WINNIPEG - Manitoba officials began issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples on Thursday after a judge declared that the current definition of marriage is unconstitutional.
The province is the fourth to legalize same-sex marriage, following Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.
Justice Douglas Yard, ruling in the Court of Queen's Bench, declared Thursday that the current definition of marriage "is no longer constitutionally valid in view of the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."
An overflow crowd applauded the decision.
The ruling follows a lawsuit launched in the province last month by three couples challenging the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
"Not being equal wasn't an accident," said gay activist Chris Vogel. "It was a deliberate calculated insult, as is all prejudice against unpopular minorities."
He married his partner Richard North in a church 30 years ago, but the province did not recognize the union.
Government lawyers didn't fight case
The case marks the first time federal lawyers did not try to fight a same-sex lawsuit. Provincial lawyers also did not oppose the case.
Yard said the precedents set by B.C., Ontario and Quebec influenced his decision. In the territories, a Yukon judge has also ruled the same way.
"The traditional definition of marriage is no longer constitutionally valid in view of the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Yard said in his decision.
Despite Thursday's decision, Ottawa retains the final decision on the legal definition of marriage.
The Supreme Court of Canada is reviewing draft legislation that would change the definition of marriage in federal law.
Read more info on: CBC.ca
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