The introduction of a federal gender-neutral marriage definition made Canada the fourth country in the world, and the first country outside Europe, to legally recognize same-sex marriage throughout its borders.
Same-sex marriage in Canada was progressively introduced in several provinces by court decisions beginning in 2003 before being legally recognized nationwide with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act on July 20, 2005.
On June 10, 2003, the Court of Appeal for Ontario issued a decision immediately legalizing same-sex marriage in Ontario, thereby becoming the first province where it was legal.
In 20, decisions in the superior trial courts of Ontario and Quebec held that the restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples was discriminatory and contrary to the equality clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms, while the superior trial court of British Columbia ruled oppositely.
On May 1, 2003, the British Columbia Court of Appeal reversed the superior court decision.
Defeat of the bill in Parliament would have continued the status quo and probably incremental legalization, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, via court challenges. However, this decision stopped short of giving them the right to full legal marriage.
This trend could have been reversed only through Parliament passing a new law that explicitly restricted marriage to opposite-sex couples notwithstanding the protection of equality rights afforded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or by amending the Canadian Constitution by inserting the clause "marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman", as was recommended by several conservative religious groups and politicians. Most laws which affect couples are within provincial rather than federal jurisdiction.More than 3,000 same-sex couples had already married in those areas before the Civil Marriage Act was passed.Most legal benefits commonly associated with marriage had been extended to cohabiting same-sex couples since 1999.The Civil Marriage Act was introduced by Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberal minority government in the House of Commons of Canada on February 1, 2005, as Bill C-38.It was passed by the House of Commons on June 28, 2005, by the Senate on July 19, 2005, and it received royal assent the following day.Following the Supreme Court's decision, Liberal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, introduced Bill C-38 on February 1, 2005, to legalize marriage between persons of the same sex across Canada.