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'An Historic Day for Equality Rights in Canada'

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(Parliament Hill):- AT the stroke of noon today the government of Canada changed the way gay couples in this country can view themselves and be viewed by others forever.

Introducing a bill in the House of Commons which recognizes gay couples as common-law ones, the government of Canada sanctioned same sex relationships and set out to amend 68 federal laws spanning 20 departments and agencies in order to eliminate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in federal dealings with couples.

From income tax to residency at 24 Sussex Drive if your lover is elected Prime Minister, gay and lesbian relationships will be recognized by the federal government as having legal status if the bill passes.

"This is a bill that EGALE welcomes," declared John Fisher, Executive Director of that national lobby organization in a press conference this afternoon, beaming.  "It sends a clear message that the era of discrimination is reaching an end.  It is something in which all Canadians can have pride."

"Lesbian and gay [couples] can come together under the law equally [now]," stated Bob Gallagher of the Foundation for Equal Families.

"[With this] we've gone further than the provinces, including Quebec," announced Nicole Laviolette of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law.

The definition will be set as "one year cohabiting with conjugal relations."  No method of verifying "conjugal" was put forth, though, and this was something the Reform Party critic cited as a weakness in the bill.  He was unable to explain, however, how this was not presently a weakness with opposite sex common-law partners.

No documentation or partnership registry is planned.

The government stayed far, far away from changing the definitions of either spouse or marriage
Although this means that gay couples can, for example, run both versions of their income tax returns and then submit the better one, unanswered questions loomed regarding the ability of third parties to verify the relationship on the spot should this be required.  And the bill, if enacted, will effect only those things under federal jurisdiction - meaning situations like admission to your partner's hospital room continues to fall to the laws of the provinces.

The government stayed far, far away from changing the definitions of either spouse or marriage, and this led to a relatively low level of opposition from other parties today.  They were still on the HRDC audit bandwagon.

Although extremely happy with the bill, rights groups were sure to point out that they will continue to pursue the legal marriage issue for gay couples and stay on the bill to ensure its passage.  "That is for another day," said Mr. Gallagher, obviously not prepared to throw the baby out with the bath water on this.

Further reports from on both the technical elements of the bill and what it will mean in the day-to-day are forthcoming.'s Omnibus Bill Expert Panel received a copy of it this afternoon and will be reporting back in the days to come.  More detailed coverage of today's events will be online tomorrow.