This past week, Toronto was host to WorldPride for the first time, culminating a 34 year tradition of local Pride celebrations. Also this past week, my cousin and his husband became parents and welcomed a healthy and happy 9 pound 7 ounce baby boy to their family. A few weeks ago, in June, Ontario elected an openly gay premiere. These events in quick succession have made me reflect. Have made me proud to be a Canadian, a Torontonian and a family lawyer. And it made me realize how far we have come.
It was not so many years ago that gay marriage was not legal in this province or in this country. In June of 2003, I was in the crowd of Toronto family lawyers sitting vigil at the Ontario Court of Appeal when in the landmark decision in the case of Halpern v. Canada (Attorney General) was released. In that groundbreaking decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal held that gays and lesbians had the right to marry. The common law definition of marriage was found to violate the equality of same sex couples under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a manner that could not be justified in a free and democratic society. The Court redefined marriage as the voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others. And the walls came tumbling down. In the summer of 2005, the Civil Marriage Act became law, providing for a gender-neutral definition of marriage, as opposed to consigning same sex partners to the (oft considered lesser) state of civil unions. Canada became the fourth nation to enact legislation recognizing same sex marriage, behind the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.
Since 2003, couples from all over the world have been welcomed in Ontario, and Toronto, to join in legal matrimony. This past week, a mass wedding at Casa Loma saw 110 couples from all over the world say I do. We heard from many whose countries of origin say no, you don’t. Countries like Venezuela, Korea, Taiwan, Russia, Nicaragua and even Australia, where same sex marriage is not yet recognized. Hearing their stories has made Canadians thankful for the human rights we enjoy and the freedom we have to love who we love, without fear of persecution. So in anticipation of Canada Day tomorrow: thank you Canada. Keep up the good work.