mood prevailed as parade goers revelled in last month's Ontario Court of Appeal
ruling giving same-sex couples the legal right to marry. Marriage pioneers Kevin
Bourassa and Joe Varnell of Toronto acted as parade marshals, while seminars on
the topic peppered the three-day London Pride celebration."
London, Ontario - On the invitation of Kathleen Holland and Bill Worrall, and the rest of London Pride, we returned to this hospitable city to be the grand marshals in the Pride parade and to conduct two workshops: one based on the contents of our book (Just Married: Gay marriage and the expansion of human rights), and the second based on the legal aspects of our journey to full and equal marriage.
The organizers of London Pride distinguished themselves from many of the other pride activities in cities across Canada by organizing three days of workshops and seminars conducted by visiting authors and experts, including San Diego author John Lockhart (The Gay Man's Guide to Growing Older). The result was a week of style and substance.
We had the pleasure of meeting Lorraine Bullard and Deb Harper (right), the first lesbian couple to get married in Chatham-Kent. The happy couple attended one of our seminars, and recognizing them, we thought they were a couple we had met during our previous visit to London. Instead, as we discovered, we had seen their photograph in news coverage about their wedding. In smaller cities and towns all across Ontario, couples have come forward, allowing their stories to be told, letting neighbours know that same-sex marriage is a local issue everywhere.
The Pride parade was the highlight of the week, with many of the participants and onlookers inspired by the victories for equal marriage in Ontario and British Columbia courts.
"It's nice to know when I do want to get married, I have the right," Bonnie Bowen told the London Free Press, dressed in a wedding gown along with Kathleen Garley. It was the pair's first time ever participating in a Pride parade, motivated by the tremendous strides forward for equality in Canada.
Others marched for the first time in the parade, for similar reasons, including one of our friend, Brenda Boswell Simpson, a women's advocate who works in the region. Brenda joined one of our workshops with her husband and then marched in the parade, helping to support a PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays) banner.
We also had a chance to say hello to Pride participants who we had the pleasure of meeting, and introducing to our web site visitors, last year. Shelley returned with her son Eryck. Eryck, returned, again, sporting the colours of pride and diversity . Increasingly, parents, straight and gay, are bringing their children to Pride parades to instill within them a respect for diversity. No child is born homophobic.
Perhaps that was the message conveyed by the presence of two characters known to children around the world from their appearances on televisions educational Sesame Street. Bert and Ernie marched in the parade holding hands and generally spreading smiles where ever they went.
Local bigots were back again this year in an attempt to spread their hate, some giving the participants in the parade the finger, others holding signs with outrageous statements like, "Save the gerbils." It was sad and funny at the same time. But these dark clouds of intolerance were blown away by the high spirits of the parade marchers and the supportive onlookers, gay and straight.
The presence of a faith community in the parade sent an important message to those who oppose equality for same-sex couples. Rev. Deana Dudley and members of the Holy Fellowship Metropolitan Community Church (worship services at 10:30 a.m. at 388 Dundas St., Suite 305, London) marched the parade route, carrying their banner. The Holy Fellowship also staffed an information table in a vendor area at the fairgrounds, and offered an open-air service at 11:00 a.m., prior to the parade. Another faith community that has been supportive of LGBT equality, The Unitarian Fellowship, also partipcated in the festivities. Increasingly congregations that are welcoming and inclusive are finding an audience for their message of tolerance among the gay community.