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Canada Says Couples Are Married or Will Be Soon

Canada Says Couples Are Married or Will Be Soon

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lucasgrindley

The marriages of same-sex couples wed in Canada are safe, the justice minister reassured them today amid growing outrage.

Anxiety arose when two women who don't live in Canada sought to get divorced in Canada, where they were married. The Globe and Mail reported on Thursday that a government lawyer had made the argument that their marriage was never legal and thus a divorce would be moot. The argument had far-reaching consequences, potentially invalidating thousands of marriages between same-sex couples who had traveled to Canada because their unions weren't legally recognized in their home states or countries.

But Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said today that the couples are married -- or, at least, they will be.

"I want to make it clear that in our government's view, these marriages are valid," he said, according to the Globe and Mail.

PostMediareports that Nicholson said the law might still need changing to ensure there's no loophole.

"We will change the Civil Marriage Act so that any marriages performed in Canada that aren't recognized in the couple's home jurisdiction will be recognized in Canada," Nicholson promised.

Worry had spread that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government was trying to undo same-sex marriage. Harper tried to tamp down those concerns on Thursday after being asked about the Globe and Mail's story.

"As I've said before when we first came to office, we had a vote on this issue, we have no intention of further reopening or opening this issue," he told reporters.

Sex columnist Dan Savage, who married his husband in Canada, reacted angrily on his blog to the news when it first came out, writing a post headlined "Canada's Conservative Government Turns My Husband Back Into My Boyfriend."

Savage noted that the "marriage licenses ... did not come with a disclaimer or an asterisk" and blamed Harper's administration for creating the confusion. Meanwhile, Nicholson blamed the liberals for writing a vague law.

Gay rights groups in the United States were doubtful that the interpretation of the law by the government's lawyer would stand.

"The position taken by one government lawyer in a divorce is not itself precedential," wrote several groups in a joint statement, including Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, and Freedom to Marry. "No court has accepted this view and there is no reason to believe that either Canada's courts or its Parliament would agree with this position, which no one has asserted before during the eight years that same-sex couples have had the freedom to marry in Canada."

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Lucas Grindley

Lucas Grindley is VP and Editorial Director for Here Media, which is parent company to The Advocate. His Twitter account is filled with politics, Philip Glass appreciation, and adorable photos of his twin toddler daughters.
Lucas Grindley is VP and Editorial Director for Here Media, which is parent company to The Advocate. His Twitter account is filled with politics, Philip Glass appreciation, and adorable photos of his twin toddler daughters.