Ontario Passes Amendment Redefining ‘Spouse’ and Gender-related Terms

Last week, the Ontario government passed a bill that changes the definition of marriage and requires the use of gender neutral terms by all laws and government programs and institutions.

The legislation was approved by a simple voice vote, despite efforts by Conservatives who oppose the bill to obtain a recorded vote. The decision follows recent court rulings in favor of same-sex unions. Provincial law can no longer use terms such as ‘husband and wife’, ‘man and woman’, or ‘widow’ and ‘widower’.

Attorney General Michael Bryant introduced the bill, stating that “currently, the statutes offend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms” by using gender-specific language.

“The bill removes references to gender and gender-specific language from Ontario definitions of spousal terms and uses one term, ‘spouse’, to include opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples who are married or who live together in conjugal relationships outside of marriage,” said Bryant.

The new definition of ‘spouse’ complies with the new definition of ‘marriage’ that has been enforced by judges, but not yet approved by the Federal Parliament.