Shotgun Wedding…Quebec Style

May maternal grandfather was married twice. The first time in a literal “Shotgun Wedding”, when a local Minister showed up at his door with shotgun and pregnant daughter in tow…

To encourage him to do the right thing. Family rumor has it that within a few hours of the arrival of the Minister, the time required to gather a few witnesses, and a very short guest list – the happy couple was married by his own hand.

The marriage didn’t last, they were divorced several years later after the birth of two children – and he eventually married my Maternal Grandmother.

Like any less than positive event reflecting on the character of a family member – this was hidden as a family secret for years. Leading to the invention of several salacious scenarios where he was seeing the two women at the same time, or wasn’t divorced from the first when he married the second, making lots of fun for those family members who enjoy scandal. Marriage and divorce records prove it didn’t happen that way – but what the hey!

I live in a “Common Law” state – you live with someone for 7 years and you are married by law.

In Quebec, Canada – a recent court decision may result in the largest virtual shotgun wedding in history.

I Don’t! - How a bizarre legal case involving a mysterious billionaire could force 1.2 million Canadians to be married, against their will.

Somewhere in North America, there is a place where little girls don’t give the slightest thought to what kind of wedding dress they’ll wear one day. A place where young men have never heard the expression: “why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free?”—because the milk is always free. A place where no one asks an unmarried couple expecting a baby if they’re getting hitched.

This place is the province of Quebec. The French language spoken here is no guarantee for romance. Couples are practical, and lovers treasure their individuality. Quebec has become one of the least marrying places in the world, thanks to the institution known as “de facto spouses,” But now, thanks to a bizarre legal case entangling a Quebec billionaire and his de facto spouse ,  the freedom to un-marry is under threat. More than 1 million Quebecois in this kind of relationship may soon be automatically married by the state, against their will.

De facto spouses are defined by Quebec’s law as two people who have been living together for a year or more without being married and who check the “couple” box on their income tax statement form. Quebec’s lawmakers have deliberately chosen not to give de facto couples the same rights and responsibilities that married couples have under the Law of Quebec, to preserve the freedom of choice. Upon the termination of a relationship, “no matter how long cohabitation has lasted, de facto spouses have no legal support obligation to each other, even if one spouse is in need and the other has a high income.” Quebec is the only province in Canada where spousal support payments are not recognized by law for de facto spouses.

Other countries also recognize the status of common-law couples, including France and the Scandinavian nations. In the United States, common law marriage is a legal status in a minority of states.

The very religious province of Quebec traditionally perceived de facto spouses as a threat to the social order. But the “Quiet Revolution” starting in the 1960s led to a radical rejection of the church, a decline in religious weddings, and a reform of the Family Law that introduced the notion of de facto unions in 1979. The status gained more recognition during the ’80s and ’90s, mostly thanks to lobbying by gay rights advocates.

The institution has become wildly popular in Quebec, for gays and straights. Anastonishing 34.6 percent of all Quebec couples are de facto couples, and one half of couples under 40 are not married. A full 60 percent of Quebec children are born out of wedlock. ( – More -)

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