Canada's justice minister says all same-sex marriages performed in Canada are legally recognized and the government is working to ensure foreign couples married here can divorce if they chose to.

"Marriages performed in Canada that aren't recognized in couple's home jurisdiction will be recognized in Canada," Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said Friday in Toronto.

"I want to be very clear that our government has no intention of reopening the debate on the definition of marriage," he added.

The statement comes one day after it was learned Justice Department lawyers were arguing a foreign lesbian couple that married in Canada could not apply for divorce here because their marriage wasn't valid.

Nicholson said the Divorce Act will be updated so those couples can apply for divorce in Canada if they feel the need to.

"I want to make it clear that in our government's view, these marriages are valid," Nicholson said.

The justice minister blamed the former Liberal government that legalized gay marriage for the "legislative gap" that resulted in the confusion.

But Liberal interim leader Bob Rae said the justice department's legal position on gay marriage makes no sense.

"It would be like saying that an (interracial) South African couple that married in the 1960s, their marriage wouldn't be valid in Canada because you couldn't have interracial marriages in South Africa (at the time)," Rae told CTV's Power Play Friday. "That's a preposterous conclusion to come to."

Nicholson said the Civil Marriage Act will be changed so that all marriages performed in Canada that aren't recognized by the couple's own jurisdiction will still be recognized in Canada.

"The situation where someone can be validly be married in Canada and then not be able to dissolve their marriage because they cannot meet the residency requirement is something we need to address," Nicholson said on Power Play Friday.

Political opponents of the Harper government jumped on the opportunity to suggest the Conservatives were reopening the gay marriage debate.

One Canadian legal expert on same-sex marriage said she's quite concerned that the Conservatives have decided to tinker with the Civil Marriage Act.

"With a majority government in place, I think that's a risk that Canadian society cannot afford to take," Queen's University law professor Kathleen Lahey said in a telephone interview from Kinsgton, Ont.

She argues that re-opening the act in Parliament is a back-door way to introduce other changes to the act.

"The real problem with fixing an alleged legislative gap in the Civil Marriage Act is that there is no legislative gap in that act, and therefore, there is nothing to fix in that act," Lahey said. "If opening that act up is supposed to introduce a fix, then presumably someone might want to do something else with it while it is open and in front of Parliament."

She said the government could just simply withdraw its legal case before the courts to resolve the issue.

Critics have questioned why a government lawyer was arguing a marriage was not legal in Canada because the couple's home jurisdiction did not recognize gay marriage. It's unclear where the lawyer's direction was coming from.

When asked by CTV's Don Martin if the lawyer involved was taking a rogue position and if the Justice Department knew about the case, Nicholson answered the question without addressing the lawyer's direction.

Lahey said in her experience, it's unlikely that this specific legal case didn't draw the attention of senior officials.

"Lawyers who are willing to be aggressive in seeking out virtually any argument to defeat equality claims are allowed to do so," she said. "I don't know what level of scrutiny was put in this case, but the fact that both levels of government are in a simple divorce case is an indicator to me that somewhere higher up, someone was watching this.

"I'm not convinced that this is just a fluke or an accident that this argument was raised in this way."

Egale Canada, a lesbian, gay, bisexual,

and transgender (LGBT) human rights group, said it was pleased with the government's quick action.

"We see this as a good first step toward opening dialogue between this government and the LGBT community in Canada. We are open and eager to meet with this majority government to build a credible relationship that is not based on fear," the group's executive director, Helen Kennedy, said in a statement.

The Harper government went into damage control Thursday and has denied that they were looking into reopening any debate on same-sex marriage.

"We're not going to reopen that particular issue," Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters Thursday.