Civil marriages on the agenda for Kingston City Council

Photo by Emma Bauso.

The City of Kingston could begin offering civil marriage ceremonies as soon as January 2024, according to a staff report to City Council published in advance of its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023. Staff are seeking Council’s approval of a draft “Civil Marriage Ceremony Policy.”

Currently, civil marriages are not available in Kingston, the report states. (There are religious officiants in Kingston who provide various types of ceremonies, including nondenominational, but those ceremonies are not considered civil marriage ceremonies because the officiant’s authority is granted by their religious organization.) The report recommends that the City of Kingston begin offering civil marriage solemnization services by City staff to ensure that all community members have equal access to marriage services.

The report states, “For many individuals within this community, it is essential to have ceremonies that honour their unique identities and relationships, free from constraints or biases. Therefore, by offering civil marriage ceremonies, the City will empower the 2SLGBTQ+ community, non-denominational, and non-religious individuals and foster an environment of equity and acceptance, recognizing and valuing the diverse ways in which love and commitment are expressed.”

This recommendation notes that performing civil wedding ceremonies aligns with Kingston’s Strategic Plan’s fourth theme, “Foster a Caring and Inclusive Community,” and Goal 4.5, “Promote and support diversity.”

Ontario has three types of marriage solemnization ceremonies: religious, Indigenous, and civil. A civil marriage ceremony is a non-religious marriage ceremony presided over by a judge, justice of the peace, or municipal clerk under the authority of a licence. 

The Civil Marriage Ceremony Policy offered in the report suggests that ceremonies will be offered one day a month during regular business hours; a complete list of available dates will be available on the City website. Applicants will be required to book their ceremony on the website, or they can do so in person at City Hall.

Ceremonies will be held in City Hall’s Memorial Hall or in the Springer Market Square amphitheatre. The report suggests a fee of $320 for the provision of a civil marriage solemnization; residents who are eligible for the Municipal Fee Assistance Program would pay half that, or $160. The City will even provide witnesses for a fee of $25.

Ceremonies will take approximately 15 minutes, with 15 minutes provided before and after the ceremony for photographs, completion of the Statement of Marriage, etc. A maximum of 20 persons — which includes the two applicants, the officiant, and the two witnesses — will be permitted to attend a civil marriage ceremony.

If requested by an applicant, the City will provide sign language interpretation services at no cost, in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. Any other language interpretation requirements must be arranged and paid for by the applicants, and the interpreter must complete an interpreter declaration form.

No animals are permitted at ceremonies except service animals as defined by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 or the Blind Persons’ Rights Act R.S.O 1990, c. B. 7. 

If Council approves the implementation of civil marriage solemnization services, staff will undertake the necessary training and develop administrative support to book ceremonies starting in January 2024.

Ontario Regulation 738 made under the Marriage Act, 1990 provides the clerk of a local municipality with the authority to solemnize marriages under the authority of a licence, and Section 228(4) of the Municipal Act, 2001 provides that the clerk may delegate in writing to any person, other than a member of council, any of the clerk’s powers and duties “under this and any other Act.”

City staff looked at the policies of 33 “comparator municipalities” when developing the proposed Civil Marriage Ceremony Policy, according to the report. Seven did not currently offer civil marriage ceremonies. However, the other 26 municipalities offered good insight into the development of a policy for Kingston.

The report takes into account some financial considerations for the City. Civil marriage solemnization training to be provided to those City staff who will be solemnizing marriages will cost the City about $3,000. The report states that there are sufficient funds in the City Clerk’s Department operating budget for 2023 to cover this training. To mitigate costs, staff are offering other area municipalities the opportunity to participate in the training session. 

The fees proposed for a civil marriage ceremony and the provision of witnesses is calculated to ensure cost recovery for staff time required to perform a ceremony, including any pre- and post-ceremony administration, according to the report. These fees will be subject to review as part of the annual Fees and Charges By-Law review.

According to the report, “The City offering civil marriage ceremonies holds immense significance for promoting inclusivity and equity within society. By providing such services, the City ensures that all individuals, regardless of their backgrounds or identities, have the opportunity to solemnize their unions in a meaningful and legally recognized manner without any barriers.”

The meeting of City Council begins at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Kingston City Hall. Meetings are open to the public, and can be streamed live (or viewed after) on the Kingston City Council YouTube page.

3 thoughts on “Civil marriages on the agenda for Kingston City Council

  • It makes me so happy to watch my tax dollars wasted for things like this. How about council and staff concentrate on effective spending of the money provided to them by the few taxpayers in this city.

    • At $1280 per hour (4 x $320), I think they’ll be making a nice profit for us taxpayers.

  • There’s already people who are doing non-denominational weddings and they happen at City Hall! What the heck? Is my friend supposed to lose her livelihood because whomever did this report poorly researched for it? So disappointing.

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