It may be the most celebrated ruling on same-sex rights in Canada, but the two women whose case validated homo unions in the eyes of the law choose to stay veiled in anonymity.
The women known only as M and H have both decided to keep their identities private despite the importance of the case and their by-now-vaunted status within the gay and lesbian community.
Initially M was eager to go public, she claims in a written statement released May 20, the day of the Supreme Court Of Canada ruling, and it was H who insisted they remain anonymous.
The initials M and H are those of the lawyers who argued the anonymity motion in court. M was represented by Martha McCarthy and H by Julia Holland at that hearing.
Both women declined to be interviewed for this article.
M stated that after seven years of legal wrangling, she, too, has decided to preserve her privacy.
“For one, I am simply not a spotlight kind of person,” she stated. “More importantly, while I believe in and support the ’cause’ wholeheartedly, I am not defined by it or this case and I value my private life.”
The case was launched when H refused to pay spousal support.
H’s current lawyer, Christopher Bredt, says H is delighted that the Supreme Court’s decision will be something progressive for gay men and lesbians, but wants to put the battle behind her and go on with her life.
The lengthy and historic legal battle began in 1992, when the couple separated after living together for about 10 years.
They had met on a vacation in Nepal in 1980 and in 1982 they moved in together and started an advertising business.
It enjoyed immediate success and was the main source of income
for the couple during the relationship. H’s contribution to the company was greater than that of M – probably due to the fact that M had no previous experience in advertising. And as time went on, she was content to devote more of her time to domestic tasks rather than the business, notes the Supreme Court ruling.
As a result of a dramatic downturn in the advertising business in the late 1980s, the couple’s debt increased significantly. H took a job outside the firm and placed a mortgage on her home to pay for her and M’s expenses.
M tried, but couldn’t find a job.
By September 1992, things had deteriorated because H felt their uneven financial contributions to the relationship were unfair.
H came up with a legal document to settle their affairs. M immediately picked up some of her personal belongings and walked out. She had $5.64 in her bank account.
H changed the locks on the house.
They never did divide the personal property or household contents – and after the break-up M said she had serious financial troubles.
M brought a claim against H for property and business. Six months later, she amended her application to include support under the Ontario Family Law Act. At the same time, she served notice that she was challenging the constitutionality of the definition of spouse in the section of the act dealing with support.
M was initially denied support, but at trial Ontario Court Justice Gloria Epstein ruled the act’s definition of spouse unconstitutional, a judgment later upheld by the Ontario Court Of Appeal.
The two women quietly settled out of court more than a year ago, but the government of Ontario chose to take the constitutional issue all the way to the country’s top court.