A Vancouver woman went to court on Tuesday to fight for a divorce after her husband had a gay affair that is not recognized by Canada’s justice system as adultery, nor as grounds for a speedy split, officials said.
Shelley Pickering, 44, had been married nearly 17 years when she found out last year that her husband was having an affair with a younger man. The couple split and she filed for an immediate divorce, said a justice department spokesman.
Canada requires couples to separate for one year before they are granted a no-fault divorce, unless adultery or cruelty is involved.
Her spouse admitted to the fling in an affidavit, but a provincial Supreme Court judge refused to grant them an immediate divorce because Canada’s common law definition of adultery does not include homosexual relationships. This, despite the legalization of gay marriages by Canada’s parliament last month.
The current Canadian definition of adultery — sex between a man and a woman not married to each other that includes penetration and when either is married to someone else — dates back to English church-based courts.
Pickering appeared in court with her lawyer on Tuesday to argue that the definition of adultery should be broadened to include same-sex affairs.
The Canadian government is backing her petition “to ensure that the divorce act is interpreted in a manner that is consistent with the recent changes to our marriage laws,” justice department spokesman Christian Girouard said.
“It’s a logical step to having a civil marriage act,” he said.
Prime Minister Paul Martin’s minority Liberal government passed the contentious legislation after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in December that proposed changes to the marriage laws from “a man and a woman” to “two people” would not contravene the country’s constitution.