Same-sex marriage in Manitoba has been legal since September 16, 2004. In the case of Vogel v. Canada, the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba ordered the province to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.[1] This decision followed a suit brought by three couples who were denied marriage licences.[2] Both the provincial and federal governments had made it known that they would not oppose the court bid.

Manitoba became the fifth jurisdiction in Canada (and the eighth worldwide) to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples, after the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, and the territory of Yukon.[2] The court said that its decision had been influenced by the previous decisions in B.C., Ontario and Quebec.

Court ruling

In 1974, couple Chris Vogel and Richard North married in the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg,[3] but the government refused to register their marriage. The couple had previously attempted to receive a civil marriage license in February 1974, but were rejected. They filed a lawsuit to contest the dismissal, but the trial court dismissed their case.

On August 26, 2004, North and Vogel, along with two other same-sex couples, initiated a lawsuit, Vogel v. Canada, seeking the right to marry in Manitoba. The couples argued that the province's ban on issuing marriage licenses violated the Charter rights of gays and lesbians. Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh said, "We will not oppose what they are seeking....We don't have an interest in opposing legally recognized rights of Canadians.....I think the weight of the decisions across the country have pointed to the conclusion that the current federal law is not in accordance with the Charter, so I am pleased that we're going to have some definitive ruling here in Manitoba."

On September 16, 2004, Justice Douglas Yard of the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba ordered the province to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, ruling that the province's same-sex marriage ban violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.[1] Vogel and North did not remarry because they had been married 30 years earlier in the Unitarian Church.[4] The other couples involved in this case were Stefphany Cholakis and Michelle Ritchot, and Laura Fouhse and Jordan Cantwell. Both of these couples were issued marriage licences following the court order, with Cholakis and Ritchot being the first same-sex couple to marry in Manitoba, on September 16, 2004. Both Fouhse and Cantwell are ministers in the United Church of Canada, and in 2015 Cantwell was elected to lead the Church as Moderator.[5]

A controversy emerged shortly after the ruling, when the province's Vital Statistics Office sent letters to the province's government marriage commissioners (not clergy) asking them to return their certificates of registration if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages. The federal Conservative justice critic, Vic Toews, announced he would file a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission if this policy was not rescinded.[6] Kevin Kisilowsky, a marriage commissioner whose certification was cancelled in 2005 when he refused to return his certificate of registration, filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, arguing that performing same-sex marriages would violate his religious beliefs, but the Commission dismissed his case in 2005. Kisilowsky filed a legal challenge with the Court of Queen's Bench in September 2016, again arguing that the government's requirement that civil marriage commissioners not discriminate against same-sex couples violates his religious beliefs. Justice Karen Simonsen ruled against him in November 2016, ruling that Kisilowsky "can practice his faith as he chooses but is simply not permitted to use his faith as a basis to refuse to marry couples whose weddings, due to religious or moral views, offend him." Simonsen said Kisilowsky could apply for temporary certification or register as a religious official, which would allow him to perform marriages to whomever he wishes.[7] The Manitoba Court of Appeal upheld Justice Simonsen's decision in February 2018.[8]

A June 2005 Winnipeg Free Press survey showed that of the 14 federal Manitoban MPs, eight were against same-sex marriages, five were for and one could not be reached.

In 2015, Richard North filed a discrimination complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission when the government again refused to register his 1974 marriage to Chris Vogel.[9] The Commission referred the case to an adjudicator, who heard the complaint in November 2017. The adjudicator ruled against the couple in January 2018.[10] The marriage certificate issued to them by the Unitarian Church in 1974 is now on display at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.[11] A portrait of Vogel and North, by artist Rosey Goodman, is held by The ArQuives in its National Portrait Collection.[12] In June 2021, Justice Gerald Chartier of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench agreed with the adjudicator's decision, ruling that the province did not discriminate against the couple by not recognizing their 1974 marriage.[13]

Provincial legislation

Common-law relationships

Main article: Common-law relationships in Manitoba

Since 2001, same-sex couples have had access to government-sanctioned relationships, providing them with some of the rights and benefits of marriage.


In October 2008, the Marriage Act (French: Loi sur le mariage)[a] and several other acts relating to family law were amended by replacing the expression "husband and wife" with the gender-neutral term "spouses", and replacing "widow or widower" with "widowed spouse".[14] This legislation was assented by Lieutenant Governor John Harvard on October 9, 2008. Manitoba became the fourth province, after Quebec, Ontario and Prince Edward Island, to update its marriage laws in line with the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Subsection 7(3) was amended to read that each of the parties to the marriage, in the presence of the marriage commissioner and the witnesses, say to the other:

I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, A.B., do take thee, C.D., to be my lawful wedded (wife/husband/spouse). [C.C.S.M c. M50 s. 7(3)]

Marriage statistics

Approximately 900 same-sex couples had married in the twelve years following the court ruling. An average of 79 same-sex marriages were performed per year, with the peak being 2014 with 107 same-sex marriages.[15]


  1. ^ Cree: Wîkihtowin wanasowewin; Dakota: Wakaŋkičiyuzapi Woope; Inuktitut: ᑲᑎᑎᓯᒪᔪᓕᕆᓂᕐᒧᑦ ᐱᖁᔭᖅ, katitisimajulirinirmut piqujaq; Michif: Lway di maaryaazh; Ojibwe: Wiidigendiwin onaakonigewin


  1. ^ a b "Same-sex marriage in Manitoba, Canada". Kingston: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 21 September 2004. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Same-sex marriage in Manitoba, Canada". Retrieved 2019-10-14.
  3. ^ "First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg".
  4. ^ "40-year struggle to have groundbreaking same-sex marriage recognized still not over". Winnipeg Free Press. 19 September 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  5. ^ "Jordan Cantwell".
  6. ^ "Commissioners have right to refuse to wed gay couples: Toews". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 11 November 2004. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
  7. ^ "Former Manitoba marriage commissioner loses battle to opt out of performing same-sex weddings". CBC News. November 26, 2016.
  8. ^ "Manitoba Appeal Court upholds ruling that cost anti-gay marriage commissioner his certification". CBC News. March 1, 2018.
  9. ^ "Chris Vogel, Richard North fight for Manitoba to recognize 41-year same-sex marriage". CBC News, February 18, 2015.
  10. ^ Failing to register 1974 same-sex marriage not discriminatory: Manitoba human rights adjudicator
  11. ^ "Canadian Museum for Human Rights".
  12. ^ "Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives".
  13. ^ Bergen, Rachel (8 June 2021). "Manitoba gay couple lose fight to have 1974 marriage validated". CBC News.
  14. ^ "The Statutes Correction and Minor Amendments Act, 2008". Government of Manitoba. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
  15. ^ About 900 LGBT couples tied knot since same-sex marriage legalized in Manitoba