Brief Fact Summary. M. brought suit after dissolution of her same-sex relationship with H. for partition of property and support. She also challenged a Canadian Act that provided for marital support in some instances for opposite-sex nonmarrital couples but did not provide the same support for same-sex couples.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Act violated the Canadian Charter because it violated Canada’s equivalent to the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.
Issue. Does the extension of the right to seek spousal support to members of unmarried opposite-sex couples infringe on Section:15(1) of the Charter (Canada’s equivalent to the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution) by failing to provide the same rights to members of same-sex couples?
Held. Because the exclusion of such people perpetuates the disadvantages suffered by individuals in same-sex relationships and contributes to the erasure of their existence, the challenged section of the Act violates the Charter.
The FLA draws a distinction by granting rights to individual members of unmarried cohabiting opposite-sex couples which it fails to grant individual members of same-sex couples who are living together. The Act is intended to allow persons who become financially dependant in the course of a lengthy intimate relationship some relief from financial hardship upon the dissolution of the relationship.
Spousal support is available to opposite-sex members of unmarried couples who have had a minimum three year cohabitation and parenthood so long as the relationship is conjugal in nature. Same-sex couples are capable of meeting these same requirements. It is clear that this results in differential treatment.
The challenge to the Act meets the contextual requirements of previous precedent because there is a significant pre-existing disadvantage and vulnerability to the suffering group, and theses circumstances are exacerbated by the impugned legislation. There is a correspondence between the ground on which the claim is based and the actual need, capacity, or circumstances of the claimant or others. The impugned legislation has an ameliorative purpose or effect for a group historically disadvantaged in the context of the legislation. Finally, the nature of the interest affected by the impugned legislation is fundamental. Based on this analysis, the challenged portion of the Act violates the Charter.
Discussion. This case is useful in comparing Canada’s analysis of constitutional equal protection challenges to such analysis under American law.