Gays in many of the states in the U.S. cannot get married unlike gay couples in Canada. In Canada, gays have all the same rights as heterosexual couples when it comes to marriage and divorce. The law in Canada was changed in 2005.
The law varies from state to state. Marriage licenses are issued in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire (begins January 2010) but not in any other states. California is a bit of a mess. They passed a law allowing same-sex marriage but Proposition 8 squashed that development. The National Conference of State Legislatures has the details of the law on a state-by-state basis.
In Canada, our constitution defines divorce as being a federal power so the law is the same throughout Canada.
So, what does this mean for gay couples wishing to marry in a state that does not allow it?
As Nancy Van Tine notes in her blog, Maine recently rejected same-sex marriage, but since Canada is just a quick flight away from Maine (or long drive), it is easy for a gay couple in Maine to slip up to Canada to get married and all is well. Right?
The problem is that not all gay marriages are “happily ever after” either. Divorce happens…
If you can’t get married in a state, then you can’t get divorced there either. So, if you are a gay couple who now wants a divorce in Maine, you can’t get it. You might think a quick trip back to Canada would be all that’s necessary. Not so fast! That won’t work either!
You have to have been living in one province in Canada for at least one year to be able to ask for a divorce in that province. So, you are caught in what Barbara Findlay calls in her article in Lawyers’ Weekly a “divorce catch-22”. Married, wanting a divorce, and you can’t get one.
The law is intended to dispense “justice” yet once again the frailties of the law are obvious. If you’re a same-sex couple living in Maine, you can get married in Canada but you are stuck married unless you move to another state or to Canada. Can you imagine?