A British Columbia appeals court ruled Thursday that Canada's ban on gay marriage is discriminatory and told the government to change the law. The ruling, which overturns a lower court decision that marriage should be restricted to heterosexuals, is the latest court challenge to the federal ban. The three-judge panel ordered the federal government to change the law by July 12, 2004, to allow same-sex marriages. Otherwise, the panel said, the court itself would rewrite the legal definition of marriage to read "the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others" as opposed to "the union of man and woman."
"This evolution cannot be ignored," the appeals court said. "Civil marriage should adapt to contemporary notions of marriage as an institution in a society which recognizes the rights of homosexual persons to nondiscriminatory treatment."
Courts in two other provinces--Quebec and Ontario--also have ruled in favor of same-sex marriage rights, but Thursday's decision was the first by an appellate court to do so. The federal government said it is studying the opinion and has not yet decided whether to appeal. The government is appealing the Quebec and Ontario decisions.