Same-sex marriage in Nova Scotia

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Legal status of same-sex unions

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  3. Neither performed nor recognized in Northern Ireland, the dependency of Sark and six of the fourteen overseas territories
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* Not yet in effect

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Same-sex marriage is legal in Nova Scotia. The province began issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples immediately following a September 24, 2004 court ruling.

Nova Scotia became the sixth jurisdiction in Canada (and the ninth worldwide) to legalise same-sex marriage.


Prior to 2001, common-law couples, either opposite-sex or same-sex, were not able to adopt. However, in 2001, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court concluded that the provision in the Adoption Act that prevented common-law couples from adopting was unconstitutional. The result been that common-law couples, either same-sex or opposite-sex, are now able to adopt children jointly.[1]

Soon thereafter, the Nova Scotia House of Assembly approved An Act to Comply with Certain Court Decisions and to Modernize and Reform Laws in the Province.

Court ruling[edit]

On August 13, 2004, three couples brought the suit Boutilier et al. v. Canada (A.G) and Nova Scotia (A.G) against the provincial and federal governments requesting that they be issued same-sex marriage licences.[2][3]

The partners who brought suit were:

  • Brian Mombourquette and Ross Boutelier
  • Kim Vance and Samantha Meehan, (married in Toronto in 2003 and sought recognition of their marriage at home in Nova Scotia)
  • Ron and Bryan Garnett-Doucette

The couples were represented by Halifax lawyer Sean Foreman of Wickwire Holm.

On September 24, 2004, Justice Heather Robertson of the Supreme Court ruled that banning such marriages was unconstitutional and ordered the province to recognize same-sex unions.[4]

Just hours after the ruling was handed down, Ron and Bryan Garnett-Doucette became the first same-sex couple to obtain a marriage license in Nova Scotia.[5]

Neither the federal nor the provincial governments opposed the ruling, continuing the trend set with the Yukon and Manitoba rulings. The Nova Scotia Justice Minister said, "We certainly did not want to waste taxpayers' money." However, Premier John Hamm did not say whether he supports same-sex marriage.

Provincial legislation[edit]

An odd proviso to the post-ruling status was that, until a formal change of the provincial Solemnization of Marriage Act, the Minister of Justice still required the terms "husband and wife" to be used by Justices of the Peace in any wedding. This stance by the Justice Department was categorized by some as heterosexist. Shortly afterwards, following warnings of further legal action by the couples' lawyer, the policy was changed to remove that requirement.[6] The Solemnization of Marriage Act, however, wasn't modified to this effect.

Only in October 2017 did the House of Assembly approve a bill removing the terms "husband and wife" from the Solemnization of Marriage Act and substituting "spouses".[7][8] The bill passed its third reading on 20 October and received royal assent six days later.


External links[edit]