Canada to fix same-sex divorce problem


Sometimes after the wedding things aren’t so sweet. Now Canada’s making it easier for non-resident same-sex couples to divorce. Photo: afroswede, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Same-sex marriage is pretty much settled in law and public opinion in Canada. In general, it’s been legal across the country and the Canadian military since 2005 – even earlier in some provinces.

There are odd twists to this evolving legal landscape though. Thousands of same-sex couples from other countries came to Canada to get married before that choice was available where they lived. While it’s difficult to find exact current numbers some estimates put that figure at around 5,000 non-residents, or 2,500 couples.

As is the case for opposite-sex marriages, not all relationships work out. Canadian law turned out to be problematic if non-resident couples wanted a divorce. Getting a divorce required a one year residency. Obviously, that requirement could be virtually impossible to meet for those who normally live elsewhere.

Well, that particular issue is very close to being resolved. Legislation creating a court process for non-resident same-sex divorce (minus the residency requirement) recently passed final reading and is now awaiting Royal Assent. (Royal Assent is a necessary step in becoming law, but it’s a symbolic formality. The crown makes a point of staying out of politics.)

The remedial measure was introduced n Feb 2012 and goes by this name: Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Civil Marriage Act (short title: the Civil Marriage of Non-residents Act).

According to this 6/26 CBC article dispute about the bill has largely been procedural, or along the lines of standard partisan bickering:

Instead of following the normal process for a bill where it is debated and voted on at various stages and studied by MPs on a committee, C-32 was declared passed at all stages in the Commons and it moved on to the Senate where it was also dealt with quickly. It landed in the Senate Wednesday and was passed Friday.

But until last week the bill had languished for more than 15 months and when Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s office was asked why, his press secretary said it was the NDP’s fault.

Some critics complained the matter was taking too long, as reported by the Lawyer’s Weekly.

Foot-dragging on a government bill that would enable foreign-domiciled same-sex spouses who married in Canada to divorce here is denying “access to justice” to gays and lesbians, says the Canadian Bar Association (CBA).

Partisan finger pointing about delays or imperfections in proposed legislation is fairly standard. The interesting distinction here is the difference between the U.S. and Canada regarding same-sex marriage. In Canada all major political parties – including the ruling Conservative Party – support same-sex marriage and consider that debate closed.

According to this CNN “by the numbers” summary there are fourteen countries:

… where same-sex marriage is legal in the entire country. They are: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Uruguay.

Is the experience of other countries on same-sex marriage of value to the U.S. debate?

Or is the issue specific to each nation’s political/cultural landscape?

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1 Comment on “Canada to fix same-sex divorce problem”

  1. Pete Klein says:

    Problems, problems, problems.
    All these problems could be solved if we would only allow everyone to marry whomever they chose but never get a divorce.
    Oh, well, such is life – a mess.
    By the way, let’s remember that not everyone wants to get married, be they straight or gay.

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