Same-sex marriage in Nova Scotia has been legal since September 24, 2004, when the province began issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples immediately following a court ruling from the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

Nova Scotia became the sixth jurisdiction in Canada (and the ninth worldwide) to legalise same-sex marriage.


Main article: Domestic partnership in Nova Scotia

Prior to 2001, common-law couples, either opposite-sex or same-sex, were not able to adopt. However, in 2001, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court concluded that the provision in the Adoption Act that prevented common-law couples from adopting was unconstitutional. The result been that common-law couples, either same-sex or opposite-sex, are now able to adopt children jointly.[1]

Soon thereafter, the Nova Scotia House of Assembly approved An Act to Comply with Certain Court Decisions and to Modernize and Reform Laws in the Province to reflect the court's decision in provincial law and establish domestic partnerships. The act went into force on June 4, 2001.

Domestic partnerships grant cohabiting couples many of the rights and obligations of marriage, including pension benefits, inheritance, and the ability to divide property or other assets at separation or death. These partnerships differ from common law marriages in that they are registered with the state and the property rights of domestic partners are better defined. Both partners must be 19 or older, resident in Nova Scotia for the past 3 months, and not currently married or in a partnership with another individual.[2] Both opposite-sex and same-sex couples can enter into a domestic partnership. Domestic partnerships are known as unions de fait in French, Nova Scotia's second-most spoken language, com-pàirteachas co-fhuireachd in Scottish Gaelic, and nikma'jewel in the indigenous Miꞌkmaq language.

Court ruling

On August 13, 2004, three couples brought the suit Boutilier et al. v. Canada (A.G) and Nova Scotia (A.G) against the provincial and federal governments requesting that they be issued same-sex marriage licences.[3][4] The partners who brought suit were Brian Mombourquette and Ross Boutelier, Kim Vance and Samantha Meehan (who married in Toronto in 2003 and sought recognition of their marriage at home in Nova Scotia), and Ron and Bryan Garnett-Doucette. The couples were represented by Halifax lawyer Sean Foreman of law firm Wickwire Holm.

On September 24, 2004, Justice Heather Robertson of the Supreme Court ruled that banning such marriages was unconstitutional and ordered the province to recognize same-sex unions.[5] Just hours after the ruling was handed down, Ron and Bryan Garnett-Doucette became the first same-sex couple to obtain a marriage license in Nova Scotia.[6]

Neither the federal nor the provincial governments opposed the ruling, continuing the trend set with the Yukon and Manitoba rulings. The Nova Scotia Justice Minister, Michael Baker, said, "We certainly did not want to waste taxpayers' money.", and Premier John Hamm said the province would abide by the court's decision. Leader of the Opposition Darrell Dexter praised the court ruling.

Provincial legislation

An odd proviso to the post-ruling status was that, until a formal change of the provincial Solemnization of Marriage Act, the Minister of Justice still required the terms "husband and wife" to be used by justices of the peace in any wedding. This stance by the Justice Department was categorized by some as heterosexist. Shortly afterwards, following warnings of further legal action by the couples' lawyer, the policy was changed to remove that requirement.[7] The Solemnization of Marriage Act, however, was not modified to this effect.

Only in October 2017 did the House of Assembly approve a bill replacing references to "husband and wife" with the gender-neutral term "spouses".[8][9] The bill passed its third reading on 20 October and received royal assent by Lieutenant Governor Arthur LeBlanc six days later.

Marriage statistics

126 same-sex marriages were solemnized in the province in 2017, accounting for 3% of all marriages, with 87 (69%) of these being between lesbian couples.[10]


  1. ^ III. Adoption D. Legislative Approaches in Other Jurisdictions
  2. ^ "Discussion Paper — Matrimonial Property in Nova Scotia – Suggestions for a New Family Law Act, 1996 CanIIDocs 105". CanLII.
  3. ^ "Same-sex marriage in Nova Scotia, Canada". Kingston: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 25 September 2004. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
  4. ^ "And Nova Scotia makes six". Equal Marriage for Same-Sex Couples. 24 September 2004. Archived from the original on 2011-04-30. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
  5. ^ "Nova Scotia legalizes same-sex marriages". Ottawa: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 24 September 2004. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
  7. ^ "Same-sex couples still 'husband and wife' in Nova Scotia". Ottawa: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 24 October 2004. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
  8. ^ An Act to Amend Chapter 436 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Solemnization of Marriage Act
  9. ^ Solemnization of Marriage Act (amended) - Bill 17
  10. ^ "Vital Statistics Annual Report: 2017" (PDF).