The Civil Marriage Act (full title: An Act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes) (the Act) was legislation legalizing same-sex marriage across Canada. At the time the bill became law, same-sex marriage had already been legalized by court decisions in all Canadian provinces except Alberta and Prince Edward Island, as well as in the territories of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
It was introduced as Bill C-38 in the first session of the 38th Parliament of Canada on February 1, 2005. It passed the House of Commons on June 28, 2005, and the Senate on July 19, 2005. The Act became law when it received Royal Assent on July 20, 2005.
As with all federal legislation in Canada, the Act is written in both French and English, with equal force. The French title is Loi sur le mariage civil, or in full, Loi concernant certaines conditions de fond du mariage civil.
|Civil Marriage Act|
|An Act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes|
|Citation||S.C. 2005, c. 33|
|Enacted by||House of Commons of Canada|
|Enacted by||Senate of Canada|
|Assented to||21 July 2005|
|Commenced||21 July 2005|
|Bill introduced in the House of Commons of Canada||Bill C-38, 38th Parliament, 1st Session|
|Introduced by||Irwin Cotler, Minister of Justice|
|First reading||1 February 2005|
|Second reading||4 May 2005|
|Third reading||28 June 2005|
|Committee report||16 June 2005|
|Bill introduced in the Senate of Canada||Bill C-38|
|First reading||29 June 2005|
|Second reading||6 July 2005|
|Third reading||19 July 2005|
|Committee report||18 July 2005|
|Status: Current legislation|
This is the Act's official legislative summary:
The short title of the act (Civil Marriage Act) is defined in Section 1. Sections 2 through 4 form the substance of the Act, and were the key points of contention during its debate in the House of Commons and the Senate. Section 3.1 was added with an amendment during the committee stage and was subsequently adopted by the House of Commons.
The remaining sections are "consequential amendments" that simply adjust the wording of existing acts to conform to this one.
As a government bill, C-38 represented the official position of Paul Martin's Liberal government and the cabinet were thus bound to vote in its favour. Liberal backbenchers and members of the Conservative Party and Bloc Québécois had a free vote. In accordance with its party policy on LGBT rights, the New Democratic Party (NDP) whipped its members in favour. Bev Desjarlais defied the whip and was removed from her critic position. (She was not nominated for the next election by her riding association, and subsequently chose to sit as an independent for the remainder of the session.) Conservatives tended to vote against the Act, while Bloquistes tended to vote in favour. At least two cabinet ministers stepped down to vote against the bill. Joe Comuzzi resigned just hours before the final vote on the Act, and Martin lamented his leaving. As expected, Comuzzi voted against the Act.
The composition of Parliament was such that the prevailing opinion among political commentators indicated the bill would likely pass the House (see a detailed analysis at members of the 38th Canadian Parliament and same-sex marriage). Although there was some challenge to it, this opinion was verified with a 158-133 vote at third reading in the House of Commons on June 28. The bill passed in the Senate on July 19, with a 47-21 vote, with three abstentions.
The bill was given its first reading on February 1, 2005, after its introduction by Justice minister Irwin Cotler. C-38 was written on the basis of a draft bill produced by then-Justice minister Martin Cauchon in 2003, which had been submitted to the Supreme Court of Canada in December 2004 as the reference question Re: Same-Sex Marriage.
Due to the government's tenuous minority position, there was a strong possibility that the government could have fallen on a motion of confidence through the budget bills, causing the bill to die on the order paper. It would then have been up to a new post-election government to re-introduce the bill affirming same-sex marriage (or to introduce a bill, of uncertain constitutionality, defining marriage as one man and one woman). However, the government survived the last of the budget votes on June 23, 2005, and successfully passed a motion to extend the current sitting of Parliament. In order to pass the motion extending the session, the Liberals provided a written promise to the Bloc Québécois that they would bring C-38 to a vote before the end of the current session.
Finally, on June 28, the Act was passed on third reading by the House of Commons; 158 voting in favour, 133 voting against. On July 19, it passed the Senate by a 47-21 vote with three abstentions and received royal assent (thereby becoming law) on July 20.
A summary of the legislation's progress is given below.
