Gays who wed in Canada 'not married'

2012-01-13 10:11
Ottawa - Thousands of foreign gay couples who wed in Canada are not legally married, a government lawyer argued in a case involving two lesbians seeking a divorce, according to court documents obtained on Thursday.

The two women, one from Florida and the other from Britain, both in their early thirties, wed in Toronto in 2005.

But Department of Justice lawyer Sean Gaudet said in a documented response to their application that they cannot be granted a divorce because they were not married in the first place.

"Neither party had the legal capacity to marry a person of the same sex under the laws of their respective domicile - Florida and the United Kingdom," he said. "As a result, their marriage is not legally valid under Canadian law."

Also, he said, married couples are required to live in Canada for at least one year to qualify for a divorce.

The case, which is to be decided next month by an Ontario Superior Court judge, could affect more than 5 000 couples from the United States and other countries who in the past six years have flocked to Canada to marry.

A 2004 court ruling effectively legalised same-sex marriage in Canada on the basis that denying gay couples the right to marry was discriminatory. A year later Ottawa passed a bill enshrining it in law.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's party in its first year in office in 2006 proposed a ban on gay nuptials but the resolution to "restore the traditional definition of marriage" was rejected by lawmakers.

Harper said on Thursday that his administration would not revisit gay marriage laws. "We have no intention of further reopening this issue," he said.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson added later that he would look at "options to clarify the law so that such marriages performed in Canada can be undone in Canada".

Read more on:    canada  |  gay rights

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