2000s: Separate Equality – Debating “Marriage”

Back1990s                                                                                              Equality TodayForward

The new millennium began with debates surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage.

Civil Marriage v. Registered Partnerships
One of the problems with allowing same-sex couples legal marriage was the definition of marriage itself. Gays and lesbians had been excluded from the institution of marriage because marriage had been defined as a union between a man and a woman. But, because marriage had not included same-sex couples in the past, did not explain why it couldn’t be the case. 

The debates brought identified three options:

  1. Maintain the status quo by legislting the ban on same-sex civil marraige
  2. Legislating opposite sex marriages by adding a civil registry that would provide both same-sex and opposite sex couples with the possibility of entering into a  relationship that is called something other than “marriage” with rights obligations equal to civil marriage
  3. Leave marriage to the religions

Under Canadian human rights law, “separate but equal” institutions like domestic partnerships are not truly equal.   The only reason to use a word other than “marriage” is to exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage. Registration schemes, instead of allowing same-sex couples to marry, would create a second-class category of relationship.  Same-sex couples would still be excluded from the primary institution for celebrating relationships.  

In 2005 Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act, ensured the equality of marriage for same-sex couples. Some of the benefits that were extended to same-sex couples in marriage are listed below. While many of these were available as a part of common-law relationships, they varied from province to province. 

  • bereavement leave for the death of a spouse’s family member
  • partners in public sector allowed pension benefits
  • partners can make medical decisions for incapacitated partners
  • adopt the child of same-sex partner
  • can inherit estate if partner dies without a will
  • treated the same as opposite-sex couples with regards to spousal support
  • matrimonial property division and inheritance
  • inheritance
  • insurance and pension benefits
  • allowed spousal support if marriage ends
  • presumption of parental rights

Back1990s                                                                                              Equality TodayForward


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