Thousands of LGBT couples across the world awoke this morning to learn that they are no longer married.
A Department of Justice lawyer under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party of Canada government has nullified all same-sex marriages performed in Canada in which the couples’ native country does not permit gays and lesbians to marry.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. 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.
The two women – professionals in the their early 30s – cannot be identified under a court order. But Martha McCarthy, a prominent Toronto lawyer who represents them, said the government’s about-face is astonishing.
“It is scandalous,” she said in an interview. “It is offensive to their dignity and human rights to suggest they weren’t married or that they have something that is a nullity.”
Ms. McCarthy, who played an instrumental role in the fight to legalize same-sex marriage, said Ontario has tried to duck the volatile test case by deferring to the federal government.
“It is appalling and outrageous that two levels of government would be taking this position without ever having raised it before, telling anybody it was an issue or doing anything pro-active about it,” she said. “All the while, they were handing out licences to perform marriages across the country to non-resident people.”
Newspapers across the world are covered in headlines about this savage and unprecedented attack on LGBT people.
Dan Savage, who wed his husband (now boyfriend) in Vancouver in 2005, weighs in:There will be lawsuits, time and money will be wasted, oceans of ink and pixels will be spilled, before this issue—the full civil equality of gays and lesbians—winds up before the Supreme Court of Canada. I’m confident that justice will prevail—God bless the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms—but the decision to reopen this issue is going to be one massive distraction for the Canadian government.
Gays and lesbians inside and outside of Canada are going to make sure of it.
Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go wake up my husband and tell him we got divorced last night.
Critics of this attack on LGBT people have noted both online and off that if gay marriages are now without legal standing in Canada if the couple’s homeland forbids them, are Middle Eastern women living in Canada now stripped of their rights to vote, drive a car, or even show their hair? Is being gay now punishable by death in Canada if you’re from Uganda? Is blogging or criticizing your government now illegal for Egyptians living in Canada?
We can hardly believe we are reporting this. Expect massive coverage in the coming days.
How would you feel to wake up divorced by a foreign government after years of marriage?
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