2 min

A new reality for gay couples

Is it more than just doing your taxes together?

MONETARY GUIDE. New book looks at the changing financial needs Credit: Capital Xtra files

It was one of the biggest victories in Canadian gay history, and its effects are still rippling through homes across the country.

On Jun 29, 2002, Bill C-23, The Modernizing of Benefits and Obligations Act, was passed in the House of Commons.

As its name suggests, this modernized a host of legislation for gay and lesbian couples, bringing them up to par with opposite-sex common-law couples. It fell short of giving them the same rights as married couples – and, of course, still didn’t allow marriage – but it put the law into the bedrooms of gay and lesbian couples forever.

Authors Duane Booth and Scott Reeves escort readers through some of the more prominent changes caused by Bill C-23 in their book Partners: A New Financial Reality for Gay Couples.

Written much like The Wealthy Barber, this book tells the story of six fictional Ontario couples. In narrative form, the authors give us thumbnail sketches of the couples’ lives, relationships and finances, and explore how Bill C-23 has altered these for better or worse.

Sixty-eight federal statutes were changed by Bill C-23, including the Income Tax Act, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Canadian Pension Plan and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act. Because of this, gay and lesbian couples found they could now enjoy each other’s death benefits and pensions and save for each other’s retirement.

While the stories of the six couples and their situations focus mainly on the financial aspects of Bill C-23, Partners highlights other changes, such as same-sex partners being recognized by health services, nursing homes and homes for the aged. Same-sex couples are also allowed to adopt children, but only to the extent that two totally unrelated people could do.

Booth and Reeves don’t shy away from the downside of such monumental change, however. They highlight new disadvantages for couples such as reduced welfare, disability and GST or even Child Tax Credit payments because of “couple” rather than “individual” status.

One of the gay couples ends up in a bitter court dispute over support payments and division of assets, just like their same-sex common-law counterparts do.

While Booth and Reeves lay out the facts in a brief, easy-to-read and friendly way, they also raise a series of subjective questions. Is Bill C-23 a good thing? Are gay relationships only about sex? Is this legislation, as the Canadian Alliance Party called it, the “Death of Marriage Act?”

Regardless of the answers, they conclude that gay and lesbian couples have to consider these changes before committing to a common-law relationship. The rules aren’t lax like they used to be.

Finally, as a glimpse of things ahead, Booth and Reeves touch on the future of gay marriages, which they call “the mother of all gay rights battles.”

“It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

* Partners is available at queerbookstores, ordirectly from the company at