Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Details

L. McNamara, ''''Legal form'' and the purchase of human rights discourse in domestic policy-making: the achievement of same-sex marriage in Canada'' in M. Rask. Madsen & G. Verschraegen(ed), Making Human Rights Intelligible: Towards a Sociology of Human Rights (2013) 247-265.


In the period 2003–05, law-makers in Australia, Canada, New Zealandand the UK took decisive action on the question of the legal status tobe afforded to same-sex relationships. At one end of the spectrum, theCanadian Civil Marriage Act 2005 (commonly referred to as Bill C-38)reformulated the legal definition of marriage as ‘the lawful union of twopersons to the exclusion of all others’. At the other end of the spectrum, theAustralian Marriage Amendment Act 2004 expressly added the traditionalcommon law formulation of the definition of marriage to the Marriage Act1961 (Aust): ‘the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others,voluntarily entered into for life’. In between these two extremes of fullequality-based recognition and non-recognition are the partial separate but(almost) equal recognition approaches of the UK and New Zealand. TheCivil Partnership Act 2004 (UK) and the Civil Union Act 2004 (NZ) bothprovide for the legal recognition of a new ‘marriage-like’ relationship, whilereserving the category of ‘marriage’ for heterosexual relationships.