Canada's Celebration of Marriage
The landmark ruling came down from the north with some of the simple delight of a June wedding announcement: "Same-sex couples are capable of forming long, lasting, loving and intimate relationships." In unanimously affirming the obvious, an Ontario appeals court opened the way for Canada to end the bar on marriage between partners of the same sex. Final approval of a milestone law striking down discrimination against gay couples is expected within months. But the northward flow by gay couples from the United States has already begun. Canada has no residency requirements for love-struck people intent on marriage, while Belgium and the Netherlands enacted tighter restrictions in pioneering legal gay unions.
When they head home after the vows and rice, the newlyweds will expect to be treated as legally married people here, as will gay Canadian couples visiting the United States. They should get that respect, both out of simple decency and because this nation has a long history of recognizing legal marriages performed across borders.
Unfortunately, the United States has a long way to go to match Canada's record of tolerance on this issue. In contrast to Canadian jurists, our Supreme Court is only now considering a ban on the antediluvian Texas law criminalizing intimate relations by homosexuals in the privacy of the home. And, far from liberalizing the law of the land as Canada is choosing to do, Congress responded to the gay-marriage issue in 1996 by hastily defining heterosexual union alone as the marriage standard for purposes of federal benefits in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Right now Vermont recognizes civil unions, a step short of full marriage rights, with a handful of other states installing domestic partner protections. There are cases pending in Massachusetts and New Jersey that could lead to decisions ending marriage discrimination in those states. The American public is not yet as ready to accept marriages between same-sex partners as a natural part of the landscape as polls show Canadians are, but change will be unstoppable in time, whatever the pace proves to be. Canada's choice of a clean break with the past is a stirring moment. Gay couples have a place where they can legally be joined in matrimony, and life goes on, happily ever after or not.
"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."
--Ursula K. Le Guin
"Mental health is a commitment to reality at all times."
--M. Scott Peck