Canadian PM correcting divorce law to allow recognition of all marriages

The Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is moving quickly to change Canadian divorce law in order to allow recognition of all same-sex marriages. The action is in response to a Justice Department attorney in Toronto interfering in the divorce of an American couple that was married in Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

This contrasts sharply with the action of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott who intervened in divorce cases in Dallas and Austin.

In the Dallas case, a couple that lived and married in Massachusetts moved to Dallas and then tried to divorce. Abbott intervened saying that the divorce could not be granted because the marriage wasn’t valid.

In the Canadian case, the attorney argued that the divorce could not be granted because Canadian divorce law requires residency.

The Harper government threatened to invalidate all same-sex marriages of couples that lived where same-sex marriage wasn’t recognized.

What Harper and Abbott have in common is a disdain for same-sex marriage. Both interfered in simple divorce proceedings. What is different is the outcome.

While Abbott prefers that a same-sex couple remain married to show just how much they’re not married and demonstrate how they’re destroying traditional marriage as it’s existed since Biblical times, Harper decided to change divorce laws to make it easier for couples to split.

Harper had fewer options. While public opinion and court opinions are moving away from Abbott’s position, Harper has a clear ruling from the Canadian Supreme Court. In Canada, marriage equality has been ruled a right.

Julie Vaux, press secretary to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, sent a message to Dallas Voice that the minister could not comment on an ongoing divorce proceeding, however, “I want to be very clear that our government has no intention of reopening the debate on the definition of marriage. The case reported in the media involves the fact that, under current law, some marriages performed in Canada could not be dissolved in Canada.”

She places the blame on the previous Liberal government and said, “This is a legislative gap left by the Liberal government of the day when the law was changed in 2005. The confusion and pain resulting from this gap is completely unfair to those who are affected.”

But her main point is that all marriages performed in Canada will remain valid:

I want to make it very clear that, in our government’s view, these marriages should be valid. 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 will apply to all marriages performed in Canada. We have been clear that we have no desire to reopen this issue – both myself and the Prime Minister consider this debate to be closed.

—  David Taffet

Canadian justice department moves to invalidate same-sex marriages for U.S. citizens

An attorney in the Canadian justice department has moved to invalidate marriages performed in Canada for same-sex couples that live in places that do not recognize same-sex marriages. The government attorney made the argument in a divorce case filed in Toronto by a lesbian couple — one from Florida and one from England.

After the controversy gained international attention today, The Toronto Globe and Mail quoted a member of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government as saying they will consider amending the law to allow foreign couples who married in Canada to divorce in the country.

Lambda Legal issued a statement that said that Canadian marriages of same-sex couples are not in jeopardy. They wrote:

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.

The country’s Justice Department maintained the position, however, that thousands of foreign couples who married in Canada are not married.

So I decided to play their nasty little game and I called the Canadian Consulate in Dallas, which could not answer my questions. I told them my story would center on the fate of the marriage of two couples in my office who were married in Canada. They forwarded my request to an information office. I’m waiting to hear from them.

Here’s what I want to know:

How will the affected couples be notified? One of the Dallas Voice couples was married in Toronto in 2003 and moved years ago. The marriage bureau there has no way of notifying them. Certainly this marriage cannot be invalidated without proper notification.

Will license fees be refunded? Certainly Canadian municipalities don’t want to be charged with fraudulently accepting fees for invalid licenses.

Will all travel expenses be refunded? Beyond being charged with fraudulently issuing these licenses, Canada has enjoyed a windfall of tourism. But if those trips were based on fraudulent promises, will gay and lesbian couples have to sue to be refunded for all travel expenses related to the scam the Canadian government perpetrated on American couples?

Further questions about your Canadian marriage can be answered by a local Canadian consulate or the embassy in Washington which can be found here. They’re anxiously awaiting your call.

—  David Taffet