Yesterday the news that gay marriages performed in Canada to couples who don’t live here may not be valid, swept the internet news sites and the blogosphere alike. As a Canadian and a supporter of gay marriage, the news made me a little sick to my stomach. This was the first article I saw on the story. In the last paragraph, the article quotes family law attorney Andrew Feldstein, of Toronto, as saying, “Where the Harper government should have approached this is: you are not a resident of Canada, you are not a taxpayer in Canada, why should we be using the court’s time, money, resources, taxpayers dollars for people who don’t live in Canada?”
My response to this comment is, it’s not taxpayers who pay for divorce proceedings, it’s the couple in question. Is Canada now so allergic to money that we will decline it just because it comes from another country… or is this a gay issue? Is gay money somehow not worth as much as straight money? And what about all the tourist dollars we get from the gay couples from all over the world who come here to get married, some with an entire wedding party in tow? Are we, as a country really in a position, in this economy to turn away revenue? I am purposefully responding to this topic from a financial view-point because that’s the only thing that lawyers and politicians seem to respect and understand. Financially, this just doesn’t make sense.
What about Canada’s reputation as a tolerant country? We are a country that famously touts our multicultural status as something to be proud of… and it is. We are ahead of the curve when it comes to Human Rights… but Gay Rights ARE Human Rights.
One month ago, almost to the day, former Prime Minister, Jean Chretien posted a letter to the Liberal party website. In it he said, “The Conservatives already ended gun control and Kyoto. Next may be a woman’s right to choose, or gay marriage. Then might come capital punishment. And one by one, the values we cherish as Canadians will be gone.” Did he know something the rest of us didn’t? Of course the liberals are jumping all over this hot button issue. Interim liberal leader Bob Rae was quoted as saying. “It’s quite clear that we have enabled and allowed people to come to Canada to marry in Montreal, in Toronto and everywhere in the country. People came from the U.S. and elsewhere and that means very clearly they have the right to marry and have the right to divorce,” and he’s right.
Just one day later, the Federal Government has decided to change the law.
“We want to make it very clear that in our government’s view, these marriages should be valid,” a senior government official said on Friday. “That’s why 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.”
This is fantastic news and I’m sure it will be implemented quickly so as to nip this scandal in the bud.
I must admit I’m a little confused by something. Using the United States as an example, what about gay couples who marry in Vermont, but live in Florida? Their marriage isn’t recognized in the state they live in, so if one partner is in the hospital, for example, the other isn’t considered a family member, regardless of the marriage licence issued by Vermont. If this hypothetical couple wants to divorce, doesn’t the same problem rear its ugly head? Are they only married in Vermont and the other 5 states that allow gay marriage, but not married in the other 44 states that don’t?
It’s questions like these that I hope the GLBTQIA community south of the border is asking itself. I sincerely hope that this issue spurs more activism in the United States and around the world.