02/18/2015 06:00 EST | Updated 04/20/2015 05:59 EDT

Chris Vogel, Richard North fight for Manitoba to recognize 41-year same-sex marriage

The first same-sex couple to challenge Canada's marriage laws is frustrated that the union of 41 years is still not officially recognized in Manitoba, which has told the two that it's a federal matter.

The marriage certificate of Chris Vogel and Richard North was granted by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg in 1974 — one of the first same-sex marriage certificates issued in Canada, although same-same marriages weren't legal at the time.

- CBC Digital Archives: Gay Winnipeg couple marries (As It Happens, 1974)

However, their marriage was never registered under vital statistics in Manitoba. That's what Vogel and North are now fighting for. They want the province to "retroactively" recognize the union, saying it would be a symbolic move that shows Manitoba supports their gay marriage.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Manitoba since 2004, but Vogel says he received a letter from the provincial attorney general's office earlier this month, saying it's up to the federal government to recognize their marriage.

"They're saying that the federal government has somehow a role to play in this. I don't really think the federal government knows or cares what the government of Manitoba does about same-sex marriages in history," Vogel told CBC News.

The province's letter, dated Feb. 5, suggests that Vogel seek legal arbitration to determine if marriage registration is a federal or provincial jurisdiction.

Vogel said he believes politics is preventing the couple from having the marriage registered.

"I think that's because they find themselves in a difficult political situation, where they're concerned about losing the support of people who might otherwise vote for them at a time when they're quite short of people who might vote for them," he said with a chuckle.

The couple's marriage certificate has been put on display at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.