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Teapot tempest

24-HOUR NEWS CYCLE: Same-sex divorce


On Jan 12, news media report that the Canadian Department of Justice has weighed in on a divorce case between two women, from Florida and England, who got married in Canada and are now seeking a divorce. The DOJ is arguing the women cannot get a divorce because their marriage was never valid, based on the fact that their places of residence do not recognize same-sex marriage.

Opposition politicians and gay rights activists throw a fit, arguing that Stephen Harper has found a back-door method of annulling gay marriage in Canada. It’s a media storm. Harper says he is unaware of the details of the case, but has no intention of reopening the issue of gay marriage. “I will be looking at options to clarify the law so that marriages performed in Canada can be undone in Canada,” says Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, without actually saying that the government recognizes the validity of all same-sex marriages performed in Canada.

US columnist Dan Savage, who got married in Canada, tells the Globe and Mail, “When I got out of bed, I was a married man and as soon as I got on my Twitter feed I realized I had been divorced overnight.

Lawyers tell everybody to take a breath, saying nothing has actually changed, that getting married in Canada has never meant automatic recognition in your place of residence, and that the law has always said that getting a divorce from a Canadian marriage requires living in Canada for a year.

By Jan 13, Nicholson says the government will change the law to ensure that Canada recognizes all same-sex marriages performed in the country as valid. He says the government will change the residency requirement, allowing all such marriages to be dissolved. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief, knowing that same-sex marriages will be dissolved as easily as opposite-sex unions.