Global Politics

LGBT activists outraged by Canadian flip-flop on same sex marriages

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Stephen Harper, the conservative Canadian Prime Minister, is under fire for his government's alleged flip-flop on gay marriage. (Photo by Kashmera via Wikimedia Commons, cc-by-sa.)

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is under fire after critics say his government is changing Canada's position on same-sex marriage.

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Two women — one from Florida, the other from Britain — who got married in Canada, which legalized same-sex marriages in 2005, sought a divorce in Toronto. A lawyer representing Canada’s federal government in the case argued that the women’s marriage in Canada was never valid in the first place because same-sex marriage isn’t legal in either Florida or Britain.

“The narrow interpretation of the law shows that the Harper government is trying to take away same-sex rights by stealth, and Canadians need to know that the advances we thought were secure are now under threat from the Harper neo-conservatives,” Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae told the Toronto Star on Thursday.

Harper denied that allegation, but said he would try and find out why the government has changed its position.

 “This is I gather a case before the courts where Canadian lawyers have taken a particular position based on the law … I will be asking officials to provide me more details on this particular case," he said to the Star. “As I have said before we have no intention of opening or reopening this issue."

There's another wrinkle in all of this, the CBC reported. Under Canadian law, couples cannot get a divorce in Canada unless they've lived there for at least a year.

Many of the same-sex couples who traveled to Canada to get married wouldn't meet that standard. Politicians have vowed to try and change the law to allow same-sex couples who wed in Canada to also get a divorce there.

According to the CBC, government lawyers are also intervening in a case of a gay couple that had a civil union in the United Kingdom, but now live in and want a divorce under Canadian law. Canada says a U.K. civil union is not equivalent to a Canadian marriage, and therefore they're not married and not entitled to a divorce.