Reference Re Same-Sex Marriage
Halpern v Canada (AG)
Civil Marriage Act
38th House · 38th Senate
39th House · 39th Senate
|Same-sex marriage by province|
Civil unions in Quebec
Adult interdependent relationship in Alberta
Domestic partnership in Nova Scotia
Common-law relationships in Manitoba
Same-sex marriage in Newfoundland and Labrador has been legal since December 21, 2004, when the province was ordered to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples.
Newfoundland and Labrador became the eighth of Canada's provinces and territories to legalise same-sex marriage.
On November 4, 2004, two lesbian couples who had been denied marriage licences (Jacqueline Pottle and Noelle French, and Lisa Zigler and Theresa Walsh) filed a lawsuit, Pottle et al v. Attorney General of Canada et al, against the federal and provincial governments, requesting that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador be ordered to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples.
Newfoundland and Labrador thus became the eighth of Canada's thirteen provinces and territories to have such a lawsuit filed. The Government of Canada had recently ceased to oppose such lawsuits. The Provincial Government also did not oppose the lawsuit; the provincial Attorney General, Tom Marshall, announced that his office would not oppose the suit. The case began on December 13, and was heard starting on December 20, 2004.
Justice Derek Green took only one day to decide to follow the precedents from the other provinces and Yukon and ordered that same-sex couples be issued marriage licences, thus making same-sex marriage legal in Newfoundland and Labrador. Attorney General Marshall indicated that the government would comply immediately. Celebrating the ruling, French said, "It means so much for us to be able to marry right here in Newfoundland, rather than having to travel to another province. Now my parents will be able to come to our wedding. I can't tell you how happy that makes me. We're getting married this Thursday, right here in St. John's. We're so honored that Mayor Wells will be performing our ceremony." Ms. Pottle and Ms. French were married on December 23 by Andy Wells, Mayor of St. John's.
However, some officiants, including Gander Mayor Claude Elliott and Botwood Mayor Jerry Dean, said that they would refuse to officiate at such ceremonies. The Provincial Government warned its civil marriage commissioners, such as mayors or justices of the peace, that they must perform these marriages or resign, as the marriages are now legal. This mirrored an earlier move by the Manitoba Provincial Government. Desiree Dichmont, a marriage commissioner, resigned from her post following the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the province, citing her religious beliefs. She later filed a complaint with the province's human rights commission arguing that she had been unfairly discriminated against because of her religion. The commission determined in 2015 that the province had been justified in terminating her appointement. Dichmont died in 2016, age 90, and lawyers representing her estate appealed the decision. In January 2021, Supreme Court Justice Vikas Khaladkar ruled in favour of the human rights commission and agreed that the Provincial Government had the right to require her to resign unless she agreed to perform marriages to all couples. Khaladkar ordered Dichmont's estate to pay costs to the province and the human rights commission.
Gordon Young, an evangelical pastor of the First Assembly Church of St. John's, asked the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeals in February 2005 to allow him to appeal the ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. His case did not proceed.
In April 2002, the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly approved amendments to the Adoption Act to allow same-sex couples to adopt children jointly.
In May 2009, the House of Assembly amended the Marriage Act by replacing references to "husband and wife" with the gender-neutral term "spouses". The legislation was given royal assent by Lieutenant Governor John Crosbie on May 28, 2009. Further legislation passed in December 2009 replaced references to "husband and wife" and "a man and a woman" with "spouses" and "two persons" in other acts, namely the Family Law Act.