Thursday, July 15, 2004

Yukon Territory Recognises Gay Marriage

As far as gay marriage goes, the Yukon isn't the first place you'd think of. After all, it's only a small territory in northern Canada, stretching from the northern border of British Columbia all the way to the Arctic Ocean. It's home to under thirty thousand people, from aboriginal peoples to crusty miners eking out so-called livings on the gold creeks of Dawson City. But the place is surprising.

On 14 July (love the symbolism) Yukon's CBC North reported that:

The Yukon Supreme Court says the Yukon must license a gay couple's wedding this weekend. Justice Peter McIntyre says the old definition of marriage is wrong and discriminatory. He's ordered the government to change its definition to say, the voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others. Following the ruling, Justice McIntyre got verbal promises form the Yukon government that it would comply by immediately issuing a wedding license for Stephen Dunbar and Rob Edge.

It's another step toward recognising the nation-wide right of Canadian gays and lesbians to marry. Already same-sex couples can tie the knot in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. According to to reports, the Yukon's premier Dennis Fentie welcomed the ruling after the judge rapped the Yukon government for making the "wrong decision":

Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie's praising the court decision. Fentie says it shows the courts can be used to extend freedoms to all Canadians. (Fentie) "I think it's great when due process can reach these conclusions and on behalf of any particular group of citizens in this country it shows that this country is very open to all views and I think that's a good thing and the Yukon's no different." The premier's not commenting on the judge's criticism of the territorial government for not issuing the marriage license in the first place.

In terms of population, gay marriage is already a legal reality in most of Canada. So while things teeter from bad to worse and maybe better in the U.S., Canada is slowly moving toward equality before the law. This means that it will be very difficult for the Federal government to even contemplate bringing in federal legislation limiting the right of same-sex couples to marry, either through an outright ban or through a civil union type arrangement such as the one that Labour has opted for in New Zealand.