It has been four years since same-sex marriage was made legal across Canada, and six years since it was legalized in Ontario and British Columbia. The battle to pass Bill C-38 was a triumph for Canada’s gay population, but how many people are actually tying the knot? And for those who have, how has legal status impacted their lives?
Chris Higgins, 54, married her partner Chris Phibbs, 50, at a Gay Pride Eve party they threw at their Toronto home in 2005.
“I needed to confirm our relationship officially with my friends and family,” she says. The couple’s family includes a son they adopted in 1995.
“All steps taken in the interest of equality are important. Gay marriage cemented the right to be equal in the eyes of the law in all aspects of our lives,” she notes.
For some people the right to marry is a partial victory. Clayton Chrusch, 33, a computer programmer, wed Michael Reid, 32, a university astronomy instructor, at a B&B in Dundas, Ont., in October 2003. Shortly after the wedding, they moved to Hawaii where Reid had been offered a job.
Their marriage wasn’t recognized in the United States, though, and Chrusch’s status was that of a tourist with no health care or job prospects. In 18 months they were back in Canada.
“Same-sex marriage in Canada is no guarantee that gay people can live their lives without unjust restrictions,” says Chrusch.
The 2006 census counted 7,500 same-sex married couples. However, there was concern about the wording on the form that requested same-sex couples mark an “other” box rather than the “married” box.
Egale Canada, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered rights, stated many of its members had chosen not to complete the census in protest.
Canadians for Equal Marriage, a now defunct advocacy organization, reported there had been 12,438 same-sex marriage licences issued in Canada between 2003-2005, based on its own research of municipal records.
Toronto’s city hall confirmed 5,603 same-sex marriage licences have been issued since 2003. Some of those went to non-residents.
Matthew Brozyna of Hudson Nuptials, a same-sex wedding planning company in Toronto, says, “Most of our clientele is American or from overseas. They want to get married where it is legal, even though it doesn’t often transfer to where they live.”