British Columbia allows same-sex marriages

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

TORONTO -- British Columbia became the second Canadian province to allow same-sex marriage under a court ruling Tuesday, and two men were wed shortly afterward in Vancouver.

The decision by the province's Court of Appeal further increased pressure on the Canadian government to follow through with plans to rewrite federal law that defines marriage as between man and woman.

An Ontario court issued a similar ruling last month, leading to more than 250 same-sex couples obtaining licenses to marry in Toronto.

British Columbia's Appeal Court earlier ruled in favor of same-sex marriages, but gave the federal government a year to draft a new law redefining marriage.

Homosexual rights groups then asked the court to reconsider the one-year delay after the Ontario ruling.

The three-member B.C. Appeal Court panel said Tuesday it was unaware of any opposition to lifting the one-year delay.

"It is also apparent that any further delay in implementing the remedies will result in an unequal application of the law between Ontario and British Columbia," the decision said.

On Monday, religious and family groups opposed to same-sex marriage said they will ask Canada's Supreme Court to allow them to appeal the Ontario court ruling that legalized homosexual weddings.

Angered by the government's plan to let the Ontario ruling stand and instead propose a new law permitting same-sex marriage, the groups said they would try to intervene.

"The federal government has abdicated its leadership role," Derek Rogusky of Focus on the Family, a conservative lobby group, told a news conference. "This matter has far-reaching consequences nationwide, and the nation's highest court should be permitted to consider the fundamental issues."

Prime Minister Jean Chretien has said his government is drafting a new law that would legalize same-sex marriages while allowing churches to decide what ceremonies they sanctify.

Focus on the Family and other conservative family groups were joined by the Interfaith Coalition on Marriage, a collection of Roman Catholic, evangelical Protestant and Islamic organizations, in planning to seek intervener status in the case.

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