VANCOUVER, Canada – The Ontario Court of Appeals recently ruled that the exclusion of gays and lesbians from legally marrying is unjustifiable. The decision has paved the way for same-sex couples to marry in Canada’s largest province.

The June 10 ruling said that arguments presented by government lawyers that marriage was only suitable for heterosexual couples was wrong. The judges stated that not allowing same-sex marriages is equal to saying that gays and lesbians are inferior and unable to have loving relationships and that government lawyers could only speculate why excluding same-sex couples from marrying was a valid social objective. “Same-sex couples are capable of forming long lasting, loving and intimate relationships. A law that prohibits same-sex couples from marrying does not accord with the needs, capacities and circumstances of same-sex couples,” wrote judges Roy McMurty, James MacPherson and Eileen Gillese.

The decision also refuted the argument that procreation is a pillar of marriage that excludes same-sex couples. “Same-sex couples can choose to have children through adoption, surrogacy and donor insemination. Importantly, procreation and child-rearing are not the only purposes of marriage, or the only reason why couples choose to marry.”

The Ontario Court – whose ruling is binding – ordered the Ontario provincial government and municipal governments to issue licenses to gay couples who want to marry. So far, municipalities have given dozens of marriage licenses to gay couples.

Gilles Marchildon, executive director of the gay advocacy group Egale, welcomed the court ruling. “Across the country, there is jubilation among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people and our allies defending human rights for all. The decision confirms something we knew all along: Same-sex love and our relationships are just as valid and deserving of recognition as those of our heterosexual counterparts.”

Prime Minister Jean Chretien declared on June 18 that the federal government will not appeal the Ontario court decision and will change the federal definition of marriage to include gays and lesbians. Nine provinces (out of Canada’s ten), including Ontario, say that they will accept the marriage of same -sex couples if the federal government alters the country’s definition of marriage.

In recent years, Canadian gays and lesbians have won important victories. In British Columbia and Quebec, gay couples can adopt children and are protected against discrimination in the work force. Quebec recognizes same-sex couples, who can register as civil unions. The Canadian military no longer expels soldiers and officers who are openly gay or lesbian and provides benefits to same-sex couples.

In 1999, the federal government started supplying survivor benefits to same-sex couples. In 2000, they amended 68 federal statutes to give common law relationships – both opposite sex and same sex – the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual married couples under federal law. In 2001, they also passed an immigration law allowing gays and lesbians to sponsor same-sex partners who live outside the country.

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