Ontario to issue marriage licenses to gay U.S. couples

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com June 11 2003 11:00 PM ET

After Tuesday's court ruling in the Canadian province of Ontario giving same-sex couples the full legal right to marriage there, many gay men and lesbians from the United States are asking if they too can get married up north. "Basically, any couple from the United States can get married, but they have to be married in Ontario," said Diane Sibley, executive director of Licensing and Enforcement Services for the city of Windsor, Ontario. "But we can't force another jurisdiction to accept our laws." Same-sex couples from America need only meet Ontario's requirements for a marriage license, Sibley adds, including supplying birth certificates, paying the $150 Canadian processing fee, and providing details about where and when the ceremony will take place in the country.

It's unclear what impact the Ontario court's ruling will have on gay couples from the United States who travel across the border for a marriage license. Currently, 37 U.S. states have laws banning recognition of marriages between same-sex couples, regardless of where the marriages took place. But disregarding a marriage from Canada could lead to court challenges, experts say.

Tuesday's historical ruling by the provincial court drew reactions from many people on both sides of the issue. Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, a state with many residents who travel back and forth across the border to nearby Windsor, said the Canadian court is devaluing heterosexual marriage and has opened the door to possible challenges in Michigan. "I think there is a concern--whether it be in a neighboring province or in another state where homosexual marriage is legalized--that it may lead to court challenges of Michigan's Defense of Marriage Act," Glenn told the Detroit Free Press. Leslie Thompson, executive director for the Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center in Michigan, said she wouldn't be surprised if many same-sex couples from the state seek a marriage license in Windsor, just to have their unions recognized.

The Ontario appeals court decision was the latest in a series of court rulings against Canada's federal ban on gay marriage. It puts increasing pressure on Prime Minister Jean Chretien's government to change the law or let the ruling stand. The government can appeal Tuesday's decision to Canada's supreme court, an option Chretien said the government would have to study further, though he promised a quick decision.