Gay advocacy groups have responded to a statement by a government lawyer yesterday which called into question the validity of thousands of gay marriages between foreign nationals on Canadian soil.

Yesterday, a report by a Canadian newspaper included a government lawyer’s claim that a female couple’s marriage was effectively invalid because they could not have married another woman in their home countries.

The statement arose out of a test case brought by one American and one English woman, who married in Canada in 2005 and are now trying to divorce.

In a joint statement today, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and Freedom to Marry say marriages are unlikely to be written off.

The groups say: “No one’s marriage has been invalidated or is likely to be invalidated. The position taken by one government lawyer in a divorce is not itself precedential.

“No court has accepted this view and there is no reason to believe that either Canada’s courts or its Parliament would agree with this position, which no one has asserted before during the eight years that same-sex couples have had the freedom to marry in Canada.

“The message for same-sex couples married in Canada remains the same as it is for same-sex couples validly married here in the United States: take every precaution you can to protect your relationship with legal documents such as powers of attorney and adoptions, as you may travel to jurisdictions that don’t respect your legal relationship.

“There is no reason to suggest that Canadian marriages of same-sex couples are in jeopardy, or to advocate that people try to marry again elsewhere, as that could cause these couples unnecessary complications, anxiety, and expense.”

Marriage Equality USA has called on the Canadian government to affirm the legality of the marriages, saying it has been “a beacon to the world” since it became the fourth country to allow gays equal union rights.

Stuart Gaffney, Media Director said: “Legally married couples woke up around the world today to learn the validity of their marriages was being needlessly and wrongfully called into question.

“We call on Canada’s Department of Justice to end this confusion today, and restore Canada’s status as a world leader in equality and fairness for loving couples everywhere.”