Ontario cannot continue to refuse to register same-sex marriages, following a court ruling today. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice found that the common law definition of marriage as "the lawful and voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others" was "constitutionally invalid and inoperative".

Two couples, Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, and Elaine Vautour and Anne Vautour, went through a marriage ceremony in Toronto in January 2001. However, the Ontario government later refused to recognise their marriages, citing the federal law. The couples decided to take the case to court.

Following today's ruling, Varnell said: "The court clearly says we are no longer second class citizens and the time has come for change. My relationship is validated and nobody can say we are not a real family any more."

Lawyers for the couples were not immediately available, but it is expected that the federal government - which defines who can get married - will fight the matter and the issue could end up in the Supreme Court.