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Canada’s Conservative Harper government has just torched my marriage certificate?

The Harper government has served notice that thousands of same-sex couples who flocked to Canada from abroad since 2004 to get married are not legally wed.

Talk about a body-blow to all of the Americans — including me and my wife Kate — who flocked to Canada to get married. Stephen Harper’s conservative government has declared all marriages from any countries where there is not marriage equality null-and-void.

The reversal of federal policy is revealed in a document filed in a Toronto test case launched recently by a lesbian couple seeking a divorce. Wed in Toronto in 2005, the couple have been told they cannot divorce because they were never really married – a Department of Justice lawyer says their marriage is not legal in Canada since they could not have lawfully wed in Florida or England, where the two partners reside.

The two women – professionals in the their early 30s – cannot be identified under a court order. But Martha McCarthy, a prominent Toronto lawyer who represents them, said the government’s about-face is astonishing.

“It is scandalous,” she said in an interview. “It is offensive to their dignity and human rights to suggest they weren’t married or that they have something that is a nullity.”

The latest development threatens to transform Canada from an international beacon for the rights of gays and lesbians to a nation that discriminates against them, Ms. McCarthy said.

Our wedding album is herePat Mitten, a marriage commissionaire (equivalent to a justice of the peace in the U.S.) performed the civil ceremony, held at the Apricot Cat and Black Dog Bed & Breakfast in Vancouver, British Columbia on July 1 (Canada Day), 2004.

What Stephen Harper and his government cannot undo is the freedom of equality we felt from all we encountered during our stay in Vancouver when we told them we traveled from North Carolina to their great city to be legally joined as a family unit.

If the bottom line is that if I’m no longer married, that presents an opportunity — we can do what we could not in 2004 — legally marry in NYC, where I have a lot of family and friends. Now if only we can afford to do the shindig, since that’s a lot more people to invite than just my brother – he was our sole guest the first time around. Shove it, Harper.

More from Dan Savage, who is in the same predicament.

UPDATE: Harper has been caught off-guard by this firestorm that has been lit.

“I will admit to you that I am not aware of the details,” the Prime Minister told reporters. “This I gather is a case before the courts where Canadian lawyers have taken a particular position based on the law and I will be asking officials to provide me more details.”

Mr. Harper’s advisers must know that a huge political controversy has landed in their lap. Soon after The Globe and Mail published the story, the Twitterverse exploded, with more observant posters asking if this meant that couples of different races couldn’t marry in Canada, or women couldn’t get a driver’s licence, if their native land forbade such things.

…If Mr. Harper wanted to launch a culture war through the back door, he has succeeded. If he was as surprised as everyone else by the lawyer’s opinion, then he will need to deal with the matter – and deal with it soon.

UPDATE 2: LGBT legal groups: Canadian marriages of same-sex couples are not in jeopardy.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding