Oops! Sorry, Your Marriage was Just Pretend

There is a pretty big case going on right now where a government lawyer is arguing a lesbian couple can't divorce, because the countries they're from don't acknowledge same sex marriages. This is despite the fact they came to Canada to get married. They were one of thousands of couples that came to this country to get officially married, because their own country would not recognize their right to be married. Now, this government lawyer is essentially saying that all those marriages were a sham and just a really expensive game of "make-belief", because it doesn't count if their home country doesn't recognize it. This of course has upset several married same sex couples to suddenly discover that they're marriage has as much merit as all the marriages between a stuffed Dora Explorer doll and Tickle-Me-Elmo toy that takes place in many little's girl's bedrooms.

At this point, Stephen Harper is claiming ignorance to the case and the lawyer's stance. I am not about to call our Prime Minster a liar. I do question how he isn't aware of things being spouted by his government's lawyer or how his government would allow their lawyer to say something they don't agree with. I do hope he does catch up on all the facts really quickly or this is going to make Canada look like a joke. "Hey look, it is the country that likes to perform pretend marriages!"

I know this is an issue revolving around divorce, and the government is apparently looking into ways that couples of same sex marriages (who wedded here but lived in countries that don't recognize them) can still undo their marriage. I really don't think this is the issue that has caused the uproar. The main problem is that a government lawyer essentially declared thousands of marriages annulled and set back several years of progress. It was a cold and spineless statement. Cold because it just did harm to several loving and committed marriages (by saying they aren't real). It was spineless because it showed Canada's inability to stick to a decision they made, and instead allowing other governments to dictate their policies. But again, I have to hope this was a lawyer going rogue and not parroting the Harper government's stance.

I've made my stance clear in the past on same sex marriage, and so if you've forgotten be sure to check out those prior articles. I'm going to try to avoid reiterating past rants here. I do think that if this is some kind of strategy by the Harper government to devalue same sex marriages (an argument I'm hearing be thrown around) then it is an attempt to appease the "moral right" that is highly valued by the current Conservative government. It has been made clear that several members of Harper's government are opposed to same sex marriages, and Harper himself is pretty good at talking around the issue (though that may be more of the case of being careful to not upset who he views as his main voters rather than his actual stance). If this thing starts to grow over the coming weeks then we're likely in store for more of the whole 'institution of marriage" and "equality" debate that has been raging on for decades (but intensified this past 10 or so years). I'm still waiting for a solid argument as to why two loving people committed to each other will bring flaming meteorites and mass destruction upon us all (or in the very least, suddenly do some harm to my own wonderful marriage).

When I first heard about this story, I was given the impression the invalidation of same sex marriage couples outside of Canada (but wed here) was coming directly from the Harper government. I had a bunch of bile in store for Harper based off his statement that they weren't willing to re-open the discussion on what constitutes marriage (despite that being done with the lawyer claiming some marriages aren't real). As of now, it seems the statement can best be interpreted as Harper standing behind same sex marriages and trying to reassure the general populace his government isn't trying to devalue same sex Canadian couples (while claiming to not know the specifics of the case that has brought forth the current outcry). The fact is, the lawyer most definitely did reopen the definition of marriage debate when he announced several couples aren't actually married. Unless Harper goes on record to say the lawyer was mistaken, then the debate been started up again and it is his government's duty to clarify their own stance on the matter. As of now, same sex marriage is legal in this country and it was a place that other couples could also get married. This all of sudden has been challenged by someone associated with the Harper government, and so it is of paramount importance this gets quickly addressed. Otherwise, the issues have been reopened and a key piece of legislation in this country has been challenged.

I know this entire issue will spark some "libertarian views" on why government should be staying out of marriage. I don't disagree with that point, but it is also an issue of "too late". They have been involved with marriage, and they can't just back out now. The reality is marriage has been made a government issue, and so it is an issue they have to start resolving. If eventually the government starts making a move where they state, "This not an issues that concerns us” then fine, but it will have to be gradual and after the current mess is solved.

Of course, there is still potential this isn't a mess at all. Those who claim the Harper government has nullified same sex marriage are jumping ahead a few chapters in this story. Harper is currently claiming ignorance. Though if he just ignores the issue and doesn't address something soon, then yes, the government has essentially nullified several marriages. Then there is the problem of what same sex marriage means in this country and the debate has been reopened when it shouldn't have had to happen.

I've made my stance on the Harper government clear. I don't usually trust them when it comes to issues like this. For right now, I have to remain optimistic and not think this was a plan by the government to devalue same sex marriage. I have my doubts, but for now, I'll just have to wait to see what direction they decide to take in the coming days.


  1. Perhaps Harper is just trying to leave himself out of the cognitive dissonance, there is no good solution with all the current expectations on the table. The aspects of the issue are not well defined and it seems there are few that want to lay down definitions because of their inherent conflicts. We are a long way off from any sort of synthesis on this issue. The libertarians may be taking the high road on this one.

  2. The problem is Harper is not in a spot where he can leave himself out of the discussion. It was his party's lawyer that made the remark, and so there are now political ramifications with what was said. I can understand Harper wanting to get a better grasp on the facts of the case, and I can respect that if that is indeed what is happening.

    He needs to either agree or disagree with the remark that non Canadian couples wed in Canada are not legally married. I know he doesn't want to reopen the debate, but the issue has already been re-addressed thanks to someone associated with his party.

  3. Derek B12:52 am

    I don't think allowing government to define any private action or interaction between individuals should be considered "progress". That's insane. If you would have told someone 200 years ago that we would be seeking the approval of our benevolent overlords to define and permit marriage, you would have been laughed at. This is just another version of appealing to the feudal overlord 1000 years ago. Progress, my ass. The state needs out of the marriage institution (and a mile-long list of other choices and associations), period

  4. I agree with you that the state shouldn't be defining marriage. The fact is that they already have. So, now it is their job to either officially back out or to reaffirm that marriage can be same sex couples.

    The reality is that countries or states are defining what can be marriage, and so we can't just stick with the ideal that marriage should be left alone (because it hasn't been). Would I eventually like Canada to stick with the declaration made my Trudeau back in 70s (the state should stay out of the bedroom)? Of course, but now we just have to settle for Harper at least admitting his lawyer made a mistake.


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