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Ontario stalls lawsuit over LGBT families

Judge says 'procedure must be fair to all parties'

(L-R) Joanna Radbord, Cheri DiNovo and Kirsti Mathers McHenry (with children Cy and Ruby) held a press conference on Oct 1, 2015, to discuss Cy and Ruby’s Act.  Credit: Andrea Houston

A judge rapped the Ontario government on the knuckles this week for stalling on a lawsuit brought by queer and trans families, after the government failed to respond within 30 days.

The suit, filed on April 8, 2016, was a response to the government’s inaction on changing the laws around parenting for LGBT people. However at the hearing on May 24, 2016, government lawyers argued that this wasn’t enough time to deal with the complex constitutional questions that the suit raised.

Many LGBT families in Ontario are forced to adopt their own children or get declarations of parentage from the courts, which can cost thousands of dollars in legal fees. Nine families, with seven children between them, are involved in the lawsuit.

They are seeking to have 12 sections of the Children’s Law Reform Act and seven sections of the Vital Statistics Act ruled as unconstitutional.

“This is absolutely, 1000 percent, a relitigation of a charter issue that has been won already,” said Martha McCarthy, one of lawyers for the plaintiffs, at the May 24 hearing.

“There has been an effort at continual delay,” said Joanna Redbird, a lawyer for the plaintiff, during the hearing.

Justice Victoria Chiappetta, the case management judge, sided with the plaintiffs, awarding them $2,000 in costs.

“The procedure must be fair to all parties,” Chiappetta wrote in her endorsement. “There cannot be different rules for different people, depending on the substantive issues raised in a specific case.”

While the lawsuit continues, Cy and Ruby’s Act is still stuck in the legislature. Introduced by NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo, the act passed second reading with all-party support. However, the government has yet to schedule it for committee, a necessary step for the bill to become a law.

On June 1, the parents of Cy and Ruby, Jennifer and Kirsti Mathers-McHenry, will be rallying outside of Queen’s Park during the flag-raising for Pride to protest the government’s inaction.