Same-sex marriages 'should be valid,' law to change: Justice minister
The Conservative government blamed the Liberal party for a 'legislative gap' as it announced today that it will change the law to validate all marriages performed in Canada, regardless of their legality in couples' home countries.
The government faced a growing backlash yesterday after media revealed that a British lesbian couple's marriage was deemed invalid by federal lawyers because the U.K. forbids same-sex marriage – effectively invalidating up to 5,000 such marriages and outraging the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities.
“We will change the Civil Marriage Act so that any marriages performed in Canada that aren't recognized in the couple's home jurisdiction will be recognized in Canada,” said Federal Justice minister Rob Nicholson today at the Canadian Club of Toronto. "This problem is a result of a legislative gap left by the previous Liberal government when the law on same-sex marriage was changed in 2005."
The controversy began after the Globe and Mail revealed that government prosecutors argued in a U.K. couple's divorce case that they could not separate because they had never been married in the first place – because their Canadian wedding was not recognized in either the U.K. or Florida, where they reside.
The issue became a firestorm yesterday, with members of the LGBT community worldwide lambasting the Conservative government for pushing a right-wing agenda and rewrite gay marriage rules despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper's vows not to re-open the issue.
“The confusion and pain resulting from this gap ... is completely unfair to those affected,” Nicholson added.
The divorce case which sparked the furor – identified only by their initials for privacy reasons – got married in December 2005 in Toronto. One lives in London, U.K., the other in Clearwater, Florida. Neither of those jurisdictions recognize same-sex marriage, although England allows civil unions.
Two years ago, the couple separated but could not obtain a divorce in their places of residence. They returned to Canada for divorce proceedings here, but were shocked to discover Canadian government lawyers deeming their union was never legal at all.
With files from The Canadian Press.