British Columbia

B.C.'s first gay divorce granted

Two women who got married in Parksville two years ago have been granted a divorce by a B.C. Supreme Court judge in Nanaimo.

Two women who got married in Parksville two years ago have been granted a divorce by a B.C. Supreme Court judge in Nanaimo.

Gay and lesbians in B.C. won the legal right to marry in 2003, sparking a wedding boom.

Among the gays and lesbians who decided to get married was a woman who can only be identified – by court order – by her initials, J.S.

But the marriage didn't work out. And J.S. filed for divorce last year.

But she says she was shocked to discover that while her same-sex marriage was legal, she wasn't allowed to divorce – because the Divorce Act only allowed a man and a woman to part.

"I had no idea I couldn't file for divorce. It just blew me away – the fact that we could legally get married, but we couldn't get divorced."

That's what led her to the Nanaimo courthouse on Wednesday to change the law.

Madame Justice Laura Gerow agreed the divorce law discriminated against gays and lesbians. And with the stroke of a pen, she granted the divorce – and changed the law to define a married couple as any two persons.

"

I just floated out of the courthouse," says J.S. "I'm ecstatic."

Her lawyer says the ruling is a gay rights victory that will stand, saying all sides, including the attorney general, agreed to the legal change.

Elizabeth Strain says if same-sex couples are allowed to marry, the same legal grounds have to apply to divorce.

J.S. and her partner aren't the first gay couple to win a divorce in Canada. An Ontario court made a similar ruling for a couple there last September.

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