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Canada to change marriage law to legally recognize all non-resident same-sex marriages

Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson [official profile], amid a growing controversy over a previous declaration [JURIST report] that non-resident same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive] performed in Canada are not legal unless recognized by the participants' home countries, indicated Friday that the Canadian government considers all same-sex marriages performed in Canada to be legal, and that the Civil Marriage Act [text] will be altered to reflect the government's position. The controversy came to light when a non-resident lesbian couple who were wed in Toronto filed for divorce. They were told that they were not able to divorce because they were never legally married. Nicholson claimed the controversy over the law was due to a gap [Globe and Mail report] in the Civil Marriage Act which he says will be remedied to resolve the issue. According to Nicholson, the Act will be changed so that all marriages performed in Canada will be legally recognized in the country [Reuters report]. Nicholson also indicated that the government has no intention of reopening the debate on the definition of marriage. An estimated 5,000 foreign same-sex weddings have been performed in Canada since 2003, when the first Canadian provinces began allowing same-sex marriage.

Although same-sex marriage is recognized across Canada, various provinces have interpreted rights in different ways. In October, a judge for the Queen's Court Bench of Alberta [official website] granted custody [JURIST report] of a child to a non-biological father who was an ex-partner of the biological father. In January, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeals [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that refusal by provincial marriage commissioners to marry same-sex couples is unconstitutional and thereby invalidated a proposed amendment to Saskatchewan's Marriage Act of 1995 that would have allowed the commissioners to refuse to marry same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs. Canada legalized same-sex [JURIST report] marriage in 2005 with the passage of the Civil Marriage Act.

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