Same-sex Winnipeg couple won't quit fight to have 1970s marriage recognized

Same-sex Winnipeg couple won't quit fight to have 1970s marriage recognized

A Winnipeg couple whose longtime activism is credited with helping to make same-sex marriage legal in Canada is appealing a Manitoba Human Rights Commission decision that upheld a vital statistics bureau decision not to register the couple’s marriage from the 1970s.

Chris Vogel and Richard North got married in a Unitarian church in 1974, but what is now the Manitoba Statistics Agency refused to register the marriage because they were both men.

At the time, they were only the second same-sex couple to get married in Canada.

The pair fought the decision in court, but the judge declared the law had not “intended to recognize the capacity of two persons of the same sex to marry.” The judge then declared Vogel and North’s ceremony as a “nullity.”

The couple took the case to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission in 2015 for review.

Same-sex couple want to see their 1974 marriage ceremony recognized0:51

In his decision in January, adjudicator Robert Dawson wrote that even though laws have evolved since 1974 to allow same-sex marriage, as a human rights adjudicator he did not have the right to overturn the judge’s decision from 1974.

‘A bizarre and embarrassing irony’

He then urged North and Vogel to take further action.

“The complainant’s solution lies within the power of the federal Parliament to enact a special Act that would effectively overrule the decision [made in 1974],” Dawson wrote. “Without such intervention, a bizarre and embarrassing irony will persist. It is neither fair nor just that the law refuses to recognize the 1974 marriage of a homosexual couple whose long-standing activism and advocacy have made it possible for same-sex couples of today to take for granted their right to marry.”

The couple’s latest application was filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench in Winnipeg on Tuesday — Valentine’s Day.

Chris Vogel and Rich North’s marriage story to be told at human rights museum1:32

Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2004 but Vogel and North decided not to go through the ceremony again.

“We felt that once was enough,” Vogel has previously told CBC News. “We paid the various fees and charges associated with the marriage proper … and we did it, and our families and friends came, and co-workers and stuff, we really felt that that was enough.”

North and Vogel are among those at the forefront of the fight for equality for LGBTQ people. Their struggles for recognition have been chronicled in an exhibit at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

The couple’s latest foray in the courts is scheduled for March 6.

Published at Thu, 15 Feb 2018 15:24:36 -0500