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Chronology of Same Sex Marriage

History of Same-sex marriage in Canada, Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act

On February 1, 2005, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler introduced Bill C-38, a bill to redefine marriage for civil purposes as being the lawful union of “two persons.” The bill passed second reading in the House of Commons on May 4, 2005, and was sent to a special legislative committee on Bill C-38 for study.

The EFC appeared before the committee on May 18. Read the EFC's written submission. See EFC's press release (includes the text of oral comments by Bruce Clemenger and Janet Epp Buckingham).

The committee reported back to the House of Commons on June 16, and recommended two amendments to the Bill, intended to offer additional protection for religious freedom in areas of federal jurisdiction. During Report Stage, a further amendment was approved, providing some protection for charitable status. However, only provincial governments can protect religious freedom for anything related to solemnization of marriage, so the amendments are somewhat symbolic.

The Bill was passed by the House of Commons on June 28, 2005. Read the EFC's press release, issued when the Bill passed in the House of Commons. Find out how your MP voted on the bill.

After passing in the Commons, the Bill was sent to the Senate. The Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs held three days of hearings on the Bill, July 12-14, and recommended it be voted on without any further amendments.

Janet Epp Buckingham and Bruce Clemenger appeared before the Senate Committee on July 13. Read the EFC’s written submission to the Senate.

Bill C-38 passed in the Senate on July 19, 2005, by a vote of 47-21, with three abstentions. It received Royal Assent on July 20, 2005, becoming law. Read the EFC’s press release.

How did we get here?

Over the last two decades, gays and lesbians have sought equality rights and legal recognition under the Charter of Rights and freedoms. Through a series of legal challenges brought by gays and lesbians, Canadian courts ruled that the Charter included protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and granted gay and lesbian couples equal treatment with opposite-sex common-law couples. See this Chronology (updated September 2005).

Eventually, this led to gays and lesbians directly challenging the definition of marriage, arguing that the heterosexual definition excluded same-sex couples, and therefore violated the Charter. The Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia Courts of Appeal ruled that the historic definition of marriage as the “voluntary union for life of one man and one woman” offended the Charter because it excludes gays and lesbians.

The federal government, which had intervened in support of the traditional definition of marriage at the lower courts, refused to appeal these cases. Instead, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada proposed Bill C-38, legislation defining marriage as union of “two persons”, and referred the legislation to the Supreme Court of Canada (the Marriage Reference). At every stage in this march toward the legalization of same-sex marriage, the EFC intervened to argue for the historic definition of marriage. Our written legal arguments in these cases are all available online:

  • British Columbia: Supreme Court; Court of Appeal
  • Ontario: Divisional Court; Court of Appeal
  • Quebec: Court of Appeal
  • Supreme Court of Canada: Marriage Reference

To view the EFC’s Summary of the Supreme Court Decision in the Marriage Reference, click here.

Read a complete chronology of same-sex marriage in Canada.


Issue: Marriage & Family

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Protecting Religious Freedom 
Federal/Provincial Jurisdiction

Helpful Links

Marriage Declaration signed by 50 Evangelical, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Christian as well as Muslim Leaders in defense of the traditional definition of marriage. Disponible en francais.


EFC Statement "What Is Marriage?"

Developing Church Policies on Marriage Handbook

EFC President Responds to Civil Marriage Act

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