- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2003

TORONTO (Agence France-Presse) — Same-sex couples flocking to Canada to get married in the two Canadian provinces that allow and recognize homosexual “marriages” may find it difficult to divorce, a lawyer who has represented homosexual couples warned yesterday.

Canada is one of three countries, after Belgium and the Netherlands, where same-sex “marriages” can be performed and legally recognized.

Courts in Ontario, Canada’s most-populous province, and British Columbia ruled over the past five weeks to immediately allow and recognize same-sex “marriages.”

Ottawa said it would not fight those rulings and instead would soon introduce a bill changing the federal definition of marriage, from being only between a man and a woman to being between two persons to the exclusion of all others.

“It may seem odd that [same-sex couples] can get married in Canada, but not get divorced here,” said lawyer Douglas Elliott, who has represented homosexual couples here fighting for recognition. He explained that any divorce carries a one-year Canadian residency requirement, while marriages, even same-sex ones, do not.

“We’re the first country in the world to allow foreign same-sex couples to get married,” Mr. Elliott added.

The Netherlands requires at least one person marrying to be a resident, while Belgium requires one person to be resident and the other to be from a country that allows same-sex couples to marry, he said.

“We have heard from some Americans coming here to get married that they may not be able to get divorced,” as no U.S. state recognizes same-sex “marriages” and it may be difficult to take up residency in Canada, Mr. Elliott said.

More than 250 marriage licenses have been issued to same-sex couples since the rulings, according to the homosexual-rights group EGALE Canada.

Croatia, meanwhile, has decided to extend the same rights to homosexual couples living together as to unmarried heterosexual couples, including state recognition of shared assets and joint health coverage, a parliamentary source said in Zagreb, the capital, yesterday.

The law extending the rights, passed by parliament late Monday, only applies to homosexual couples living together for at least three years.

“It is an important step forward in terms of human rights for Croatian society,” said Sanja Juras of the lesbian-rights group Kontra (Opposite).

In recognizing same-sex partnerships, Croatia put itself on footing similar to that of countries of the European Union, which it aspires to join, perhaps by as early as 2007.

Same-sex “marriages” and partnerships are legal in a number of EU states. Britain plans to forward legislation this year to give full legal equality to “civil partnerships” for same-sex couples.

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