Canadian same-sex marriages are safe! Some clarity on the situation.
So there’s been a lot of coverage today on what’s been going on in Canada, so let us clear some things up. A brief overview, people have been going nuts because they think the Canadian government has announced same-sex marriages performed in Canada, for couples whose native country does not recognized same-sex marriage, have been nullified. This is not the case. For more clarity, we have a joint statement from Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and Freedom to Marry:
We write to respond to a news report from Canada that a lawyer in the current government has taken a position in a trial-level divorce proceeding that a same-sex couple’s marriage is not valid because the members of the couple were not Canada residents at the time that they married, and the law of their home jurisdiction did not permit them to marry at the time.
No one’s marriage has been invalidated or is likely to be invalidated. The position taken by one government lawyer in a divorce is not itself precedential. No court has accepted this view and there is no reason to believe that either Canada’s courts or its Parliament would agree with this position, which no one has asserted before during the eight years that same-sex couples have had the freedom to marry in Canada.
Canada permits non-residents to marry and thousands of non-resident same-sex couples have married there since Canada first began recognizing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in 2003. Indeed, Canada’s Parliament codified the equal right to marry for same-sex couples in 2005.
The message for same-sex couples married in Canada remains the same as it is for same-sex couples validly married here in the United States: take every precaution you can to protect your relationship with legal documents such as powers of attorney and adoptions, as you may travel to jurisdictions that don’t respect your legal relationship. There is no reason to suggest that Canadian marriages of same-sex couples are in jeopardy, or to advocate that people try to marry again elsewhere, as that could cause these couples unnecessary complications, anxiety, and expense.
The Ontario Superior Court still has yet to see the couple’s case, so nothing has actually happened, just a lawyer describing his defense.
So Dan Savage, I hope you didn’t actually wake your husband to tell him you guys are no longer married, and I hope you at least let him have his coffee first before scaring him.
EDIT: Even more assurances from the Canadian government, Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson spoke out today at a Toronto luncheon saying:
The situation has been “completely unfair to those affected.” Mr. Nicholson said. “I want to make it clear that in our government’s view, these marriages are valid.”
The Civil Marriage Act will be changed to ensure that any marriages performed in Canada that aren’t recognized in the couple’s home jurisdiction will be recognized in Canada nonetheless, he said.