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.”

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.

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