HRC Lauds Ruling That Allows Same-Sex Couples The Freedom To Marry In Ontario, Canada

On Jue 16th, The Human Rights Campaign joined gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgender community legal and advocacy groups in lauding the
Ontario appeals court June 10 ruling recognizing civil marriage rights
for same-sex couples. American same-sex couples are also able to wed in
Ontario under this ruling. HRC strongly believes that these marriages
should be treated equally and given the same respect as any marriage,
but warns that married couples returning home to the United States can
expect to face discrimination under federal law and many state laws. But
we also believe that some states, businesses or other institutions will
honor these marriages, says HRC.

"Ontario's landmark ruling — and the Canadian government's
decision not to appeal it — recognizes that the Canadian Constitution
mandates civil marriage equality for its gay and lesbian citizens.
Obviously, this ruling pertains to the civil marriage license issued by
the province and will not affect what marriages religious institutions
choose to sanction. Leaders in the United States should take note of
this ruling and recognize that all committed couples deserve to be
treated with the same dignity and respect," said HRC Executive Director
Elizabeth Birch. "Couples who marry in Ontario and return to the United
States seeking the same rights, responsibilities and obligations that
heterosexual married couples receive should be aware that discriminatory
laws in this country remain a problem. We will continue working to end
marriage discrimination in this country."

Whether or not same-sex couples choose to marry in Canada, they
should take steps to protect their families at this time. Couples should
continue to secure wills, heath care proxies, adoption and co-parenting
agreements, and consult with lawyers and financial advisors to set up a
safety net of legal documents. Visit HRC FamilyNet at for more information. If you are a member of the
armed services, a foreign national living in the United States or you
receive public assistance, getting married could have significant
consequences. Finally, if you do marry, consult with an attorney before
signing and filing government forms as a married couple.

Same-sex couples are denied the freedom to marry in all 50
states. In 37 states, anti-gay forces have added an extra layer of
discriminatory legislation. Same-sex couples also do not have access to
the rights, benefits and responsibilities of marriage that opposite-sex
couples receive under federal law. It is imperative that any challenges
to these laws and to other obstacles certain to arise be made
strategically, working with the GLBT legal groups that are already
involved in efforts to secure civil marriage rights for gays and
lesbians in the United States.

The Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal,
the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the American Civil
Liberties Union Lesbian & Gay Rights Project and Freedom To Marry are
among those leading the efforts for civil marriage rights for same-sex
couples. Legal challenges are pending in two states, Massachusetts
(plaintiff couples are represented by GLAD) and New Jersey (plaintiff
couples are represented by Lambda Legal).

In a joint statement released last week, several of the groups
listed above cautioned that "couples should absolutely not race across
the border" to set up lawsuits in response to discrimination against
marriages granted in Canada. "The wrong cases could set us back for
years. We will be strongest if we work together," the groups added.
To contact the groups, visit their websites at:,,, and

The federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 creates a federal
definition of marriage and spouse, limiting the definition of marriage
to a "legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife,"
and spouse to "a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."
According to a 1997 General Accounting Office study, the law denies
unmarried couples more than 1,000 federal rights, responsibilities and
obligations associated with civil marriage, including the right to
Social Security survivor benefits and to file jointly for taxes.

"U.S. law discriminates against same-sex couples in federal
programs, such as immigration, federal tax benefits and family medical
leave," said HRC General Counsel and Legal Director Kevin Layton.
"Marriage could open the door to hundreds of rights, responsibilities
and benefits that are currently being blocked by discriminatory laws in
many states."

"Still, we expect some states, businesses or other institutions
to treat the marriages of same-sex couples with equal respect," noted
Birch. "Gay and lesbian couples ought to be able to expect their lawful
marriages to be honored. Furthermore, we should all celebrate the fact
that people will now see lawfully wedded same-sex couples living
ordinary, everyday married lives. And the sky won't have fallen in the
wake of this victory."

HRC advocates at the federal level and partners with GLBT
advocacy organizations at the state level for policy and legislation to
ensure equal treatment for same-sex couples, including civil marriage
and the granting of individual rights and responsibilities, such as
inheritance and hospital visitation rights. Visit to find
out more about HRC's work on these issues.

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