The Yukon legislative assembly passed an act this week to further adopt gender-neutral language in territorial legislation.
“It’s part of a commitment that we made during our campaign to really look at our legislation to ensure that our laws are fair and just for all,” said Minister Jeanie Dendys, whose responsibilities include the Women’s Directorate, in an interview Oct. 30.
The thrust of the Equality of Spouses Act implements 46 changes to nine acts to better accommodate the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Those acts include the Tax Act, the Marriage Act and the Spousal Compensation Act.
The word “spouse,” for example, will take the place of “husband” and “wife.”
Chase Blodgett, a transgender rights advocate, called the development “incredible,” noting that it was spurred by the government internally.
“It should have been done, you know, over 10 years ago when same-sex couples were allowed to be married,” he said. “It gives equal rights and access. They’ve replaced language that was gendered. It gives protection and all the same rights to every Yukoner, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation.”
Blodgett, also the founder of All Genders Yukon, added that it goes beyond LGBTQ2S+ community, too: it also recognizes common-law status.
“Instead of having to fight with the government, we get to be collaborative partners, so that was probably the most beautiful piece of this, was that it was driven by an awareness of the need to do so and the desire to do so for all Yukoners, rather than being driven by immense hours of advocacy and lobbying and letter writing campaigns,” he said.
The new act also repeals the Married Women’s Property Act — an “outdated” piece of legislation, Dendys said, that is no longer necessary because women’s rights are entrenched in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and because of case law.
The development marks the third time the government has made such changes to accommodate the LGBTQ2S+ community.
In the spring, the government passed the Gender Diversity and Related Amendments Act; it also amended the Vital Statistics Act and the Human Rights Act last year, incorporating gender-inclusive language.
Minister of Justice Tracy-Anne McPhee also worked on the underpinnings of the Equality of Spouses Act.
“In the Yukon, we believe that all individuals deserve the same rights and equality and treatment before the law,” she told the News. “We have a vibrant and inclusive community in the entire Yukon and it’s appropriate that our laws reflect the equality rights that all Yukoners deserve.”
The process of revamping legislation isn’t over, Dendys said.
“We can’t change all the laws all at once. We continue to review legislation. We’re reviewing policies, practices, services. You’ll see more to come. Our goal is to be a very modern jurisdiction and I think we’re well on our way to seeing that with this legislation,” she said.
Contact Julien Gignac at firstname.lastname@example.org