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Yukon is fourth Canadian region to approve gay marriage

Yukon is fourth Canadian region to approve gay marriage

The Yukon on Wednesday became the fourth Canadian district to legalize same-sex marriage when a judge changed the territory's common-law definition of marriage to mean the voluntary union for life of two people to the exclusion of all others. In a decision delivered to a packed Yukon supreme court hearing, Justice Peter McIntyre emulated courts in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia. Previously, Yukon common law had limited marriage to a union between a man and a woman. "The [old] common law definition of marriage is unconstitutional," said McIntyre. The federal attorney general had asked the Yukon court to delay its decision until the supreme sourt of Canada hears arguments on same-sex marriage in October. McIntyre, however, said "a legally unacceptable result would be perpetuated in the Yukon" if he delayed the decision. The ruling means that Stephen Dunbar and Rob Edge are getting married. "Well, it means this afternoon we can go pick up our marriage license, just like any other couple that's getting ready to get married would do," said Dunbar. Dunbar and Edge will exchange vows Saturday at a Whitehorse church. "We're very, very happy with the outcome," said Edge. After being refused a wedding license in January by the territorial vital statistics office and then taking their case to the Yukon Human Rights Commission, the couple filed their petition with the courts in early June. Dunbar rejected the federal government's suggestion that the couple have marriage banns read, hold the wedding, and be issued a marriage license retroactively once the federal parliament decides on the issue. Marriage banns were being read in their church already, Dunbar said. "But it would have felt like a hollow marriage," he said of the attorney general's suggestion. "It was unacceptable, and that is why we were in court today." McIntyre also made the unusual move of ordering the territorial and federal governments to split the costs of the couple's two lawyers. Egale, a national gay and lesbian advocacy group, welcomed the decision. "This ruling sends a message that governments across the country must now accept the Charter right of same-sex couples to marry in a civil ceremony," said Egale's director of advocacy, Laurie Arron. "There is one law for the whole country, and that law includes same-sex couples. Governments who don't accept that are leaving themselves open to legal challenges and liability for costs." A conservative family-rights advocacy group, however, said the ruling represented unwarranted judicial activism. "Canada's Supreme Court is scheduled to hear all the arguments on this issue and elected members of parliament will debate it soon," Derek Rogusky, Focus on the Family's Canadian vice president, said in a news release. "There was no need for an unelected Yukon Territory judge to ignore this process. The people of the Yukon and their elected representatives should be the ones to decide whether or not to alter their understanding of marriage."

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