Canadians who married their gay or lesbian partners abroad will now be able to sponsor their immigration to Canada.

The government has rescinded a policy that banned same-sex married couples from being treated equally to heterosexual spouses.

Opposition MP Bill Siksay announced on Tuesday that the government had decided to remove the discriminatory immigration directive and treat gay and straight couples equally in this regard.

Siksay, who is the spokesperson for LGBT rights for the New Democratic party, said the decision was a victory in the fight for the equal recognition of gay and lesbian marriages.

“This is another important victory towards full equality of gay and lesbian Canadians,” noted Siksay.

“The failure of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration to treat legal gay and lesbian marriages performed in jurisdictions outside Canada was clearly discriminatory.

“Gay and lesbian couples legally married outside Canada will now be recognised as part of spousal, family class immigration sponsorship applications.

“This is good news for many gay and lesbian couples in Canada and for those who support the full equality of gay and lesbian Canadians,” said Siksay.

The New Democratic party MP, who is gay, lives with his partner, The Rev. Brian Burke, in his Vancouver constituency.

Immigration minister Diane Finley informed the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee of Citizenship and Immigration that her department’s interim policy on same-sex marriage, which did not recognise legal marriages performed in The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, South Africa, and Massachusetts for immigration purposes, has been annulled.

In July 2005, under the previous Liberal government, Canada became the fourth country in the world to allow gay and lesbian couples to get married.

During the 2006 election campaign, the Conservatives had pledged to re-open the debate about the issue, despite the fact that eight provinces had decided that excluding gay and lesbians from marriage was a human rights violation.

Having won the election, but without an overall majority, Tory Prime Minister Stephen Harper carried out his promise, but his motion in defence of ‘traditional’ marriage was defeated in the House of Commons by 175 to 123.