Canada extends alimony to gays

A HETEROSEXUAL definition of the term "spouse" has been struck out by the Supreme Court of Canada, in one of the world's most far-reaching homosexual rights rulings.

The 8-1 decision ruled that Ontario's Family Law Act is unconstitutional in denying homosexuals the right to apply for alimony from each other.

But the implications of the ruling reach far beyond both Ontario and family law.

"The Supreme Court has overturned centuries of social tradition," said Darrel Reid, president of Focus on the Family Canada, which intervened in the case to argue against expanding gay rights.

The case involved two lesbians, M and H. Denied spousal support after separating from her partner, M asked the courts to strike out the provision in Ontario's spousal law that limited the right to claim alimony to married or common-law heterosexual couples.

"The exclusion of same-sex partners from the benefits of (the act) promotes the view that M, and individuals in same-sex relationships generally, are less worthy of recognition and protection," Justice Peter Cory wrote for the majority.

The court, stressing that it was not changing "traditional conceptions of marriage" noted that the Ontario law had already expanded spousal support beyond married persons to heterosexuals living in common-law relationships.

But it said its decision "may well affect numerous other statutes that rely upon a similar definition of the term `spouse'".

Gay and lesbian groups welcomed the ruling.

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