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Sexual Orientation

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Michael Leshner’s fight to include Michael Stark, foreground, in all his benefits is backed by a Human Rights Tribunal. (Patti Gower, 1992, Toronto Star Photo Archives).

Michael Leshner v. Ontario

Michael Stark and Michael Leshner married in 2003, after fighting for 20 long and arduous years to become Canada’s first legally married same-sex couple.

In July of 2002, Leshner and his partner went to Toronto City Hall to request a marriage license after a three-judge panel ruled the legal definition of marriage to be unconstitutional. The panel ordered the federal government to change the definition, and one of the three judges suggested that the new definition of marriage should be changed from a union between “one man and one woman” to a union between “two persons.”

The judges gave the federal government two years to make changes to the definition. The city clerk’s office interpreted this grace period to mean that the court decision was suspended for two years. With the rejection of a license, the “marriage case,” as Leshner and Stark called it, was born.

The Court of Appeal unanimously found that the exclusion of same-sex couples was a clear violation of the Charter and moreover did not constitute a "reasonable infringement" under Section 1. The court also held that the new definition allowing same-sex couples to marry would take effect immediately.

In 2003 Michael Leshner and Michael Stark became the first gay couple to wed in Canada, in a civil ceremony held immediately after the Ontario Appeals Court ruled the practice legal. Photos of their post-nuptial kiss were published around the globe as Ontario was pushed to the forefront of the international fight for LGBTQ equality.

Gay marriage legalized in Ontario

CBC, "Gay marriage legalized in Ontario," CBC Archives. Added 2003

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Three individuals preparing for the Lesbian and Gay Pride Day parade in a Church Street bar. (Boris Spremo, 1993, Toronto Star Photo Archives)

Ray Brillinger v. Scott Brockie

On February 24, 2000, Scott Brockie, the owner of printing company Imaging Excellence, was found to have infringed upon the rights of Ray Brillinger and the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA) when he refused to provide them with printing services. Brockie testified that he refused printing services because he “endeavours to live [his] life according to Biblical principles.”

The Board of Inquiry found that Brockie discriminated against Brillinger, then the Vice President of the CLGA, as well as the CGLA itself, on the grounds of sexual orientation. The Board ordered Brockie to pay $5,000 in damages. Brockie did not agree with the ruling and vowed to appeal the verdict.

Eight years after the first complaint was filed, Brockie owed more than $40,000, which included legal costs – his, those of the CLGA and those of the Ontario Human Rights Commission – as well as the original $5,000 fine. In the end, Judge MacNaughton as part of her order, noted that although it seemed Brockie would not be persuaded of the seriousness of his discriminatory act, hopefully others will be informed by it.

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Sexual Orientation