HALIFAX - Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the federal government has no intention of reopening the debate on same-sex marriage.
Harper's comments come after the Globe and Mail reported Thursday that his government has served notice that same-sex couples who came to Canada since 2004 to get married are not legally wed.
The newspaper cited a document filed in a Toronto test case recently launched by a lesbian couple seeking a divorce.
Harper says he is unaware of the details of the case, but he does not want to reopen the debate on same-sex marriage.
“We have no intention further of opening or reopening this issue,” Harper said in Halifax, where he made a shipbuilding announcement.
“This, I gather, is a case before the courts where Canadian lawyers have taken particular positions based on the law. But I will be asking officials to provide me more details with this particular case.”
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The NDP's Olivia Chow said Harper was sending out confusing messages about the government's intentions, calling the about-face “hugely embarrassing.”
“You can't say that you support gay marriage and then have lawyers say that you don't in court,” Chow said at a news conference at her Toronto office.
“It's a very backwards way, and I think it will disappoint a lot of Canadians.”
Chow said if the flip-flop was truly a misunderstanding, the prime minister can easily resolve the matter by instructing the government's lawyer in the divorce case to use a different argument.
A win for the government under the current premise that a same-sex marriage performed in Canada is not valid if the couple doesn't live here, she added, would mean that the 15,000 non-residents who were married in Canada are not legally wed.
“I think Mr. Harper is hiding behind the law and using a backdoor way to say to these loving couples: 'Sorry, we no longer recognize your marriage',” Chow said.