'Bride' and 'groom' still define marriage on P.E.I.

Same-sex P.E.I. couples can call themselves married, but more than 40 laws still define marriage as a union of members of the opposite sex.

Same-sex P.E.I. couples can call themselves married, but there are still many pieces of provincial legislation that need to be changed before the law fully recognizes the union.

Marriage commissioners on the Island have been able to perform same-sex marriagessince June 2006.

Buttwo years after Ottawa made same-sex marriage legal, more than 40 laws still define marriage as of unions between members of the opposite sex, using words such as groom and bride.

Those laws include important issues related to access to emergency medicine.

"If somebody was to find themselves incapacitated, and unable to make their own decisions, the health-care provider then has to name a substitute decision maker,"said Christopher Gillis, who helped write a guide to legal rights for same sex couples for the Community Legal Information Association of P.E.I. last year.

The law says that substitute decision maker is the spouse, but defines it as someone of the opposite sex.

"So here you are in a time sensitive, emergency situation, where things need to done quickly, and it's not clear how things would be dealt with," Gillis said.

Gillis was shocked to discover how many pieces of legislation needed to be changed, and still do.

"If a couple was legally married, and one half of the couple was to die, and say there was no will, then the Probate Act regulates how that person's estate is to be divided up," he said.

"Again you go back to the reference of marriage and spouse, which in that piece of legislation are inaccurate."

Gillis said it would require onlyminor tweaking to fix the legislation, specifically, replacing references to gender in legislation with gender-neutral language.

While this problem was identified more than a year ago, nothing has happened.

"The definition of spouse, it's so simple: a person legally married to another person," he notes. "The definition of marriage is the legal recognition of two people in marriage."

No way to regulate adherence to federal laws

Gillis believes there's a lack of political will to end the confusion.

"I think it's very political unfortunately," he said. "Constitutionally our government has to adhere to federal law. At the same time, there's virtually no way of regulating that."

Gillis hopes it doesn't take a legal challenge to push the province to make the necessary changes.

A spokesperson for the Attorney-General's office told CBC News the new provincial government is developing a list of new laws that need to be written, and existing legislation that needs to be changed.Only then can it decide on what needs to be worked on first.

Right now, same-sexlegislation changes are listed as part of the government's long-term work plan, which gives no timeline for action.

Corrections

  • Christopher Gillis is not a marriage commissioner, as originally reported. In fact, he helped write a guide to legal rights for same sex couples last year.
    Sep 17, 2007 1:10 PM AT