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Until the passage of Bill C-38, the previous definition of marriage remained binding in the four jurisdictions (two provinces, two territories) where courts had not yet ruled it unconstitutional, but void in the nine jurisdictions (eight provinces, one territory) where it had been successfully challenged before the courts.
Before the enactment of federal legislation recognizing same-sex marriage, therefore, the application of federal marriage law differed depending on the province or territory.
The registrar refused to accept the records of marriage, and a lawsuit was commenced over whether the marriages were legally performed.
On June 10, 2003, the Court of Appeal for Ontario issued a decision immediately legalizing same-sex marriage in Ontario, thereby becoming the first province where it was legal.The decision of the Ontario government to recognize two marriages that took place in Toronto on January 14, 2001, retroactively makes Canada the first country in the world to have a government-legitimized same-sex marriage (the Netherlands and Belgium, which legalized same-sex marriage before Canada, had their first in April 2001 and June 2003, respectively).Same-sex marriage was originally recognized by law as a result of cases in which courts in eight out of ten of Canada's provinces, and in one of its three territories, ruled existing bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.Following the Supreme Court's decision, Liberal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, introduced Bill C-38 on February 1, 2005, to legalize marriage between persons of the same sex across Canada.The Paul Martin government supported the bill but allowed a free vote by its backbench MPs in the House of Commons. 3 that same-sex couples in Canada were entitled to receive many of the financial and legal benefits commonly associated with marriage.
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Instead, it ruled that the 2001 marriages were legal and same-sex marriage was available throughout Ontario immediately: Halpern v Canada (AG).