posted on Dec, 9 2004 @ 02:05 PM
The Canadian Supreme Court ruled today that the government can amend marriage laws to include same-sex couples, paving the way for legal unions
between gay couples. Gay marriage is already recognized in six provinces, and it is expected the national government will follow suit and legalize it
throughout the country. Currently only Belgium and the Netherlands permit legal same-sex unions.
In a landmark opinion, Canada's Supreme Court said Thursday the government can redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.
However, the court added that religious officials cannot be forced to perform unions against their beliefs, and the legislation to allow gay marriage
must still pass with a majority of the House of Commons.
Prime Minister Paul Martin said after the court's ruling that since judges in six Canadian provinces and one of its territories are already allowing
gay marriages, it should be approved throughout the country. He said his government would introduce a bill shortly after the Christmas holidays.
He noted that members of Parliament would be free to vote their conscience, but his Cabinet ministers would have to support the government's bill.
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A bill is expected to be introduced in the House of Commons after the first of the year, and it must pass to be made law. It already has support in
Usually perceived as a more liberal country than its neighbor to the south, many are not surprised that Canada could well become the third country to
legalize gay marriages. The Court declared that excluding same-sex couples from legal marriage rights to be unconstitutional, a stance held by those
in support of gay marriage worldwide.
Over 1,000 legal rights are afforded to married couples in the United States (and excluded from unmarried couples), including health insurance,
hospital visitation, inheritance rights, tax breaks and social security benefits.