The Civil Marriage Act was introduced by Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberal Minority Government in the Canadian House of Commons on February 1, 2005 as Bill C-38.
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Note that in some of these cases, some marriages were in fact legal at an earlier date (for example, an Ontario ruling held that marriages performed in January 2001 were legal when performed), but the legality was questioned.
As of the given dates, the legality was authoritatively established.
Before introducing it into Parliament, the federal Cabinet submitted the bill as a reference to the Supreme Court (Re Same-Sex Marriage), asking the court to rule on whether limiting marriage to heterosexual couples was consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and if same-sex civil unions are an acceptable alternative.
On December 9, 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the marriage of same-sex couples is constitutional, that the Federal Government has the sole authority to amend the definition of marriage, and the Charter's protection of freedom of religion grants religious institutions the right to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.
Given the composition of the House of Commons at the time, such a measure would have been very unlikely to pass. As a result, rights varied somewhat from province to province. Brent Hawkes forced the issue by performing two same-sex marriages, taking advantage of the fact that Ontario law authorizes him to perform marriages without a previous license, via the issuance of banns of marriage.
Conservative Alberta Premier Ralph Klein proposed putting the question to the public at large via a national referendum, In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in M. The registrar refused to accept the records of marriage, and a lawsuit was commenced over whether the marriages were legally performed.
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