Minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate Jeanie Dendys tabled Bill No. 21 today, the Equality of Spouses Act. The Bill continues the Government of Yukon’s ongoing work to make Yukon laws non-discriminatory and inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, Two-Spirit plus (LGBTQ2S+) Yukoners.
Bill no. 14 would amend nine Acts to make them inclusive of same-sex partners and would repeal the Married Women’s Property Act. Language like “husband” and “wife” would be replaced with “spouse”, and “widow” and “widower” would be changed to “surviving spouse” to make these Acts more inclusive.
The Bill would also update the Judicature Act to reflect the modern legal principle that all women have the power to make their own decisions, whether they are married or unmarried.
LGBTQ2S+ people are valued members of our communities, and we are committed to affirm the diversity of genders and the equality of spouses in our legislation in order to make Yukon fair and equal for everyone. This Bill is part of our ongoing work to make our laws inclusive of people of all sexual orientations, all gender identities and all gender expressions.
Minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate Jeanie Dendys
Including LGBTQ2S+ people in the language of our laws is not a courtesy, it is a right. We have a constitutional obligation to update language in our laws to ensure equality of treatment for people of all genders and same-sex married and common-law partners. This important legislation will bring Yukon in line with our obligations under the Yukon Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Minister of Justice Tracy-Anne McPhee
The Acts that would be amended by Bill no. 14 are the Dependents Relief Act, the Estate Administration Act, the Evidence Act, the Family Property and Support Act, the Government Employee Housing Plan Act, the Income Tax Act, the Marriage Act and the Spousal Compensation Act. We are repealing the Married Women’s Property Act and making consequential amendments to the Judicature Act.
The Married Women’s Property Act was important when it was enacted in the 1950s. Prior to that Act, upon getting married, women lost rights to independently hold and dispose of property, enter a contract, sue or be sued, or act as a litigation guardian. Those rights are now protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Similar acts have been repealed in most Canadian jurisdictions.
Last spring, the Government of Yukon passed the new Gender Diversity and Related Amendments Act. In 2017, the territorial government amended the Vital Statistics Act and the Human Rights Act to include LGBTQ2S+ inclusive language.