Same-sex marriage in Manitoba

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Same-sex marriage in Manitoba was legalized on September 16, 2004. Manitoba became the fifth jurisdiction in Canada to legalize same-sex marriage, after the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, and the territory of Yukon.[1][2]

On September 16, 2004, Justice Douglas Yard of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench declared in the case of Vogel v. Canada that the current definition of marriage was unconstitutional.[1] The judge said that his decision had been influenced by the previous decisions in B.C., Ontario and Quebec. This decision followed the suits brought by three couples in Manitoba requesting that they be issued marriage licences. Both the provincial and federal governments had made it known that they would not oppose the court bid.[3] One of the couples, Chris Vogel and Richard North, had legally sought marriage in a high-profile case in 1974, being given a marriage certificate by a Unitarian minister, but had been denied when they sought to legally register the marriage with the province. The other couples were Stefphany Cholakis and Michelle Ritchot, and Laura Fouhse and Jordan Cantwell.

A controversy emerged after the ruling, when the province's Vital Statistics Office sent letters to the province's government marriage commissioners (not clergy) asking them to return their certificates of registration if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages. The federal Conservative justice critic, Vic Toews, announced he would file a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission if this policy is not rescinded.[4]

In October 2008, the Marriage Act was amended by replacing the words "husband and wife" with "spouses".[5] Manitoba became the fourth province, after Quebec, Ontario and Prince Edward Island, to add a gender-neutral definition of spouse in its marriage laws.

A Winnipeg Free Press survey (2/6/05) showed that of the 14 Manitoban MPs, eight were against same-sex marriages, five were for and one could not be reached.

As of 2015, Vogel and North are still fighting to have the province formally register their marriage as having taken place in 1974 instead of 2004.[6] Their original 1974 marriage certificate is now on display at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.[6] A portrait of Vogel and North, by artist Rosey Goodman, is also held by the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives in its National Portrait Collection.[7]


Approximately 900 same-sex couples married in the twelve years following the court ruling. An average of 79 same-sex marriages were celebrated per year, with the peak being 2014 with 107 same-sex marriages.[8]

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