The Newfoundland Supreme Court has cleared the way for two lesbian couples – and for all same-sex couples that follow – to marry legally.

  • CBC News Indepth: Same-sex rights
  • Judge Derek Green ruled Tuesday afternoon on the issue, making Newfoundland and Labrador the eighth jurisdiction to sanction same-sex marriage.

    Jacqueline Pottle and Noelle French

    Jacqueline Pottle and Noelle French are one of the couples wishing to marry legally

    Two St. John's couples – Jacqueline Pottle and Noelle French, and Lisa Zigler and Theresa Walsh – were asking for the right to marry legally.

    They had applied earlier for marriage licences, but were rejected.

    Pottle and French were thrilled as Green delivered his decision.

    "We vowed to be married by Christmas," Pottle says.

    "And now it's going to come true."

    Pottle says the court decision represents a leap for minority rights, and a personal victory.

    "I think it's the respect we get from society," she says.

    "For us, it's just about that next level of commitment – that lifetime commitment that we can now make in front of our family and friends."

    Licences will be issued immediately: Marshall

    Justice Minister Tom Marshall says he has instructed government staff to issue licences to gay couples who ask for them.

    "I am duty bound to uphold and apply the law. The law has been changed," Marshall says.

    Cabinet will now debate whether marriage commissioners will be required to marry same-sex couples, if they object on religious grounds.

    Marshall says cabinet will make that decision early in the New Year.

    Gander Mayor Claude Elliott says he and some other mayors will not participate in same-sex ceremonies.

  • From Dec. 13: Won't officiate at gay marriages, mayor says
  • Elliott has said he would stop officiating at marriages altogether.

    'Apex of moral depravity'

    Pastor Gordon Young, who runs a St. John's evangelical church, was disappointed by the decision.

    "In Canada, we're approaching the apex of moral depravity," says Young, who was granted standing during the case.

    "We're changing the essence of an institution that we've always had for centuries, and changing it into something that will never be the same again," Young says.

    The decision came only hours after federal cabinet representative John Efford met with church leaders opposed to same-sex marriage.

    Efford says he will not reveal whether or not he will support a pending government bill on same-sex marriage until January, after he meets with Prime Minister Paul Martin.

  • Related coverage: Efford mum on same-sex decision
  • The decision comes in the wake of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling this month that cleared the way for the Liberal government to introduce a bill early in the New Year giving gays and lesbians the legal right to marry.

    Same-sex couples can also marry in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the Yukon.