Thousands of non-resident same-sex couples married in Canada may not be legally wed if the marriage is not recognized in their home country or state, according to the Canadian government.
The Globe and Mail reports on the sudden shift, which could cast legal doubt on thousands of same-sex weddings performed in Canada for couples from abroad. More than one-third of the 15,000 same-sex marriages that have taken place since the law took effect in 2005 have involved couples from the United States and other countries.
“The reversal of federal policy is revealed in a document filed in a Toronto test case launched recently by a lesbian couple seeking a divorce,” according to the Globe and Mail. “Wed in Toronto in 2005, the couple have been told they cannot divorce because they were never really married – a Department of Justice lawyer says their marriage is not legal in Canada since they could not have lawfully wed in Florida or England, where the two partners reside.”
Martha McCarthy, an attorney for the couple, wrote in the divorce application that it was “legally and procedurally unfair” for the government to promote same-sex marriage and then leave the women with no way to dissolve the union. The women, who cannot be identified due to court order, are professionals in their early 30s.
When the Ontario Superior Court considers the divorce application next month, McCarthy is asking the judge to craft an exemption or strike down any legislative provision that would prevent them from divorcing. She also suggested that the government could pass legislation to recognize the validity of same-sex marriages for non-residents in order that couples can obtain divorces, which the state of California did.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the submission from the government lawyer did not represent an attempt by his Conservative party to reopen the question of same-sex marriage.
"When we first came to office we had a vote on this issue,” he said Thursday, according to the CBC. Although Harper said he was not familiar with the details of the case, he added, “We have no intention of further reopening or opening this issue.”