bulletThe court concluded that: "In our view, an immediate declaration will simply ensure that opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples immediately receive equal treatment in law in accordance with [section]...15(1) of the Charter."
bulletThe court ruled that "...the new common-law definition of marriage in the Yukon is 'the voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others'."
bulletThe text of the decision is at: http://www.canlii.org/
bulletBill C-38, the "Civil Marriage Act" was proclaimed as law on 2005-JUL-20. The critical two sections of the act read:
bullet"Marriage for civil purposes, is the lawful union of two perosns to the exclusion of all others."
bullet"It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs."

The text of the law is at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 

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Copyright © 2004 & 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2004-SEP-22
Latest update: 2005-NOV-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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