Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Spouse Definition:

To be married or as if married.

Historically, a spouse is one who is married to another; they are spouses to each other, husband to wife and wife to husband.

In M v H, Justice Gonthier wrote:

"The definition of spouse ... is an extension of marriage. To be a spouse is, in essence, to be as if married, whether or not one is actually married. Spousehood is a social and cultural institution, not merely an instrument of economic policy.

"The concept of spouse, while a social construct, is one with deep roots in our history.

"It informs our legal system: the status of spouse is defined, recognized, and regulated by the legislature. Under the Constitution Act, 1867, the federal government regulates capacity to marry and the provincial governments regulate solemnization of marriage....

"It is rooted in Western history, in which the concept of spouse has always referred to a member of a cohabiting opposite-sex couple.

"That is what it means to be a spouse. That well-recognized definition does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, any more than the status of child or adult discriminates on the basis of age, or male or female discriminates on the basis of sex."

Increasingly, in some jurisdictions such as Canada, the statutory definition of spouse is being expanded to include members of homosexual relationships and thus to recognize this type of relationship.


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