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However, on June 10, 2003, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled on an appeal in the Halpern case. On June 10, 2003, the Court of Appeal for Ontario confirmed that current Canadian law on marriage violated the equality provisions in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in being restricted to heterosexual couples.
The court agreed with the lower court that the traditional definition of marriage was discriminatory and that same-sex marriage was legally permitted. The court did not allow the province any grace time to bring its laws in line with the ruling, making Ontario the first jurisdiction in North America to recognize same-sex marriage.
Defeat of the bill in Parliament would have continued the status quo and probably incremental legalization, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, via court challenges. However, this decision stopped short of giving them the right to full legal marriage.
This trend could have been reversed only through Parliament passing a new law that explicitly restricted marriage to opposite-sex couples notwithstanding the protection of equality rights afforded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or by amending the Canadian Constitution by inserting the clause "marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman", as was recommended by several conservative religious groups and politicians. Most laws which affect couples are within provincial rather than federal jurisdiction.
However, unlike the previous three court decisions, the Court of Appeal did not suspend its decision to allow Parliament to consider the issue. The first same-sex couple married after the decision were Michael Leshner and Michael Stark.
Instead, it ruled that the 2001 marriages were legal and same-sex marriage was available throughout Ontario immediately: Halpern v. Consequently, the city of Toronto announced that the city clerk would begin issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples.
Thereafter, many same-sex couples obtained marriage licences in those provinces; like opposite-sex couples, they did not need to be residents of any of those provinces to marry there.
Before the federal recognition of same-sex marriage, court decisions had already introduced it in eight out of ten provinces and one of three territories, whose residents collectively made up about 90% of Canada's population.
The registrar refused to accept the records of marriage, and a lawsuit was commenced over whether the marriages were legally performed.
In other provinces, lawsuits were launched seeking permission to marry.
Following the 2006 election, which was won by a Conservative minority government under new Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the House of Commons defeated a motion to reopen the matter by a vote of 175 to 123 on December 7, 2006, effectively reaffirming the legislation.
This was the third vote supporting same-sex marriage taken by three Parliaments under three Prime Ministers in three different years, as shown below.