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Friday, July 23, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Lesbians seek Canada's first same-sex divorce

By Seattle Times news services

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The State of Marriage
TORONTO — A lesbian couple is seeking what is believed to be Canada's first same-sex divorce in Ontario Superior Court.

The women, identified according to their lawyers' initials as M.M., a 41-year-old born in Toronto, and J.H., a 61-year-old born in Ottawa, were married on June 18, 2003, one week after the Ontario Court of Appeal legalized same-sex marriage in the province.

The couple separated five days after the wedding, ending an almost 10-year relationship, J.H.'s lawyer Julie Hannaford said.

"This is the first same-sex divorce case in Canada to our knowledge," M.M.'s lawyer, Martha McCarthy, said in court documents.

The petition, filed in the Superior Court of Justice last month, was to be heard Sept. 13. It will add a new facet to the contentious legal debate over same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court of Canada is holding hearings on the legality of same-sex marriages in the fall.

The ruling Liberal government has vowed to legalize same-sex marriage across the country although polls have shown about half of Canadians are against the move.

So far, courts in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and the Yukon territory — overseeing some 70 percent of the country's 31 million people — have ruled that the right for gays and lesbians to marry is guaranteed by the Canadian constitution's Charter of Rights.

However, the federal Divorce Act hasn't been amended to apply to same-sex couples.

Most Spaniards favor legalizing gay unions

MADRID — Nearly 70 percent of Spaniards are in favor of a planned law to legalize gay unions, despite strong opposition from the church in the traditionally Catholic country, a poll showed yesterday.

Three quarters of respondents to the nationwide poll by the Center for Sociological Investigations also said they thought the law should give homosexual couples exactly the same rights and obligations as heterosexual partners.
 
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Spain, where 95 percent of the population is registered as Catholic, is increasingly liberal and its recently elected Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has made the gay-marriage law a high-profile issue during his first months in office.

Only 11.6 percent of the 2,479 people questioned for the poll, which has a margin of error of 2 percentage points, said they were very or quite opposed to the law.

Over a fifth of those polled said they thought homosexuality was unnatural, and 4 percent that it should be punished.

Nine other European Union countries have some provision for recognizing those in committed same-sex relationships.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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