Same-sex marriage in British Columbia

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Same-sex marriage in British Columbia became legal on July 8, 2003, becoming the second region in Canada (as well as the second jurisdiction in North America) to legalize same-sex marriage, behind Ontario, after a series of court rulings which ultimately landed in favour of same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses.[1]

Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage with the passage of Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act, which made same-sex marriage legal in the remaining provinces of Alberta and Prince Edward Island and the remaining territories of Nunavut, the Northwest Territories.

Timeline[edit]

  • October 2, 2001: British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Ian Pitfield rules against same-sex couples seeking to get married saying it was not allowed under the Constitution. "Parliament may not enact legislation to change the legal meaning of marriage to include same-sex unions," he said. "I concur in the submission of the Attorney General of Canada that the core distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships is so material in the Canadian context that no means exist by which to equate same-sex relationships to marriage while at the same time preserving the fundamental importance of marriage to the community." Justice Pitfield would be the sole judge in Canada to rule against same-sex couples.
  • May 1, 2003: Justices of the British Columbia Court of Appeal rule 3-0 that denial of marriage licences to same-sex couples was a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. "Gay rights have steadily expanded since homosexuality was made legal in Canada in 1969, and these developments have substantial public support, although the matter remains controversial," the Court wrote. "This evolution cannot be ignored. Civil marriage should adapt to contemporary notions of marriage as an institution in a society which recognizes the rights of homosexual persons to non-discriminatory treatment." The Court gave the Canadian Government until July 2, 2004, to change the definition of marriage so that it includes same-sex couples, similar to the ruling in Ontario.
  • June 10, 2003: The Ontario Court of Appeal, in a unanimous 3-0 upheld a lower court ruling which struck down the traditional definition of marriage. The lower court had given the federal government 2 years to comply with the ruling, but the Ontario Court of Appeal did not stay its decision and brought the ruling into force immediately.
  • July 8, 2003: The British Columbia Court of Appeal issues another ruling, lifting the stay it had put on the government in its May decision. The Court said it was "satisfied" and noted the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling in its decision lifting the stay immediately. The ruling stated that "any further delay… will result in an unequal application of the law between Ontario and British Columbia."
  • July 8, 2003: A few hours after the Court of Appeal ruling, Antony Porcino and Tom Graff became the first two men to be legally wed in British Columbia.
  • June 15, 2005: A B.C. Supreme Court judge in Nanaimo granted British Columbia's first same-sex divorce.[1] Although same-sex marriage had been legal in British Columbia for two years, the Divorce Act still defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Facts & Figures[edit]

In 2003, there were 735 same-sex marriages in British Columbia. Of those 1470 married, more couples resided in the United States than in Canada.[2]

Public Opinion Polls[edit]

A June 12-July 6, 2003 Environics Research poll finds a 53%-43% margin nationwide in favour of same-sex marriage. The poll concludes British Columbia shows one of the highest levels of support, but doesn't give a figure.[3]

A December 14-January 5, 2005 Environics Research poll finds a 54%-43% margin nationwide in favour of same-sex marriage. 214 British Columbians were surveyed in the poll, and 60% of respondents said they were in favour of same-sex marriage, while 38% were opposed.[4]

References[edit]

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