The introduction of a federal gender-neutral marriage definition made Canada the fourth country in the world, and the first country outside Europe, to legally recognize same-sex marriage throughout its borders.
Before the federal recognition of same-sex marriage, court decisions had already introduced it in eight out of ten provinces and one of three territories, whose residents collectively made up about 90% of Canada's population.
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Marriage ceremonies in Canada can be either civil or religious.
Marriages may be performed by members of the clergy, marriage commissioners, judges, justices of the peace or clerks of the court, depending on the laws of each province and territory regulating marriage solemnization.
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Most legal benefits commonly associated with marriage had been extended to cohabiting same-sex couples since 1999.
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Following the 2006 election, which was won by a Conservative minority government under new Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the House of Commons defeated a motion to reopen the matter by a vote of 175 to 123 on December 7, 2006, effectively reaffirming the legislation.
This was the third vote supporting same-sex marriage taken by three Parliaments under three Prime Ministers in three different years, as shown below.