Canadian lesbians file for first same-sex divorce
July 22 2004 12:00 AM ET
A lesbian couple is seeking what one of their lawyers believes is Canada's first same-sex divorce. The women, identified only as M.M. and J.H., were married on June 18, 2003, one week after the Ontario court of appeal legalized same-sex marriage, The Toronto Star reported. The couple separated five days after the wedding, ending a five-year relationship, J.H.'s lawyer, Julie Hannaford, told the newspaper. "This is the first same-sex divorce case in Canada, to our knowledge," the report quoted M.M.'s lawyer, Martha McCarthy, as saying in court documents. The petition, filed in the superior court of justice last month, will add a new facet to the contentious legal debate over same-sex marriage. The supreme court of Canada is holding hearings on the legality of same-sex marriages in the fall.
Courts in three provinces and the Yukon territory have ruled that the right for gays and lesbians to marry is guaranteed by constitution's Charter of Rights, but the Divorce Act hasn't been amended to apply to same-sex couples. But M.M. and J.H. want the same divorce rights as other couples. They and their lawyers are asking the court to grant the divorce and declare the Divorce Act's definition of spouse unconstitutional. The divorce law defines a spouse as "a man or woman who are married to each other." M.M. said there is no possibility of reconciliation, the report said. The couple signed a separation agreement on April 30. Grounds for divorce in Canada are separation, adultery, and cruelty.
Federal government lawyers asked the court to defer the case until the supreme court rules on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. But the lower court has set up trial-management conferences before then and scheduled the divorce motion for September 13.