Dodging the Altar: Gay Men and Lesbians Aren't Exactly Rushing to Marry in Canada. Why Marriage Equality Isn't Such a Big Deal Up North

By Hays, Matthew | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), May 11, 2004 | Go to article overview

Dodging the Altar: Gay Men and Lesbians Aren't Exactly Rushing to Marry in Canada. Why Marriage Equality Isn't Such a Big Deal Up North


Hays, Matthew, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


In June 2003 same-sex marriages were legalized in the Canadian province of Ontario. Other provinces quickly followed suit: British Columbia in August and Quebec in March. Yet for all the fuss that's been made over Canada's pioneering foray into gay matrimony, an Advocate analysis shows that far fewer couples are taking the plunge than expected.

In fact, twice as many gay and lesbian couples were married in San Francisco during the three-day Valentine's Day weekend (2,340) than were married in an entire nine-month period in Toronto from June to February (1,143). In British Columbia--which includes Vancouver, with about 546,000 residents--a mere 214 same-sex marriages occurred in August. That number nose-dived to 85 in November and 70 in December.

Canada's same-sex wedding party appears to have fizzled. "I sense that there are simply a lot of other priorities for Canadian gays and lesbians," says Jude Tare, coordinator of the office for queer issues at the University of Toronto. "Many just don't see same-sex marriage as something to chase after. In Canada, over the past 20 years we've had more rights for gays and lesbians than Americans have. That makes it less of a burning issue here.

"It's an accomplishment, the legalization of same-sex marriage. But I think the desire for it in the community simply doesn't match that accomplishment."

Canadian residents enjoy universal health care coverage, so marriage doesn't necessarily mean access to better care. And in nine Canadian provinces, after one year of living together, a couple--straight or same-sex---are considered common-law spouses. This allows spouses to claim pension benefits and be recognized in insurance claims. In Quebec such recognition takes hold after three years of living together. In 2000, Canada passed a far-reaching law that granted same-sex common-law relationships the same legal footing as straight unions.

"We need to be careful what we wish for," says Montreal writer Eleanor Brown, who is known for her antimarriage op-eds that have appeared in some of Canada's largest newspapers. "Marriage and divorce rules are created with a very specific kind of relationship in mind, the traditional hetero-support paradigm, but our relationships aren't often structured like that."

Canada's influential gay press has 'also refused to endorse stone-sex marriage. Toronto's Xtra and sister magazines in Vancouver and Ottawa have covered same-sex marriage with indifference or hostility. Ken Popert, executive director of the Pink Triangle Press (publisher of the Xtra papers), says that figuring out how to cover the marriage issue was a huge problem fox' his editorial team. "We're still fighting about it now," he says, adding that he has "no interest" in same-sex marriage himself despite being in a relationship with another man for decades. "I would argue that we should be fighting to have the state out of our rights entirely.

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