As a blunt-talking sex columnist, Dan Savage is usually the source of shock and outrage.
But Thursday morning, the Seattle-based gay activist, who married his boyfriend in Vancouver in 2005, was the one caught off guard by news of the Canadian government’s legal position that thousands of non-resident gays and lesbians who came to Canada to wed are not legally married.
“When I got out of bed, I was a married man and as soon as I got on my Twitter feed I realized I had been divorced overnight,” Mr. Savage said in an interview.
The government’s view is outlined in a legal brief filed in a divorce proceeding in Toronto. It argues the same-sex marriages that non-residents contracted in Canada are only valid if those marriages are also legal in their home country.
“All those conservatives out there who complain about having to hear about gay issues, or their children being exposed to the existence of homosexuality every time they turn on the news, are going to have a lot to complain about,” Mr. Savage said with a laugh.
“Because we’re not going to take it lying down. There’ll be lawsuits. There’ll be screaming and yelling. The only way to get gay issues off the front pages of Canadian newspapers is to grant gay and lesbian people our full civil equality and leave it alone.”
Mr. Savage noted that Prime Minister Stephen Harper appeared surprised when he was questioned about the legal opinion. Mr. Harper said he did not intend to reopen the issue.
“Hopefully this is just one rogue lawyer or two and not policy of Canada’s Conservative government. If it is Canada’s Conservative government then the issue has definitely been re-opened,” Mr. Savage said.
Mr. Savage is known for initiating the It Gets Better videos for bullied gay teens.
Same-sex marriages are not performed where Mr. Savage lives. But Washington State recognizes marriages from other jurisdictions so the couple could share state benefits but not federal ones.
Ottawa’s legal stand, he said, would perpetuate the prejudices of other jurisdictions.
He alluded to Saudi Arabia, where, according to the U.S. State Department, Saudi women are prohibited from marrying non-Muslims and may not marry non-Saudis without government permission.
“I’d like to know, if a Jewish man was to marry a Saudi woman, which is illegal in Saudi Arabia, in Canada would it be a legally recognized marriage? Or is this a special right that we enjoy, this right to be discriminated that way?”