Ontario's Registrar General is adjusting to the new world of same-sex marriage ... slowly.

 

 

 

 

"I have read various newspaper articles about the backlog at the Registrar General's Office. Each media outlet has its own story. Some blame a new computer system. In fact, the word from the Ombudsman's Office is that incoming requests are still routed manually. This is why it is so difficult to trace them. Others blame recent underfunding by the Provincial Government. In fact, allegations of mismanagement WITHIN the office have surfaced time again and time again."
Paul Marcelin-Sampson, Feb. 18, 2004

 

 

 

 

 

Same-sex marriage dominated this year's Valentine's Day:  Messages from leading advocates.

 

 

"In my opinion, the struggle hasn't been fully won just yet if we have to have the indignity of having a cheap-looking altered marriage license or those that are gender inaccurate. The message conveyed by this is: 'we are forced to marry you but aren't going to accommodate you ... marriage is really between male and female and no matter how hard you try, your license still conveys that.' "
Alan Spector, New York

 

 

Camadadirugs.com

 

 

"The Office of the Registrar General [ORG] is struggling with a backlog of all types of applications," the Assistant Deputy Minister told us. "... only recently the ORG was given some new temporary resourcing to begin to reduce this backlog, largely caused by an increase in workload of 37%."
Lynn MacDonald, Assistant Deputy Minister of Ontario's Consumer and Business Services

 

 

 

Travelling to Ontario to get married?  Marriage advisory

 

 

 

Link to Donations page

 

 

 

 

 

Send this page to a friend!

 

Legal News Canada - Ontario - Ontario Ministry adjusts to equal marriage

February 19, 2004

Systemic problems delay marriage certificates

On February 6 (see below) we wrote about the delay that same-sex couples are experiencing in receiving their marriage certificates (8 months and counting!). We were, assured by the Deputy Registrar General for Ontario, that all applications received up to and including Oct. 29, 2003 were processed. Couples have written to us to question the accuracy of that claim. The latest arrived yesterday from Mr. Paul Marcelin-Sampson, in California:

Useful Ontario Registrar Info:

Ontario Government: Getting Married

Registrar General's Inquiry Line:
416-325-8305 (often busy)

The Ontario Ombudsman's Office:
416-586-3300

I would like to correct an error of fact in your February 6th, 2004 article entitled "Onario Ministry adjusts to equal marriage" Your article states that "as of today, the ORG says it has processed all applications that were received by October 29, 2003". In fact, Mr Roch McLean of the Ontario Ombudsman's Office told me this morning that the Registrar was just now working on applications received during the first week of October. The Ombudsman's Office has a contact in the Registrar General's Office and can assist with delayed marriage certificate requests.

Mine and my spouse's case is a little unusual. I was born in Ottawa, grew up in Toronto, and now live in Santa Cruz, California. He was born in California. We were married in Toronto on August 27, 2003. Upon returning home, we filed for a legal change of name. I am a dual citizen, and my US passport and other US identity documents now bear my new surname. I cannot, however, have my Canadian passport amended to reflect the new surname until I receive my Ontario Marriage Certificate.

The process of getting the Marriage Certificate has been a nightmare. The Registrar General's inquiry line (416 325-8305) is constantly busy. I did get through once, on December 5, 2003, when "Pat" told me that the staff had no way of finding or tracing an existing request. My only option, she said, was to file a new request, pay again, and eventually receive two sets of certificates. Of course no commitment could be made as to processing time.

The Ontario Ombudsman's Office (416 586-3300) has been very helpful. I explained to Mr McLean that I cannot even contemplate travel at this time, given that my two passports bear different surnames. A "tracer" has been placed on my certificate request.

I have read various newspaper articles about the backlog at the Registrar General's Office. Each media outlet has its own story. Some blame a new computer system. In fact, the word from the Ombudsman's Office is that incoming requests are still routed manually. This is why it is so difficult to trace them. Others blame recent underfunding by the Provincial Government. In fact, allegations of mismanagement WITHIN the office have surfaced time again and time again. See the Hansard (the record of legislative debate in Ontario) for the scathing results of the audit conducted in the early nineties.