|Stage||House of Commons||Senate|
|Introduction and First Reading||1 February 2005||June 29|
|Second Reading Debate||February 16 to May 4||July 4 to 6|
|Second Reading||May 4||July 6|
|Committee Name||Special Committee on Bill C-38||Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs|
|Committee Stage||May 5 to June 15||July 11 to 14|
|Committee Report||June 16||July 18|
|Debates at Report Stage||June 27||-|
|Report Stage Vote||June 28||-|
|Third Reading Debate||June 28||July 19|
|Third Reading and Passage||June 28||July 19|
|Royal Assent||July 20|
Beverly Faye Desjarlais (August 19, 1955 – March 15, 2018) was a Canadian politician. She represented Churchill in the House of Commons of Canada from 1997 to 2006, initially as a New Democrat and later as an Independent after losing her party nomination in late 2005. She had lost the confidence of the NDP after she had voted against the Civil Marriage Act, legalizing same-sex marriage in Canada. She later worked as a departmental aide to Conservative Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson.Her ex-husband, Bob Desjarlais, is a prominent labour leader in northern Manitoba, who campaigned for Mayor of Thompson in 2006.Canadians for Equal Marriage
Canadians for Equal Marriage is a Canadian public interest group representing Egale Canada, PFLAG Canada, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Psychological Association, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, and the Canadian Association of Social Workers, among others to promote the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Canada. It has been relatively inactive since its goals were achieved with the passage and acceptance of the Civil Marriage Act.Halpern v Canada (AG)
Halpern v Canada (AG),  O.J. No. 2268 is a notable June 10, 2003 decision of the Court of Appeal for Ontario where the Court found that the common law definition of marriage, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, violated section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.Intersex rights in Canada
Intersex people in Canada have no recognition of their rights to physical integrity and bodily autonomy, and no specific protections from discrimination on the basis of sex characteristics. Academic advocates including Janik Bastien-Charlebois and Morgan Holmes, and organizations including Egale Canada and the Canadian Bar Association have called for reform.Marriage in Canada
The Parliament of Canada has exclusive legislative authority over marriage and divorce in Canada under section 91(26) of the Constitution Act, 1867. However section 92(12) of the Constitution Act, 1867 gives the provincial legislatures the power to pass laws regulating the solemnization of marriage.
In 2001 there were 146,618 marriages in Canada, down 6.8% from 157,395 in 2000. Prince Edward Island had the highest crude marriage rate (6.5 per 1,000 people) and Quebec had the lowest (3.0).
Marriage ceremonies in Canada can be either civil or religious. Marriages may be performed by members of the clergy, marriage commissioners, judges, justices of the peace or clerks of the court, depending on the laws of each province and territory regulating marriage solemnization. In 2001, the majority of Canadian marriages (76.4%) were religious, with the remainder (23.6%) being performed by non-clergy.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada nationally since 2005. Court decisions, starting in 2003, had already legalized same-sex marriage in eight out of ten provinces and one of three territories.Numbers (Vancouver)
Numbers Cabaret, or simply Numbers, is a gay bar and nightclub in Davie Village, Vancouver, British Columbia.Pulleri Illathu Madhusoodanan Thangal
Pulleri Illathu Madhusudana Thangal (August 18, 1900 – November 1, 1970) was a prominent Nambudiri landlord during British rule who controlled much of the land in Mattanur. Born in Pulleri Illum, Mattanur, he was a member of the Madras Legislative Council from the year 1929 to 1934, representing the landlords of Malabar. During this time he was also nominated as a member of Military Advisory Board. His landholdings covered 18 villages in and around Mattanur.
As the president of the Yogakshema Sabha in 1932-33, he was involved with the Namboothiri Bill; Temple-entry resolution; Hindu Divorce Bill; Hindu Charitable Institutions; Improvement to women's quarters set up; Resolution for reducing taxes; Civil Marriage Act. As a social reformer his contributions towards the upliftment of the downtrodden was recognized and appreciated by Mahatma Gandhi.Same-sex marriage in Alberta
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Alberta since July 20, 2005, upon the granting of royal assent to the federal Civil Marriage Act. Alberta was one of the four Canadian provinces and territories where same-sex marriage had not been legalised prior to the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act, along with Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.Same-sex marriage in Canada
Same-sex marriage in Canada was progressively introduced in several provinces by court decisions beginning in 2003 before being legally recognized nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act on July 20, 2005. On June 10, 2003, the Court of Appeal for Ontario issued a decision immediately legalizing same-sex marriage in Ontario, thereby becoming the first province where it was legal. The introduction of a federal gender-neutral marriage definition made Canada the fourth country in the world, and the first country outside Europe, to legally recognize same-sex marriage throughout its borders. Before the federal recognition of same-sex marriage, court decisions had already introduced it in eight out of ten provinces and one of three territories, whose residents collectively made up about 90% of Canada's population. More than 3,000 same-sex couples had already married in those areas before the Civil Marriage Act was passed. Most legal benefits commonly associated with marriage had been extended to cohabiting same-sex couples since 1999.
