To court, to court

Our guide to all these marriage challenges

You’d think it was spring, the way same-sex marriage court cases are sprouting up.

The marriage aspirations of eight couples in British Columbia were just mowed down in October, but 10 more in Ontario and one in Quebec are sprouting this month.

This may be the beginning, but it’s certainly not the end. Win or lose in the lower courts, these cases will likely wind up at the Supreme Court Of Canada, though it may take more than five years to get there.


* WHO. Egale Canada and five Egale-affiliated British Columbia couples – Shane McCloskey and Dave Shortt, Melinda Roy and Tanya Chambers, Lloyd Thornhill and Robert Peacock, Robin Roberts and Diana Denny – plus three other BC couples – Dawn Barbeau and Elizabeth Barbeau, Peter Cook and Murray Warren, and Jane Hamilton and Joy Masuharafrom.

* WHEN/WHERE. The couples lost in a BC supreme court ruling Oct 3.

* THE TWIST. The loss was considered a major setback; the judge even referred to Canada’s constitution, written in 1867.

* COSTS. Egale spent a $75,000 government grant it received from the Court Challenges Program. The lawyers are working for free for the most part (if they were paid the suit would range in the seven figure area), but won’t give further details.

* HOW THEY’RE PROCEEDING. The couples are appealing in the BC Court Of Appeal.


* WHO. There are two sets of applicants. Lawyers Martha McCarthy and Joanna Radbord of Epstein And Cole are representing eight couples: Hedy Halpern and Coleen Rogers, Michael Leshner and Michael Stark, Michelle Bradshaw and Rebekah Rooney, Aloysius Pittman and Thomas Allworth, Dawn Onishenko and Julie Erbland, Carolyn Rowe and Carolyn Moffatt, Barbara McDowall and Gail Donnelly, and Alison Kemper and Joyce Barnett.

Douglas Elliot, acting for the Metropolitan Community Church Of Toronto (MCCT), is representing Elaine and Anne Vautour, and Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, the two couples married in a January 2000 ceremony at the church.

Egale Canada is an intervenor in this case, as is the MCCT. The right-wing groups Real Women, Association Of Marriage And The Family, Focus On The Family and the Interfaith Coalition On Marriage And The Family are intervening against the couples.

* WHEN/WHERE. The case is being heard by a three-judge panel of the Divisional court of Ontario’s Superior Court Of Justice beginning on Mon, Nov 5. The hearing is expected to last five days.

* THE TWIST. McCarthy says that having a diverse group of people will help the case (three of the couples are gay, five are lesbians; there are ethnic minorities and people with disabilities; one couple has been together for 35 years, another for only two; some are parents). Also, the MCCT provides the angle of religious groups fighting for the right to marry queer couples. That case also has the catch of the old Christian rite of marriage banns, which are part of Ontario law and don’t specify that same-sex couples are excluded.


* COSTS. The lawyers are working pro bono, or else the cost would run in the area of seven figures (they’re not saying exactly how much).


* WHO. Montrealers Michael Hendricks and René LeBoeuf are being represented by Anne-Fran Goldwater and Marie-Héléne Dubé. The men are fighting their case without assistance or intervenors, though Egale Canada has sent them some documents that could be useful in court.

* WHEN/WHERE. The case is being heard in the Quebec Superior Court Thu, Nov 8.

* THE TWIST. This is by far the toughest suit. Quebec, along with Alberta, are the only provinces that stipulate that marriage is between a consenting man and woman.

* COST. So far the couple has had to mortgage their house, pay $20,000 in legal fees, and spend a $5,000 grant they received from the Court Challenges Program. Hendricks estimates that it will cost them an additional $10,000 to $15,000 for each level in appeal – if they could afford it.

* HOW THEY’RE PROCEEDING. After the Quebec Superior Court, the case is most likely to go to the Supreme Court Of Canada.

Keep Reading

Job discrimination against trans and non-binary people is alive and well

OPINION: A study reveals that we have a long way to go to reach workplace equality for trans and non-binary people

The new generation of gay Conservative sellouts

OPINION: Melissa Lantsman’s and Eric Duncan’s refusals to call out their party’s transphobia is a betrayal of the LGBTQ2S+ community

Over 300 anti-LGBTQ2S+ bills have been introduced this year. This doesn’t mean we should panic

OPINION: While it’s important to watch out for threats, not all threats are created equally. Some of these bills will die a natural death

Xtra’s top LGBTQ2S+ stories of the year

The best and brightest—even most bewildering—stories from a back catalogue brimming with insight