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How Goldwater, Dubé helped make same-sex marriage legal in Quebec

At the turn of the millennium, Goldwater, Dubé’s two partners took on the case of Michael Hendricks and René Leboeuf, two men who wanted to do something in this province which hadn’t been done before: get married.

Hendricks and Leboeuf had been in a relationship for decades, and as they approached old age wanted, at last, to marry. They wanted to do this for two reasons: First, they loved one another and wanted to make that commitment official. And second, they wanted to make sure that if illness or accident should strike one of them down, the other would have the full legal protections offered by the province.

To make it possible, federal law needed to be changed, as well as part of the Quebec Civil Code, both of which explicitly defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Anne-France Goldwater and Marie-Hélène Dubé took on the case to get those definitions struck down and allow for legal same-sex marriage in Quebec. So, in 2001 they brought the case to Quebec Superior Court.

"Nothing in the law defines love,” Goldwater told the court at the time, according to a contemporary news report. "The state does not use the language of poetry. It uses the language of law, and we use a simple word: marriage.”

“These two men faced 28 years of prejudice, harassment, illness. They invested in their community and now they're going to do something for themselves: they are going to celebrate their love publicly,” Goldwater said at the time. “Not just in a parade, not carrying signs, but saying we are the same as you, as ordinary as you.”

"Sexuality and procreation have nothing to do with this," Goldwater said.

In a decision released in September 2002, Quebec Superior Court Judge Louise Lemelin would agree with the argument that the prohibition on same sex marriage was was contrary to the Charter Rights of Hendricks and Leboeuf. She would put a two-year stay on her decision, but that would be struck down by the Quebec Court of Appeal in March 2004 ,and Hendricks and Leboeuf were married just a few weeks later on April 1.

Many years of marriage later, Hendricks and Leboeuf are still in love. Mr. Leboeuf summed up the secret of their success as "having a sense of humour, be loving and accept your spouse for their qualities and defects!"

Photo: Nick Karvounis // Unsplash