The Civil Marriage Act was introduced by Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberal minority government in the House of Commons of Canada on February 1, 2005, as Bill C-38. It was passed by the House of Commons on June 28, 2005, by the Senate on July 19, 2005, and it received royal assent the following day. Following the 2006 election, which was won by a Conservative minority government under new Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the House of Commons defeated a motion to reopen the matter by a vote of 175 to 123 on December 7, 2006, effectively reaffirming the legislation. This was the third vote supporting same-sex marriage taken by three Parliaments under three prime ministers in three different years, as shown below.Same-sex marriage in New Brunswick
Same-sex marriage in New Brunswick has been legal since July 4, 2005, when the province began issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples pursuant to a June 23 court ruling.Same-sex marriage in Newfoundland and Labrador
Same-sex marriage in Newfoundland and Labrador has been legal since December 21, 2004, when the province was ordered to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples.Same-sex marriage in Nunavut
Same-sex marriage in Nunavut has been legal since 20 July 2005. The territory began granting marriage licences to same-sex couples upon the passage of the federal Civil Marriage Act. Previously, beginning in October 2003, same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions were legally recognized in Nunavut.Same-sex marriage in Prince Edward Island
Same-sex marriage in Prince Edward Island has been legal since July 20, 2005. The province began the process of updating its laws to recognize same-sex marriage after the passage in the House of Commons of Canada of the Civil Marriage Act, the federal law recognizing such marriages. It had been one of only four provinces and territories, with Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, where same-sex marriage had not already been legalized by court challenges prior to the passage of the law.Same-sex marriage in Quebec
Same-sex marriage in Quebec has been legal since March 19, 2004. Quebec became the third Canadian province (after Ontario and British Columbia) and the fifth jurisdiction in the world to open marriage to same-sex couples.Same-sex marriage in Saskatchewan
Same-sex marriage became available in the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan as of November 5, 2004, as a result of a decision of the Family Law Division of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench. This decision followed similar cases in six other provinces and territories, and pre-dated by eight months the federal Civil Marriage Act of 2005, which made same-sex marriage available throughout Canada. Later court decisions have dealt with the issue of marriage commissioners who object to performing same-sex marriages on the basis of their religious beliefs.
Furthermore, same-sex couples have been able to adopt children jointly since 2001, after the Adoption Act was amended by the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan in July 2001.Same-sex marriage in Yukon
Same-sex marriage became legal in Yukon on July 14, 2004. The territory became the fourth jurisdiction in Canada (and the seventh worldwide) to legalize same-sex marriage, after the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec.Same-sex marriage in the Northwest Territories
Same-sex marriage in the Northwest Territories has been legal since July 20, 2005. The Canadian territory began granting marriage licences to same-sex couples upon the granting of royal assent to the federal Civil Marriage Act.Senators of the 38th Canadian Parliament and same-sex marriage
The Civil Marriage Act was approved by the House of Commons of Canada on third reading on June 28, 2005 (see Members of the 38th Canadian Parliament and same-sex marriage). It then proceeded to the Senate of Canada where it was debated. The bill was debated on second reading in the Senate from July 4 to July 6, 2005 and then sent to committee. Third reading debate occurred on July 19, 2005 concluding in a vote that passed the bill which went on to receive royal assent on July 20, 2005.
For the purposes of this table, the Speaker of the Senate, who did not vote, is counted as an absentee since the official Senate tabulation does not list him as an abstainer.Senators of the 39th Canadian Parliament and same-sex marriage
The Civil Marriage Act received royal assent on July 20, 2005. During the 2006 federal election campaign, Conservative leader Stephen Harper pledged to re-open the issue of same-sex marriage should his party form government. Following the Conservative victory in the election, Harper promised to bring the matter to the House of Commons of Canada "sooner than later" in the form of a resolution on whether parliament should consider a new law banning same-sex marriage. Should such a resolution pass, a new bill would have to pass both the House of Commons and the Senate of Canada in order to become law. (See also Members of the 39th Canadian Parliament and same-sex marriage)
The composition of the Senate has changed little since the debate on the Civil Marriage Act. Eight new Senators have been appointed since July 19, 2005 when the Civil Marriage Act passed third reading in the upper house. These are Senators Larry Campbell, Andrée Champagne, Dennis Dawson, Francis Fox, Yoine Goldstein, Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, Hugh Segal and Rod Zimmer (all are Liberals except for Champagne and Segal who are Conservatives). Four Senators have died or retired since the Bill's passage: Shirley Maheu (Liberal), William Doody (Progressive Conservative), Landon Pearson (Liberal) and James Kelleher (Conservative). Maheu and Pearson voted for the Bill, Kellehrer opposed while Doody was absent.
On December 7, 2006, a motion calling on "the government to introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage without affecting civil unions and while respecting existing same-sex marriages" was defeated in the House of Commons by a margin of 175 to 123 and Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared the issue settled pledging not to reopen it even if his party wins a majority government in the next election. Therefore, the issue will not be brought to the Senate in the foreseeable future.
The table below is a hypothetical projection of how Senators might vote on the issue of same-sex marriage based on the votes of those Senators who were present during the 2005 debate on the Civil Marriages Act and statements made since then by those Senators and Senators appointed subsequent to the vote.
(tally adjusted to remove former Senators and add new Senators)
For the purposes of this table, the Speaker of the Senate, who did not vote, is counted as an absentee since the official Senate tabulation does not list him as an abstainer.
|Rights and policy|