In other provinces, lawsuits were launched seeking permission to marry.In 20, court decisions in the superior courts of Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia 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.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 it was legal.The first same-sex couple married after the decision were Michael Leshner and Michael Stark.Consequently, the city of Toronto announced that the city clerk would begin issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples.Until the passage of Bill C-38, the previous definition of marriage remained binding in the four jurisdictions (two provinces, two territories) where courts had not yet ruled it unconstitutional, but void in the nine jurisdictions (eight provinces, one territory) where it had been successfully challenged before the courts.
The Paul Martin government supported the bill but allowed a free vote by its backbench MPs in the House of Commons. 3 that same-sex couples in Canada were entitled to receive many of the financial and legal benefits commonly associated with marriage.
The courts in each case suspended the effect of the declarations of invalidity for two years, to allow the Federal Government to consider legislative responses to the rulings.
However, on June 10, 2003, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled on an appeal in the Halpern case.
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.