LGBT Legal Groups: "No Reason to Suggest That Canadian Marriages ... Are in Jeopardy"

Posted by Chris Geidner
January 12, 2012 5:10 PM |

ca.gifResponding to a report today in The Globe and Mail that "a [Canadian] Department of Justice lawyer says [a same-sex couple's] marriage is not legal in Canada since they could not have lawfully wed in Florida or England, where the two partners reside," concern quickly spread that Americans who married in Canada and have returned to the United States could have the validity of their marriages challenged. Several LGBT legal organizations issued a statement this afternoon, however, assuring people that "No one's marriage has been invalidated or is likely to be invalidated."

The groups added: "There is no reason to suggest that Canadian marriages of same-sex couples are in jeopardy ...."

The statement -- issued by Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and Freedom to Marry -- notes:

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.

[UPDATE FRIDAY @ 2P: The Globe and Mail reports:

All same sex marriages performed in Canada are legal and the law will be changed to ensure that divorce is readily available to non-residents who were married in the country, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says. ...

The situation has been “completely unfair to those affected.” Mr. Nicholson said. “I want to make it clear that in our government's view, these marriages are valid.”

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.]

Read the full release below the jump.

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LGBT Legal Groups: Canadian Marriages of Same-Sex Couples Are Not in Jeopardy

(San Francisco, CA, January 12, 2012)—The following is a joint statement from Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and Freedom to Marry:

We write to respond to a news report from Canada that a lawyer in the current government has taken a position in a trial-level divorce proceeding that a same-sex couple’s marriage is not valid because the members of the couple were not Canada residents at the time that they married, and the law of their home jurisdiction did not permit them to marry at the time.

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.

Canada permits non-residents to marry and thousands of non-resident same-sex couples have married there since Canada first began recognizing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in 2003. Indeed, Canada’s Parliament codified the equal right to marry for same-sex couples in 2005.

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.


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