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BC Government Supports Same Sex Marriage
Responds to Victoria couple's application for marriage license

THE government of British Columbia has come out in support of same sex marriages.

Previous News
Canadian Same Sex Marriage:  The battle begins.
Canada's Gay Lobby Set to Sue for Marriage Rights
Toronto Lawyer Battles City Hall To Marry
In response to an application for a marriage license on Friday by Victoria couple Cynthia Callahan and Judy Lightwater, BC Attorney General Andrew Petter issued a statement saying:  "In a modern society there is no justification for denying same sex couples the same option to form marital bonds as are afforded to opposite sex couples.

"This is a question of dignity and fundamental human rights for a number of Canadians, and an issue of fairness for all," the New Democratic Party minister added.

Mr. Petter urged the federal government, in whose jurisdiction the legal definition of marriage resides, to do the right thing.

"While it is possible to leave the issue of same sex marriages to be determined through years of litigation, it would be far better in my view for the federal government to resolve the matter by clarifying its legislation and offering same sex couples the same opportunity to marry as is available to heterosexual couples," said the province's chief lawyer.

"Rather than waiting for the courts to determine this issue, the federal government should change the federal law to allow for equality for all couples who are in a committed relationship," he declared.

The remarks represent the first time a government in Canada has supported the inclusion of marriage in gay and lesbian rights.  Continuing court challenges under the constitution's Charter of Rights and Freedoms have resulted in discriminatory laws being struck down by the Supreme Court.  Such rulings include the landmark 1999 case where the high court held that same sex relationships were to have the same rights and obligations as opposite sex common law ones.

The right to marry is 'on deck' with Canadian activists, however, and the Victoria application for a license is the third in a series of attempts to bring the question to the courts.

The move by the Executive Director of the BC Vital Statistics Office, whose body issues marriage licenses, to have the application reviewed by the Ministry of the Attorney General rather than simply rejecting it, mirrors a similar decision made by the City of Toronto last week.  Officials there referred the issue to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

The national rights / lobby group Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE) welcomed the BC government's announcement.

"We are delighted that British Columbia is considering the possibility of issuing a marriage license," said legal counsel Cynthia Petersen in a statement.

Applicant Cynthia Callahan, who is a director for BC with the organization, received the news with emotion.  "When I heard Andrew Petter's speech, I cried," she said in a statement.  "It's so wonderful to hear that our government is behind us ... support for our right to marry is consistent with the long-time commitment of the BC government to equality for gays and lesbians.

"Judy and I want to be married because we are deeply committed to sharing the rest of our lives together, just like most other couples who choose to marry," Ms. Callahan had stated on her way to applying for the license.

"The next two months leading up to our wedding is a busy, exciting time of deciding all the details of invitations and rings and the ceremony itself.  But for us, the normally happy event of applying for our marriage license will be a painful denial of legitimacy, simply because we are the same sex.  It's not right, and it's time for the law to be changed," she had declared.