Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Five years of equality celebrated in Ontario

Martha McCarthy, lead counsel on the landmark case, reflects in The Globe and Mail on the five years since the legalization of gay marriage in Ontario, Canada.
Five years ago today, I put on a white suit and my good luck shoes and went to the office of the Ontario Court of Appeal to pick up a judgment.

The case was Halpern et al v. the Attorney-General of Canada et al. The result: “The Clerk is directed to immediately begin issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples.” Within hours, our clients Michael Leshner and Mike Stark were married in a Toronto courthouse. I could barely stand up during the ceremony; I was so emotional, my co-counsel, Joanna Radbord, had to hold me up.

Many are surprised by how different they feel, both as a couple and in their lives generally. Our 12-year-old client Robbie Kemper perhaps said it best when he took to the microphone the day of the decision and declared, “Now nobody can say I don't have a real family.”

The wedding stories are poignant and astonishing. I continue to be awed. I don't want to leave the impression that discrimination has been eradicated, but things are just a little different. You can feel it in our cities. Not just on Church Street or Ste-Catherine, although you can feel it there, too. Yes, the pace of progress is slow, but today, on the fifth anniversary of Halpern, let's just celebrate that it worked. The Charter is not just some academic document.

Martha McCarthy was lead counsel in Halpern et al v. the Attorney-General of Canada et al. She is the winner of the Ontario Bar Association 2007 Award of Excellence in Family Law and a campaigner for gay equality rights.

Read more here.

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