Canada's Court-Led Journey to Same-Sex Marriage

  • Sarah Matheson University of Victoria


During the thirty years from Canada’s first legal case against the definition of marriage to that definition’s amendment in 2005, the Provincial and Supreme Courts have been at the forefront of making same-sex marriage a legal reality. This essay chronicles the numerous legal battles Canadians have undergone in pursuit of marriage equality, and submits that those court cases were the driving force behind changing government policy; in every province as well as at the federal level, amendments to marriage acts were made in response to court decisions rather than by proactive government action. While this can be attributed to the different nature of judicial and legislative bodies, the latter having to answer to a large portion of voters opposing same-sex marriage, in several instances, government action actually slowed changes advocated by the courts. Canada’s ability to claim being the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage is thus owed to the many Canadians who took their grievances to court and the many more who supported them, rather than the governments that accepted those court decisions after the fact.

How to Cite
Matheson, Sarah. 1. “Canada’s Court-Led Journey to Same-Sex Marriage”. the Ascendant Historian 3 (1), 83-96.