Update: Canadian Foreign Marriages Safe!

LGBTQIA Legal groups have clarified recent news reports regarding the legality of thousands same gender marriages performed in Canada. The reports sent shock waves on the blogosphere and around the world yesterday when media outlets, including this one, picked up an article by a Canadian newspaper that called the legal status of the marriages into question.

The situation is not, however, as dire as first reported. Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and Freedom to Marry issued a joint press release yesterday afternoon,”No one’s marriage has been invalidated or is likely to be invalidated. The position taken by one government lawyer in a divorce is not itself precedential.  No court has accepted this view and there is no reason to believe that either Canada’s courts or its Parliament would agree with this position, which no one has asserted before during the eight years that same-sex couples have had the freedom to marry in Canada.”

Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson told the Globe and Daily news Friday morning that,”All same-sex marriages performed in Canada are legal, but the law will be changed to ensure that divorce is readily available to non-residents who were married in the country.”

“The announcement appears to clear up a continuing source of controversy that erupted Thursday when The Globe and Mail reported a divorce case in Toronto where the Justice Department took the position that a same-sex marriage involving non-residents is not legal unless their home country recognizes it as such,” the paper reports.

The U.S. groups remind LGBTQIA couples,”The message for same-sex couples married in Canada remains the same as it is for same-sex couples validly married here in the United States: take every precaution you can to protect your relationship with legal documents such as powers of attorney and adoptions, as you may travel to jurisdictions that don’t respect your legal relationship. There is no reason to suggest that Canadian marriages of same-sex couples are in jeopardy, or to advocate that people try to marry again elsewhere, as that could cause these couples unnecessary complications, anxiety, and expense.”

According to the Globe and Mail, “the case at the centre of the controversy was launched by a lesbian couple seeking a divorce. Wed in Toronto in 2005, the couple was told they could not divorce because they were never really married. A Department of Justice lawyer argued their marriage is not legal in Canada since they could not have lawfully wed in Florida or England, where the two partners reside.”

“The Civil Marriage Act will be changed to ensure that any marriages performed in Canada that aren’t recognized in the couple’s home jurisdiction will be recognized in Canada nonetheless,” said Nicholson.

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