Two architects who took part in a civil partnership ceremony in Britain have become the first such couple to be officially recognised as “married”.
When Mr Hincks, pictured, sought a divorce, Mr Gallardo refused arguing that they were not legally married in Canada
A senior judge in Canada ruled that it would be “impermissible discrimination” not to view Wayne Hincks, 44, from London, as married to his partner Gerardo Gallardo in exactly the same way as a husband and wife.
The Supreme Court of Ontario claimed that the distinction in UK law between civil partnerships and marriage “violates human dignity”.
It is the first time that a civil partnership ceremony which took place in Britain, in which same-sex marriage is currently illegal, has been officially treated as a wedding overseas.
Lawyers said the case rendered much of the debate about allowing same-sex couples to marry as “redundant” and could have implications for the status of British civil partners in a string of other countries.
Mr Hincks, who holds both Canadian and British passports, and Mr Gallardo, dual Mexican and Canadian citizen, lived together in London before moving to Toronto and referred to each other as husband.
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At their civil partnership ceremony at Hackney Town Hall in 2009 they exchanged rings and vows and cut a cake together before going off on honeymoon.
But the relationship broke down after the pair moved to Canada.
Because Canada recognises same-sex marriage Mr Hincks sought a divorce. But Mr Gallardo refused arguing that they were not legally married in the country.
It meant Mr Hincks had no right to a share in the family home, business and even their joint bank account, prompting a two-year legal battle.
In a landmark ruling, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Mesbur ruled that they were married irrespective of the law in Britain.
“It seems to me that to do anything other than recognise this particular civil partnership as a marriage would run contrary to the express values of Canadian society … and would constitute impermissible discrimination,” she said.
Mr Hincks said it was a “victory for equality”.
“If another country says that there is no difference between civil partnership and marriage then I don’t see why the entities should exist separately here,” he said.
Miles Geffin, Legal Director in the Family Department at Mishcon de Reya, who supported Mt Hincks, said: ““As far as we are aware, this is the first time that there has been a decision on this issue by any court anywhere in the world.
“What is probably most remarkable about this is that the judge found that distinguishing between marriage and civil partnership is discriminatory according to Canadian law.
“I think the judgment brings into focus the redundant nature of the debate that is taking place in the UK on whether we should open marriage to same sex couples
“That is not to say the debate is meaningless but the question is why are we having to have this debate in circumstances where we view ourselves as a liberal democracy but where we are not taking the lead on something as fundamental as gay rights in equality.”