Groundbreaking reforms that could see same-sex unions recognised under law in Canada and the UK are currently being discussed at government level.

Last week, the British government showed preliminary support for legally recognised gay and lesbian unions after a review by Barbara Roche, the minister responsible for equality issues, concluded there should be a civil register in the UK for same-sex couples.

Roche’s review also suggested that most of the rights of marriage should be granted to unions made through civil registry.

The re-emergence of the issue in the UK comes as the Canadian public and its government consider the possibilities of legally recognised same-sex marriage in the nation.

A consultation paper on same-sex unions released by Canadian justice minister Martin Cauchon could see the introduction of legislation on same-sex marriage in Canada by May of next year.

Cauchon’s review outlines four possibilities for the government in approaching the issue: granting gay men and lesbians full marriage rights, the creation of civil union legislation, doing nothing, or leaving marriage solely in the hands of religious institutions.

The purpose of the discussion paper is to provide the standing committee with straightforward, contextual information about the legal and social issues concerning marriage and the legal recognition of conjugal relationships, both in Canada and in other jurisdictions, a statement from the Canadian Justice Department released on 7 November said.

The committee will begin public hearings next month. According to, Cauchon said he expects a report with a recommendation by next May with legislation to be introduced in the House shortly after that.

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