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In pictures: Milestones of same sex marriage in North America

The Harper government has given notice to the thousands of same-sex couples who came to Canada from abroad since 2004 that they are not legally married, causing a vocal backlash. This gallery shows some key moments in the history of same-sex marriage.

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Believed to be the first marriage licences issued to gay couples in 2001. Kevin Bourassa (L) and Joe Varnell along with Anne Vautour (second right) and Elaine Vautour kiss as Reverend Brent Hawkes looks on following a wedding ceremony in a Toronto church January 14, 2001.

Andy Clark/Reuters/Andy Clark/Reuters

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Michael Stark and Michael Leshner, who entered into the first same-sex marriage following the Halpern v. Canada decision were subsequently named “Newsmakers of the Year” by TIME Magazine. Michael Leshner (L) kisses his same-sex partner Michael Stark after being announced legally married during a civil ceremony in Toronto, June 10, 2003.

Andrew Wallace/Reuters/Andrew Wallace/Reuters

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Decision of Court of Appeal for Ontario finding common law definition of marriage (one man and woman) violated Section 15 of Charter of Rights and Freedoms Same sex couple Heather Gass (right) and Lisa Lachance share a moment outside Parliament Hill in Ottawa Tuesday, June 10, 2003 following a news conference regarding the Ontario Court of Appeal judgment on same-sex marriage.

Jonathan Hayward/CP Photo/Jonathan Hayward/CP Photo

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Marcia Kadish, left, and Tanya McCloskey of Malden exchange rings as they are married at Cambridge City Hall Monday May 17, 2004 in Cambridge, Ma. They were the first couple to be married in Cambridge on Monday morning.

Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe/AP Photo/Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe/AP Photo

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For one month, San Francisco issued marriage licenses to over 4000 same-sex couples (compared to 103 licenses for heterosexual couples) Couples wait in line to be married outside City Hall in San Francisco on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2004.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

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Spencer Jones, left, kisses his husband Tyler Barrick after hearing the decision in the United States District Court proceedings challenging Proposition 8 outside of the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010. A federal judge overturned California's same-sex marriage ban in a landmark case.

Jeff Chiu/AP Photo/Jeff Chiu/AP Photo

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