VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Another victory for equal rights was won in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan Nov. 5 when a judge ordered the government to legalize same-sex marriage.

Justice Donna Wilson of the Court of Queen’s Bench declared marriage to be the “lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.” Refusing a marriage license to gay and lesbian couples would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, she said. Both the provincial and federal governments did not oppose the judge’s ruling. Five same- sex couples had launched the legal challenge.

Laurie Arron, director of EGALE, Canada’s gay advocacy group, welcomed the court ruling. “Eighty-five percent of Canada’s population now enjoys full marriage equality. Equal marriage diminishes no one. Canada is being strengthened by the inclusion of these loving, committed couples.”

Saskatchewan becomes the seventh Canadian province to allow same-sex marriage. Alberta, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and the Northwest Territories are the only remaining provinces that retain discriminatory marriage laws.

Activists believe that governments will not oppose planned court challenges in these provinces and territories, with the exception of Alberta, which has passed legislation defining marriage as between a man and woman. Two gay couples last week filed a court action in Newfoundland, asserting that the province’s ban on same-sex marriage violates their constitutional rights.

In related news, the New York State and Local Retirement System announced that it will treat American gay and lesbian couples married in Canada the same as opposite sex couples in respect to retirement benefits and obligations. The decision was communicated in a letter dated Oct. 8 from the state comptroller to Mark Daigneault, a state employee. He asked in September how getting married in Canada would affect retirement benefits for him, his same-sex partner and their two children.

The comptroller told Daigneault, “Based on current law, the Retirement System will recognize a same-sex Canadian marriage in the same manner as an opposite-sex marriage, under the principle of comity. That principle has been legal practice pursuant to New York Court of Appeals rulings for many years.”

The author can be reached at tpelzer@shaw.ca.

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