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On July 20, 2005, Canada joined Holland, Belgium, Spain, and South Africa in the exclusive list of countries that have legalized gay marriages. This was established through the Civil Marriage Act. Beginning in 2003, Canadian courts had already legalized same-sex marriages in eight of their ten provinces, as well as one of the three territories. Prior to the legalization of gay marriage in Canada, legal benefits that were similar to those afforded to heterosexual couples had already been extended to same-sex couples who were living together, dating back to 1999.