On June 10, 2003, in the decision of Halpern v. Canada, the Ontario Court of Appeal found that the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage rights was a violation of equality rights, guaranteed under section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Previously, marriage was recognized as between a man and a woman. Thus, Ontario effectively became the first province in Canada to legalize same-sex marriage.
On July 20, 2005, the nation-wide Civil Marriages Act was enacted into Legislature. Section 2 of the Civil Marriages Act recognizes marriage as “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others,” effectively legitimizing same-sex marriage.
Before a union by civil marriage, a marriage licence must be obtained. A marriage licence must be applied for and once obtained is valid for 90 days from the date it was issued. Following marriage, the official who performed the marriage must send a completed and signed marriage license to Service Ontario. The married parties can then order a marriage certificate which is the legal record of marriage which outlines the date, place of marriage, and names of the parties who were married.
On September 13, 2004, in the decision of M.M. v. J.H., the Divorce Act was declared unconstitutional for excluding same-sex marriages and a lesbian couple were the first same-sex couple to be granted a divorce. Previously, the Divorce Act defined spouse as “a man or woman who are married to each other.” Following M.M. v. J.H., the Divorce Act was amended in 2005 to define spouse as “two persons who are married to each other.” This change effectively legalized divorce for same-sex couples.
Currently, couples in Canada enjoy the freedom to legally marry and legally divorce regardless of sex.