Congrats, Queers in Quebec

The Quebec Legislature uniamously voted Friday to allow same-sex couples to adopt and to create a civil-union analogous to marriage.

Here’s the story fom PlanetOut.

Now more than half of Candian provinces allow for these measures. What are y’all doing right that we can use down here in the US?

It’s about time.

Well, amongst other reasons, the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: M. v. H.

So all you have to do is get Rehnquist and Scalia on-side. :eek:

Two reasons.

First, Canada in general is more liberal than the USA in general, so we tend be a step ahead on things like abolishment of the death penalty and universal health care. Equality rights are part of this.

Second, the USA’s Constitution is getting pretty grey around the gills, whereas the Charter of Rights part of Canada’s Constitution is brand spanking new. Both are reflective of the times in which they were created. Our Charter of Rights protects against sexual discrimination (s.15), and the Supremes have interpreted sexual orientation to be analogous (Egan v. Canada, 1995). Since Egan it has been possible to have laws which discriminate against gays tossed out, so a lot of family law statutes have been modified to accomodate equal rights for all. The federal Divorce Act and most provincial marriage acts have have yet to be adjusted, but we’re getting there. The USA does not have such a Constitutional push simply because gay rights were not an issue when its Constitution was created.

I expect that full equality for all will eventually happen in both countries, and although Canada is a bit ahead of the USA in this respect, I wish that both would get on with it a lot faster than they are. I have no patience for discrimination.

Yup. I was startled that the National Assembly was the first legislature in the world to vote unanimously for such a measure.

As you know, we already had same-sex common-law marriage - this one just lets you go down to the courthouse and get the paper. And put two names on the adoption certificate. Which is très important, just putting it in context a little.

What I thought funny is that Reuter’s article began, “In Quebec, a province which up till recently was dominated by the Catholic Church…”

Well, yea, if recently is the 1960s. Since then we were the first province to put in a non-discrimination clause against gay people :wink:

Sorry, forgot the link to Egan:

Just to clarify, in Egan it was the minority of the Supremes who established that gay rights are analogous to s.15 rights, so although this major step paved the way for M v. H, the majority in Egan put up a road block concerning same sex marriage (and thus divorce) which still needs to be resolved. Thus we still have a way to go.


I’m glad this isn’t an issue at all here. Nobody seems bothered by this. I haven’t seen any protests or outraged editorials. A lot of people I’ve talked to thought it was long overdue.

I should know the answer to the question – between my gay activism and being the child of a constitutional lawyer – but would such a domestic partnership be automatically recognized by other provinces? Could a couple register in Quebec, and then go back to their home province?

Surely, this applies to the “unanimous” part alone? Some European countries have had adoption rights for gays in place for a few years now. Holland, and Denmark too, IIRC.

But of course, it’s a great milestone indeed. Congratulations!

Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that. There were three steps to the Court’s analysis:

  1. Is sexual orientation a prohibited ground of discrimination?

  2. If so, did the particular legislation before the Court discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation?

  3. If so, could the discrimination be justified under s. 1 of the Charter?

On the first, most basic point, the Court unanimously held that sexual orientation is a prohibited ground of discrimination under s. 15 of the Charter. See the decisions of La Forest J. at para. 5; L’Heureux- Dubé J. at para. 89; Sopinka J. at para. 103; Cory and Iacobucci JJ. at paras. 171-178; McLachlin J. at para. 232.

Things got more complicated on the second point, whether the particular legislation was discriminatory. A majority of the Court, composed of L’Heureux-Dubé, Sopinka, Cory, Iacobucci and McLachlin JJ. held that the legisation in issue was discriminatory. A minoirty of four judges (Lamer C.J. and La Forest, Gonthier and Major JJ.) held that it was not discriminatory.

The Court fractured further on the third question, that of justification under section 1. Four of the judges in the majority on discrimination issue (L’Heureux-Dubé, Cory, Iacobucci and McLachlin JJ.) held that the discrimination could not be justified under s. 1.

However, Sopinka J. disagreed with those four, and held that the particular infringement before the Court could be justified under s. 1. (See paras. 103-112.) The other four judges, who had been in dissent on the issue of whether the legislation was discriminatory, adopted Sopinka J.'s position on s. 1. (See reasons of La Forest J., at para. 29).

So, to summarise, the Court split as follows:

  1. Is sexual orientation a prohibited ground of discrimination? Yes: 9-0

  2. Is the particular legislation under consideration discriminatory, on the basis of sexual orientation? Yes: 5-4

  3. Can the discrimination nonetheless be justified under s. 1, upholding the discriminatory legislation? Yes: 5-4

In my opinion, although Egan was a set-back on the particular issue before the Court, its significance lies with the unanaimous answer given to Q. 1: Sexual orientation is a prohibited ground of discrimination in Canadian constitutional law. In all subsequent cases on sexual orientation, such as M. v. H. that has been the Court’s starting point.

What’s also very interesting about this story is how it came about. From what I have read in the paper (read: this might just be the “publicity” version) the minister in charge of tabling the bill was not very enthused about it until he started interviewing children of same-sex unions. He claims he was incredibly moved, to the point of tears, and turned his opinion all the way around.

The result is, of course, this wonderful new option for couples, both same-sex and opposite-sex (how’s that for non-discriminatory!).