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Fourth Canadian province legalizes same-sex marriage

Fourth Canadian province legalizes same-sex marriage

Manitoba became the fourth Canadian province to legalize same-sex marriage after a judge on Thursday declared the province's current definition of marriage unconstitutional. Justice Douglas Yard's ruling in Court of Queen's Bench came in response to a lawsuit filed last month by three same-sex couples against the provincial and federal governments. The couples asked Yard to declare that the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman is contrary to the equality provision in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. "The traditional definition of marriage in Manitoba is reformulated to mean a voluntary union for life of two persons at the exclusion of all others," Yard ruled. Courts legalized same-sex marriage in the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec in 2003 and in the Yukon territory in July. Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberal government has vowed to make it legal across Canada after the country's supreme court reviews the matter this fall. Yard said precedents set by justices in the other provinces, accounting for some 70% of Canada's 31 million population, weighed heavily in his decision. "The effect [is] that the traditional definition of marriage is no longer constitutionally valid in view of the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," he said, referring to the federal charter. The news was greeted by cheers and hugs among the couples and their supporters, who were expecting the positive outcome. Lobby groups in support of same-sex marriage say they expect the first same-sex wedding in Manitoba to be performed by the end of the week. The case marks the first time Ottawa has not opposed--or asked for an adjournment of--a same-sex marriage lawsuit. The federal government has jurisdiction over the definition of marriage. It had argued, to no avail, against changing it in cases in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.

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