A Canadian judge has decided that a gay couple with a UK civil partnership can be treated as married – and therefore get divorced.
The judgement in Ontario follows legal objections from the Canadian federal Crown.
In 2009 Wayne Hincks and Gerardo Gallardo entered into a civil partnership in London. Both obtained Canadian citizenship after emigrating to Toronto in 2010.
Unlike Canada, British law does not currently allow same-sex couples to marry although civil partnerships allow for similar rights and responsibilities.
After Hincks filed for divorce last year, Gallardo argued that their civil partnership did not amount to legal marriage in Canada. But Sean Gaudet, a lawyer for the federal Crown, defended Gallardo's standpoint.
'The Attorney-General of Canada intervened in my very private matter and caused it to be stretched out, almost bankrupting me in the process,' said Hincks, in an interview with The Globe and Mail,
But despite the crown's objections, Ontario Superior Court Judge Ruth Mesbur ruled that the couple could be treated as married under Canadian law.
Granting the divorce, Judge Mesbur stated that to do otherwise would have been 'impermissible discrimination', running 'contrary to the express values of Canadian society'.
The decision allows Hincks to launch a claim for the same divorce rights a Canadian married couple would normally be entitled to, whether gay or straight.
Experts say the judgement is likely to set a precedent for the legal status of couples who have been formally partnered in other countries that do not allow same-sex marriage.