Gay couple asked to provide marriage certificate or move out

A Toronto condo board says the policy is to prevent unwelcome tenants

Get gay married or get gay out.

That’s the message one Toronto couple received from a condo board this month when they were asked to produce a marriage certificate in order to continue renting, which the board claimed was part of a rule restricting occupants to “single families.” Apparently if you’re gay, you’re only a family if you’re married. 

“How can they define what a family is to someone?” Michael Cowan told CTV News Toronto. “It doesn’t make sense.”

According the CTV report, Cowan moved into the condo on the edge of Toronto’s Gay Village in 2020. This month, his partner of six months moved in and signed all of the necessary paperwork. But, according to the report, they’ve been told they need to provide a marriage certificate or move out. The condo board’s justification? An apparent rule that limits the building’s residents to a “single family,” which it defines as “a social unit consisting of parent(s) and their children, whether natural or adopted, and includes other relatives if living with the primary group.”

NDP MPP Jessica Bell told CTV that the rule amounts to discrimination.

“It’s ridiculous that people in 2021 have to prove that they’re married,” Bell said. “There should be a way for a resident to seek recourse, and appeal to a regulator to change the rules.”

Housing already an issue for LGBTQ2S+ communities 

The dispute is yet another example of the challenges queer and trans people face in accessing housing. LGBTQ2S+ people face a greater risk of homelessness and housing insecurity than our cis and straight peers.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, nearly one out of every three homeless young people in Canada identifies as LGBTQ2S+. And the National Housing Project out of Dalhousie University recently found that there’s been a failure to regulate and enforce existing human rights legislation in relation to the right to housing, particularly in the context of older LGBTQ2S+ Canadians.

“Canada has more work to do to truly advance housing both as a determinant of health and as a basic human right,” the study’s authors wrote in The Conversation

Calls for a rule change

Cowan’s landlord, Seema Opal, owns the suite Cowan and his partner are renting.

“The requirement for a marriage certificate just blows me away,” Opal told CTV. “Family status shouldn’t be grounds for discrimination. And I feel that living next to the Village, my condo board and property manager are discriminating against individuals who don’t fit into a certain mould.”


Politicians and allies on social media also called for a change to the rules to prevent discrimination. Toronto Centre MPP Suze Morrison said her office has been working with Cowan and Opal to find a solution.

Toronto Centre Liberal candidate David Morris also called out the condo board’s policy. 

In a statement to CTV, the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services said officials are looking into resolving the situation and finding ways to ensure it can’t happen again. 

Senior editor Mel Woods is an English-speaking Vancouver-based writer and audio producer and a former associate editor with HuffPost Canada. A proud prairie queer and ranch dressing expert, their work has also appeared in Vice, Slate, the Tyee, the CBC, the Globe and Mail and the Walrus.

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Politics, Power, Identity, News, Homophobia, Housing

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