elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,
elisa_rolle
elisa_rolle

James Egan & John Norris Nesbit

Egan v. Canada, [1995] 2 S.C.R. 513 was one of a trilogy of equality rights cases published by a very divided Supreme Court of Canada in the spring of 1995. It stands today as a landmark Supreme Court case which established that sexual orientation constitutes a prohibited basis of discrimination under Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

James Egan (September 14, 1921 - March 9, 2000) and John Norris Nesbit, the plaintiffs, were a gay couple who had been in a conjugal relationship since 1948. Upon reaching age 65 in 1986, Egan became eligible to receive old age security and a guaranteed income supplement from the government under the Old Age Security Act.

The Old Age Security Act provides that a spouse of the pensioner may receive a spousal allowance should their combined income fall below a certain amount. When Nesbit reached 65, he applied to the Department of National Health and Welfare for a spousal allowance. However, he was refused on the basis that spouse, defined in section 2 of Old Age Security Act, did not include a member of the same sex.

Joseph J. Arvay, Q.C., represented the plaintiffs Egan and Nesbit, who delivered a motion for a declaration of unconstitutionality to the Federal Court of Canada (Trial Division). They alleged that the definition of "spouse" under the Old Age Security Act constituted an infringement of their right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law, entrenched in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that such an infringement was discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation. Furthermore, they alleged that the section 15 violation could not be saved under Section 1. Nesbit and Egan petitioned the Court to remedy the alleged Charter violation by reading the definition of spouse so as to include same-sex couples.


Egan v. Canada, [1995] 2 S.C.R. 513 was one of a trilogy of equality rights cases published by a much-divided Supreme Court of Canada in the spring of 1995. James Egan and John Norris Nesbit, the plaintiffs, were a gay couple who had been in a conjugal relationship since 1948. When Nesbit reached 65, he applied to the Department of National Health and Welfare for a spousal allowance. However, he was refused on the basis that spouse, defined in section 2 of Old Age Security Act, did not include a member of the same sex.

Although the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeal, Egan v. Canada created an important precedent for gay rights activists. The Court unanimously held that sexual orientation is an analoguous ground under Section 15 of the Charter and is therefore a prohibited ground of discrimination. Writing for the plurality, La Forest noted:
I have no difficulty accepting the appellants' contention that whether or not sexual orientation is based on biological or physiological factors, which may be a matter of some controversy, it is a deeply personal characteristic that is either unchangeable or changeable only at unacceptable personal costs, and so falls within the ambit of s. 15 protection as being analogous to the enumerated grounds.
This excerpt has been frequently cited by the Courts in the fallout of Egan. The Supreme Court of Canada in particular has explicitly quoted it with approval in M. v. H. and in Vriend v. Alberta, and has similarly referred to it in Little Sisters Book Store v. Canada, Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers, and Chamberlain v. Surrey School Board.

The Ontario Court of Appeal also cited this passage in Halpern v. Ontario.

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egan_v._Canada

Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1500563323
ISBN-13: 978-1500563325
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=elimyrevandra-20

Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher


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Tags: activist: james egan, activist: john norris nesbit, days of love
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