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The registrar refused to accept the records of marriage, and a lawsuit was commenced over whether the marriages were legally performed.

In other provinces, lawsuits were launched seeking permission to marry.

Defeat of the bill in Parliament would have continued the status quo and probably incremental legalization, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, via court challenges. However, this decision stopped short of giving them the right to full legal marriage.

This trend could have been reversed only through Parliament passing a new law that explicitly restricted marriage to opposite-sex couples notwithstanding the protection of equality rights afforded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or by amending the Canadian Constitution by inserting the clause "marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman", as was recommended by several conservative religious groups and politicians. Most laws which affect couples are within provincial rather than federal jurisdiction.

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.

Thereafter, many same-sex couples obtained marriage licences in those provinces; like opposite-sex couples, they did not need to be residents of any of those provinces to marry there.

The legal status of same-sex marriages in these jurisdictions created an unusual jurisdictional issue.

Before the enactment of federal legislation recognizing same-sex marriage, therefore, the application of federal marriage law differed depending on the province or territory.According to the Constitution of Canada, the definition of marriage is the exclusive responsibility of the federal government; this interpretation was upheld by a December 9, 2004, opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada (Reference Re Same-Sex Marriage).Until July 20, 2005, the federal government had not yet passed a law redefining marriage to conform to recent court decisions.The courts in each case suspended the effect of the declarations of invalidity for two years, to allow the federal government to consider legislative responses to the rulings.However, on June 10, 2003, the Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled on an appeal in the Halpern case.

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