The problems at the Registrar General are chronic, and nothing less than a complete purge of the management and the line staff, and the adoption of a modern, computerized workflow, will solve the problem. In the meantime, almost six months after we were married, my spouse and I await our Ontario Marriage Certificate.

Yours truly,

Mr R. Paul Marcelin-Sampson
California


A North Carolina couple, Kathy and Elaine, pointed out that the numbers provided by the Ontario Registrar General (ORG) did not make sense. At the time of the report (Feb. 6), we were told that the ORG requires 18 weeks to process a request, and that the office was, at that time, processing requests that had been submitted at the end of October. The problem was the time from the end of October to Feb 6 was only 14 weeks. Did the ORG really mean they were processing orders from the end of September? On Feb. 7, we went back to the source of our information, Judi Hartman, Deputy Registrar General to ask about the discrepancy. We have not received a response.


February 6, 2004

Ontario Ministry adjusts to equal marriage
Couples are concerned about delays in paperwork

Ontario proved itself ready to perform same-sex marriages within hours after the Court of Appeal reformulated the discriminatory law to include gays and lesbians. But while the province began issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples on June 10, 2003, Ontario has not been as quick to fulfill its other responsibilities.

Marriage Licence Application

Soon after the arrival of equal marriage, we began getting questions and comments from couples who wanted to know where they could get an updated Marriage Licence Application. The form still lists "Bridegroom" and "Bride".

For couples who have long experienced slights, prejudice, and discrimination, the symbolism was important.

"I do not want one of us to be listed as a Bride, since we are two men," wrote Alan Spector from New York. "In my opinion, the struggle hasn't been fully won just yet if we have to have the indignity of having a cheap-looking altered marriage license or those that are gender inaccurate. The message conveyed by this is: 'we are forced to marry you but aren't going to accommodate you ... marriage is really between male and female and no matter how hard you try, your license still conveys that.'

"I know that B.C. already changed its forms," Alan continued, "but [I] haven't been able to get any updates regarding Ontario."

Couples are free to cross out the designations, and simply write in the term they prefer, but some visitors, like a Saudi man named Armano, saw the forms and thought he couldn't use them, so he searched in vain for a form with the proper designation. "How can we fill the form?" he asked, perhaps too used to strictly complying with bureaucracy.

We advised our correspondents to be patient. And the letters from concerned same-sex couples kept coming into us. Finally, after 8 months, and still no sign of progress, we placed a call yesterday to Lynn MacDonald, Assistant Deputy Minister of Ontario's Consumer and Business Services.

Lynn told us that the forms "have been revised internally, and are receiving legal scrutiny, and once approved, should be available in the near future."

Today, Judi Hartman, Ontario's Deputy Registrar General confirmed that the new forms will be available this spring, in time for the wedding season.

Certificate of Marriage

After a marriage ceremony, the couple may receive a "Record of Solemnization of Marriage" from the person who performed the marriage. "This is a souvenir document and not a legal record," the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services web site says.

To get official documentation, the couple must wait approximately 12 weeks from the date of marriage before applying for a marriage certificate (again, a form that refers to a "bride" and "groom").

While the opposite-sex nature of the marriage licence has been a source of irritation and confusion for some couples, the long wait for a Certificate of Marriage has been more alarming.

"We are worried that the government is just holding on to these licenses until they make their next move," wrote Deb and Lorraine, an Ontario couple who were married on June 15, 2003.

"The Office of the Registrar General [ORG] is struggling with a backlog of all types of applications," the Assistant Deputy Minister told us. "... only recently the ORG was given some new temporary resourcing to begin to reduce this backlog, largely caused by an increase in workload of 37%."

The Deputy Registrar General assured us that if couples apply for a marriage certificate after the required 12-week wait period (remember you have to apply for a certificate - it isn't automatically sent to you after your marriage), the couple should receive their certificate in 18 weeks. Remember that expedited service (10 days for processing and delivery to your door) is available with proper proof of urgency.

As of today, the ORG says it has processed all applications that were received by October 29, 2003, which means couples married in June, 2003, should now have their certificates on the wall!


Please join us in a letter writing campaign to demand our rights from politicians - Click here to learn more


Join us as we legalize same-sex marriage.  Subscribe to our free newsletter

Please help us pay for our advocacy expenses in support of same-sex marriage.
MailLink to our media coverage of related issues.