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Canada's Supreme Court : Same-Sex Couples Are Equal

Gay/Lesbian Relationships Deemed Worthy of Protection

Opposite-Sex-Only Spousal Definition is Unconstitutional

Compiled By GayToday

cancourt.jpg - 7.96 K Ottawa--In the landmark decision of M v H & Ontario, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Thursday that the opposite-sex definition of "spouse" in Ontario's Family Law Act is unconstitutional.

The decision, say Canadian news reports, radically alters the way 'family' is defined in Canada.

The Court ordered that the law be changed to ensure equal treatment for same-sex spouses.

Cory J., for the majority, held:

"The societal significance of the benefit conferred by the statute cannot be overemphasized. The exclusion of same-sex partners from the benefits of s. 29 of the FLA promotes the view that M, and individuals in same-sex relationships generally, are less worthy of recognition and protection.

It implies that they are judged to be incapable of forming intimate relationships of economic interdependence as compared to opposite sex couples, without regard to their actual circumstances.

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As the intervenor EGALE submitted, such exclusion perpetuates the disadvantages suffered by individuals in same-sex relationships and contributes to the erasure of their existence."

"This is the first time ever that the Supreme Court has ruled that a law is unconstitutional because it fails to treat same-sex couples equally," said Jan Cheney, Chair of the Legal Issues Committee of EGALE (Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere), which intervened in the appeal.

"The decision is, however, consistent with numerous lower Court rulings. Now the Supreme Court has placed the matter beyond all doubt: it is a violation of the Constitution for Governments to deny equality to those in same-sex relationships.

"This decision is entirely consistent with a recent Angus Reid poll, which shows that more than two-thirds of Canadians support equal rights and responsibilities for those in same-sex relationships. British Columbia has already enacted similar legislation, and the sky has not fallen."

"This is the first day of the rest of our lives," said John Fisher, Executive Director of EGALE. "Welcome to a more equal Canada, in which the constitutional rights of lesbians, gays and bisexuals and our relationships have been unequivocally upheld by the highest Court in the land.

"The Court also suspended the remedy for six months to ensure that same-sex couples have an equal right to define their relationships for themselves by entering into their own cohabitation agreements.

cansupcourtbuild.jpg - 9.05 K Canada's Supreme Court "Moreover, the Government of Ontario has explicitly stated on numerous occasions that it chose to place the matter in the hands of the Court and will respect the Court's decision. We have to assume that the Government of Ontario was telling the truth when it promised to abide by the Court decision and respect the Constitution."

Public statements by the Ontario Government include:

  • "We have gone to the court to seek direction from the court and we'll abide by whatever the court tells us." (Attorney General Charles Harnick, Toronto Star, June 27, 1997, p. A2)

  • "Whatever the court tells us to do, we will do." (Attorney General Charles Harnick, Globe & Mail, June 27, 1997, p. A2)

  • "Ontario ... will want to be in compliance with the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and the laws of the land." (Premier Mike Harris, Toronto Star, June 25, 1998)

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