Four same-sex couples made Canadian gay history when they legally registered their relationships in Nova Scotia on Monday. And guess what? It didn’t hurt one bit. The sky didn’t fall down, Armageddon wasn’t announced, no one was turned into a pillar of salt and the traditional nuclear heterosexual family hasn’t been obliterated.

It was hardly a radical event at all really, mostly it was sweet and dull and bureaucratic. The couples paid $15 at the Office of Vital Statistics, signed some documents and registered their domestic partnerships, giving their relationships many of the same legal protections as heterosexual marriages with regard to marital property, pensions, life insurance, inheritance and medical powers of attorney.

All of this came about as a result of the newly minted Bill 75, passed last Friday. The bill amends Nova Scotia’s marital laws to recognize three types of relationships: Common-law, registered domestic partner and married couples.

While a great leap forward, what Bill 75 doesn’t do is give gay men and lesbians the right to marry or the right to adopt each other’s children.

It’s a politically savvy compromise, throwing the gay community a bone with the least amount of offence to conservative voters.

It’s also untenable. Bob Fougere, a gay activist who led the drive to create the registry, has already pointed out the ironies of the new legislation. “I still can’t adopt my partner’s child but if we split up, I have to pay child support,” he told a Star reporter earlier this week. “Try to make sense of that.”

If it wasn’t clear already, the right to marry is the gay rights battle of the moment. Recently, a gay couple and a lesbian couple were “married” at Toronto’s predominantly gay Metropolitan Community Church through the use of a marital law loophole called “banns.” Whether or not the Ontario government will officially recognize the unions remains to be seen, but if it doesn’t, prepare for a huge battle.

Other provinces are being similarly lobbied. Until now, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia have been the most progressive, extending many rights to same-sex couples, with B.C. being the only province allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt.

Even the Nova Scotia honeymooners have pledged to keep fighting: “We’re leap years ahead,” said Fougere, “but we’re going to continue, we’re going to fight and we’re going to get equality.”

Personally, I’m not the marrying kind. Even if gay marriage were legalized, I wouldn’t insist that my girlfriend make an honest woman of me. I prefer living in sin. It lends a veneer of cool to what one of our single friends calls our “boring, Martha Stewarty, lesbian-yuppie domesticity.” And I’m not alone.

Almost every gay man and lesbian will aver that denying equal rights to same-sex couples is discriminatory and that gay relationships need some kind of legal recognition. But there remain many, like me, for reasons both political and aesthetic, for whom marriage is not the Holy Grail of gay rights.

For one thing, it may well be a losing battle. Victories like Nova Scotia’s Bill 75, which allow for all the rights of marriage, just short of calling it that, may actually make it harder for gay men and lesbians to win the right to marry. If it’s just a label being denied as opposed to rights, governments might feel comfortable living with that and not pushing further.

A better focus for activist resources and energy would be fighting for rights that would actually make a difference, like adoption. With the Nova Scotia legislation, for instance, the denial of the right to adopt is far more vexing than the denial of marriage. The partnership registration already gives couples everything marriage does, but the denial of adoption rights keeps kids and their gay parents in real jeopardy.

There are thousands of parents in this country raising, supporting and caring for children with whom they have no legal relationship. One gay biological father I know says that his partner is sometimes more of a full-time father to their two kids than he is and yet this non-biological dad’s only official title is “godfather.” If they broke up, he would have no claim to children he’s helped raise since their birth.

With all the changing laws, gay and lesbian relationships are already well on the way to being equal. Marriage could be put on the back burner for a little while. Protection of gay parents and their kids is a bigger priority.

There’s even a precedent. If B.C. can take the step forward, maybe the rest of the country can, too.