Canadian Court Finds Gay Man and Straight Woman Can Form 'Conjugal' Relationship

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday September 30, 2020

A Canadian federal court overturned two earlier decisions by immigration officials that had denied recognition of the "conjugal relationship" status for a gay refugee and the straight woman with whom he had a child, reports Canadian newspaper the National Post.

The man was referred to in media reports only as AP, and the woman as AM.

AP had emigrated to Canada and been granted refugee status due to his sexual orientation, CTV News recounted. He had been friends with a woman in college who had harbored romantic feelings for him; the two traveled together and, after a "night on the town," had sex, resulting in AM's pregnancy.

News reports said that AP, who is HIV-positive, had disclosed his status to AM., but his treatment regimen had reduced his viral load to a point where HIV could not be sexually transmitted.

However, AP did not tell AM he was gay until later after the two had decided that AP would sponsor AM and their child to emigrate to Canada. In the meantime, the two had kept in contact with frequent Skype chats, and AP had sent money to AM and the child.

Despite this, a Canadian immigration official was unconvinced that the two met the criteria for a "conjugal" relationship. An appeal of that decision within the immigration service yielded the same result.

But the federal court found differently, with Justice Janet M. Fuhrer ruling that the immigration service "was not open to the possibility of a loving, mixed-orientation relationship centered on the concept of a joint family unit meeting the statutory criteria, regardless of the degree of sexual intimacy."

The judge took note of the couple's use of toys and "applications" to maintain sexual intimacy.

"Sexual relations are but one aspect — and not even the predominant consideration — in assessing the existence of a conjugal relationship," the judge wrote, adding: "It goes back to people judging things that they don't understand or that they cannot relate to, that they've never seen before. Just because someone hasn't seen it doesn't mean it can't exist in reality."

The court sent the couple's application back to the immigration service, which will now reconsider their request.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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