Toronto
4 min

Still not spouses

The Ontario Tories have recognized same-sex spouses in a way that the courts have already ruled to be an “appalling doctrine” based on segregation.

Last month provincial Attorney-General James Flaherty introduced and passed same-sex “partner” legislation in three days flat, changing 67 discriminatory statutes.

“It is important for members to be aware of that fundamental in this debate, that marriage is not affected by this bill,” he said at Queen’s Park on Oct 27, just before the bill was passed. “Marriage, as members know, involves a man and a woman in Ontario. We have preserved in the bill the traditional definition of ‘spouse’ and ‘marital status.'”

A completely separate category, that of “same-sex partners,” was created.

But that’s more or less what Ottawa tried to do when faced with complaints filed by two gay men, Ottawa’s Stanley Moore and Dale Akerstrom of Vancouver. The federal Liberals were told to stop discriminating against gay and lesbian government employees, and responded by trying to set up a separate category for homo partners. The gay men appealed to the Federal Court(Trial Division) – and won.

“[T]he scheme proposed by the employer establishes a regime of ‘separate but equal,’ one that distinguishes between relationships on the basis of the sexual orientation of the participants,” ruled Judge MacKay in 1998. “Thus, this scheme remains discriminatory….

“[I]t is no more appropriate for the employer in this case to have established a separate definition for persons in same-sex relationships than it would be for an employer to create separate definitions for relationships of persons based on their race, colour or ethnicity.”

WHAT IT DOES

Same-sex “partners” get all the rights – and responsibilities – that heterosexual, common-law couples get. The definition of a common-law couple is different in different statutes – living together for one to three years or have a child together, depending on the act.

The rules now mean that homo partners:

¥ Are recognized for some pension, employment and insurance benefits (including life insurance policies) – but nothing federal

¥ Are granted survivor benefits under the Workplace Safety And Insurance Act

¥ Are required to disclose partners under various conflict of interest laws (including those related to insider trading, appointments to positions and disclosure of financial interests by public officials)

¥ May be ordered to pay support if the relationship ends

¥ Are protected from discrimination in the Ontario Human Rights Code on the basis of same-sex partnership status in employment, accommodation and other areas

¥ May be responsible for maintenance of a partner in the care of a mental health institution

¥ Of convicted or accused persons are not be permitted to receive payment for interviews, appearances or recollections regarding the crime

¥ Can be appointed the administrator of the estate of their partner.

Marital property rights are not extended. And your partner will not automatically inherit your possessions in the event of your death. You must have a will – or your same-sex partner loses out to biological family, even long-lost family.

In order to opt out of spousal support obligations of the Family Law Act, you need to see a lawyer and work out a contract – a pre-nuptial agreement.

THEY REALLY LOVE US

It was a love fest.

With the Tories having negotiated the consent of the legislature, they were able to push Bill 5 through in a short evening session on Oct 27. (It was introduced on Oct 25, with no fanfare.)

Only Attorney-General James Flaherty spoke for the Progressive Conservatives.

In the visitors’ gallery was former attorney-general Marion Boyd, the NDP minister who tried (unsuccessfully) to recognize same-sex spouses in 1994. She lost her London seat in the last election, but came back to Queen’s Park for this historic moment.

Gay ghetto Liberal George Smitherman (Toronto Centre-Rosedale) gave his maiden speech that night (his mom was watching from the bleachers; Smitherman also noted the bill would have little impact on him, as he’s single).

“I’m a very fortunate person. I stand before you as a privileged person, not just for having the opportunity to serve in this place but because I have many different families. I have the family that I was born into and that I gained by marriage and by birth and I have the family that I have gained as a gay man; people who have joined in so many different ways and from so many different circumstances to lend so much to my life.

“I’m excited as well that our community, having made this progress, can turn some of its attention and energy towards other issues which are so present for us: peer and mentor support for young gays and lesbians who come out in increasing numbers with too little support; care for the ill and disadvantaged who are among us; and to participate in developing housing for those who have come before us and blazed new trails.”

Others who spoke in favour of Bill 5 (in order) are:

¥ New Democrat Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre); he forwarded greetings and words of support from colleagues Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie) and Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt), neither of whom could attend

¥ Liberal Michael Bryant (St Paul’s)

¥ NDPer Frances Lankin (Beaches-East York)

¥ Liberal Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre)

¥ NDPer Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina)

¥ Liberal David Caplan (Don Valley East)

¥ NDPer Marilyn Churley (Broadview-Greenwood)

¥ Liberal Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale-High Park)

¥ NDPer Gilles Bisson (Timmins-Baie James)

¥ Liberal Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North)

¥ NDPer David Christopherson (Hamilton West)

¥ Liberal Dwight Duncan (Windsor-St Clair)

¥ Liberal Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East)

¥ NDP leader Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River)

¥ Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty (Ottawa South).

No one spoke against. And there was no record kept of who was in attendance and how they voted.