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Same-sex marriage in Manitoba began on September 16, 2004, when Manitoba became the fifth jurisdiction in Canada to legalize same-sex marriage, after the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec, and Yukon Territory.
On September 16, 2004, Justice Douglas Yard of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench declared in the case of Vogel v. Canada that the current definition of marriage was unconstitutional. The judge said that his decision had been influenced by the previous decisions in B.C., Ontario and Quebec. This decision followed the suits brought by three couples in Manitoba requesting that they be issued marriage licenses. Both the provincial and federal governments had made it known that they would not oppose the court bid. One of the couples, Chris Vogel and Richard North, had legally sought marriage in a high-profile case in 1974 but had been denied. The other couples were Stefphany Cholakis and Michelle Ritchot, and Laura Fouhse and Jordan Cantwell.
A controversy emerged after the ruling, when the province's Vital Statistics Office sent letters to the province's government marriage commissioners (not clergy) asking them to return their certificates of registration if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages. The federal Conservative justice critic, Vic Toews, announced he would file a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission if this policy is not rescinded. (CBC News)
A Winnipeg Free Press survey (2/6/05) showed that of the 14 Manitoban MPs, 8 were against gay marriages, 5 were for and 1 could not be reached.