Canada’s Debate on Same-Sex Marriage

A policy cycle analysis and historical review of same sex marriage in Canada.

This paper uses the public policy cycle to examine the government’s current initiative to discuss possible solutions to same-sex marriage and provides a brief historical context. The paper provides an insight into this controversial topic from the legal point of view and outlines the role played by the courts and their rulings on these issues.

Table of Contents
History of Homosexual and Same-Sex Relationship Rights in Canada
Policy Formation & Decision Making
Discussion Paper
Response to Discussion Paper
Horizontal Consistency of Current and Proposed Policy
Policy Implementation and Evaluation
`The Federal Government of Canada is currently debating a discussion paper submitted by the Minister of Justice, Martin Cauchon, concerning the issue of same-sex marriage. The topic of same-sex marriage is one of great controversy in Canada and its journey to being placed on the current Government’s public policy agenda has been a tumultuous one. For gay and lesbian couples, the journey has been long, seemingly traveling at a snail’s pace. Yet in the grand scheme of things, the fact that the government is now seriously considering the issue of same-sex marriage is remarkable considering that thirty-three years ago homosexuality was still considered a criminal offense in Canada. Even when Prime Minister Trudeau decriminalized homosexuality in 1969, it was done so under the ‘right to privacy’ and thus deemed an issue best kept hidden from the public sphere and relegated to silence (Wood, 2002). The thirty-three years between decriminalization of homosexuality and today’s consideration of same-sex marriage, has been marked by a very incremental and tedious process of gaining homosexual rights. While Canada is still far from a society that is accepting and condoning of same-sex relationships, progress has been made at a relatively steady rate. In 1999 the Federal Government changed the definition of spouse to include same-sex partners but tacked on an explicit clause stating that the definition of marriage would remain one man and one woman (Wood, 2002). Now, only three years later, the government is actively considering changing its policy on same-sex marriage.`