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2 Gay Men Are Wed in Canada After Ruling

Court removes gender from the definition of marriage. Government has no objections so far.

June 11, 2003|From Times Wire Services

TORONTO — Two Toronto men were wed Tuesday in North America's first legal gay marriage after an Ontario appeals court ruled that the heterosexual definition of matrimony was unconstitutional.

The court also ordered the city clerk to issue marriage licenses to the homosexual couples involved in the case. Toronto lawyer Michael Leshner and his partner of 22 years, Michael Stark, were the first to tie the knot. They were married in a civil ceremony attended by Leshner's 90-year-old mother and about 50 friends and observers, most of them from the news media.

"We're blissfully happy," Leshner said.

The ruling may still be challenged by the Canadian government. But Justice John Hamilton, who conducted the ceremony, said until that happens the marriage is legal.

"It's the law. They're married now. If the Crown appeals and they win, well, we'll have to see what that holds. But right now, they're married," he said.

The Ontario Provincial Court decision also retroactively recognized two gay wedding ceremonies that took place in Toronto in 2001, ordering the province to register those marriages.

The court redefined the common-law definition of marriage as "the voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others." In so doing, it substituted "two persons" for "one man and one woman."

Canada's federal government, which is responsible for the marriage law, was putting up no immediate roadblocks.

"I think it's time for us to recognize that same-sex marriages are part of our societal norm," Deputy Prime Minister John Manley said in Ottawa. Justice Minister Martin Cauchon said he would make a decision on an appeal by today.

Vermont and Quebec have allowed gay civil unions, but not full marriage.

The Canadian decision drew an angry response from conservative groups.

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