The politics of same sex marriage in canada and the us
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“The Politics of Same-Sex Marriage in Canada and the US”. Miriam Smith PS: Political Science and Politics April 2005; 38, 2. Method. Method: Historical Institutionalist Account

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The politics of same sex marriage in canada and the us

“The Politics of Same-Sex Marriage in Canada and the US”

Miriam Smith

PS: Political Science and Politics April 2005; 38, 2.


  • Method: Historical Institutionalist Account

  • Historical Institutionalist argue that policy develops over time, and that policy options are largely shaped by political institutions. It is differences in the institutional aspects of US and Canada politics that explain diverging laws on SSM.

Us and canada diverging policy on ssm
US and Canada: Diverging Policy on SSM

  • In the US, SSM has been banned. In Canada, after three court ruling in the provinces, and a Supreme Court of Canada decision in support of SSM, has “led to proposed federal legislation legalizing SSM.”

  • Canada and SSM:

  • In Canada, the rights of GLBT have been greatly expanded over the last decade.

  • US and SSM:

  • “In many jurisdictions, it is legal to discriminate against lesbians and gays in areas such as employment and housing…”

Us and canada similarities
US and Canada: Similarities

  • US and Canada Similar: Share Culture, language and Social Movement History

  • The two countries have a share a common history, language, culture, legal roots, religious heritage. They also both experienced social change in the 1960s, and each saw the advent of a gay and lesbian social movement.

  • Why the Difference in Policy?

Us and canada policy differences
US and Canada: Policy Differences

  • Criminalization v. Human Rights

  • In the US, discrimination against Gays and Lesbians has been sanctioned by laws outlawing sodomy. Canada legalized sodomy as part of the “1969 law reforms” which sought to modernize Canadian family law.

  • As a result, SSM has been regarded as a moral issue, as opposed to in Canada where it is viewed as a “human right.”

Theory role of culture
Theory: Role of Culture?

  • What about Culturally Difference: US is More Conservative, CN is more Liberal?

  • Cultural cannot account for the wide gap between US and CN law on SSM, since American and Canadian public opinion is not that divergent.

  • That is, most Amers. support anti-discrimination laws, and roughly 50% support SSM.

Theory role of federalism
Theory: Role of Federalism?

  • Federalism: US System allows more access points for Opponents of SSM

  • In US, opponents can launch referendums, or initiatives to bar practices like SSM. In Canada, Parliament has exclusive control over “marriage law.”

  • US and SSM: Politics of the Right

  • Republicans have exploited institutional openings in the US political system to block SSM.