"It's time for the government to stop listening to churches and start marrying gays and lesbians ... do what's right for all the people that elected them."
Joe Varnell, Montreal Gazette, August 4, 2021



Crowds filled St. Catherines street in Montreal



"We must respect each other's faith. We must not have a theocracy here in Canada where one religion rules all."
Kevin Bourassa, Canadian Press, August 4, 2021



Douglas Elliott being interviewed by Montreal media (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)
Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto lawyer Douglas Elliott being interviewed by Montreal media: civil unions are a form of segregation. "It's a symbol that you're inferior." (Montreal Gazette)



Me. Goldwater (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)
Me. Goldwater, lawyer for Michael Hendricks and René LeBoeuf, marched in her first Pride parade.



A wedding ring is flashed to us from a window along the parade route (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)
A window in an apartment building overlooking the parade route. The person at bottom-left is showing us their new wedding ring with joyous appreciation.



Micheal Hendricks (right) and Marlene Jennings (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)
Michael Hendricks (left) chats with Member of Parliament Marlene Jennings (Liberal Party) during community day (August 2). At centre is the president of Jennings' H. John Relton (President of Jennings riding association). Jennings stressed the importance of contacting M.P.s to express support for same-sex marriage.



Jack Layton and Olivia Chow (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)
New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton and his wife Toronto City Councillor Olivia Chow at this year's parade in Montreal. Layton told the Montreal Gazette that he thought the Vatican statement was "unfortunate" and said it was "crossing the line".



John, Christopher, Ian, and Doug (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)
John Thompson, Christopher Plenty, Jes and Doug, all from Toronto, enjoyed the progressive music downstairs at Sky, following the parade.



Mario and Danny (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)
Mario and Daniel, both from Toronto, took in the sites at Sky's rooftop patio, which includes a bar, pool and hot tub.



A perch to watch the parade . (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)



"We will not come into your church and tell you who can receive communion and who can't. Don't come into my government's house and tell me who can marry and who can't."
Joe Varnell, Canadian Press, August 4, 2021



A pride flag awaits a lift from marchers prior to the start of the parade. (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)



Javier Castillo and Jorge Da Costa (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)
We encountered our Toronto friends Javier Castillo and equal marriage advocate Jorge Da Costa dancing in St. Catherines street.



Civil marriage banner (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)



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Advocacy News - Montreal Divers/Cite

Montréal Divers/Cité
August 3, 2003

"In Montreal, Canada's first married same-sex couple marched in the city's Gay Pride parade and issued a stern message to the Roman Catholic Church: Mind your own business. Kevin Bourassa, who marched hand in hand with his husband, Joe Varnell, said the Catholic church has no business telling Canadians of other faiths who they can marry."
The Globe and Mail, August 4, 2021

"In Montreal, Canada's first legally married gay couple were highlights of the parade, receiving thunderous cheers from the crowds. Kevin Bourassa, 45, and Joe Varnell, 33. were married in Toronto in January 2001."
365Gay.com, Aug. 4, 2003

In 2002 we made a trip to Vancouver to support equal marriage in British Columbia, marching in solidarity with couples seeking marriage in that province. The Vancouver parade was on the same weekend as the Montreal parade, so we were unable to join The Jacques Cartier Bridge.  SELECT to learn more.  (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003) Michael Hendricks and René LeBoeuf in Quebec last year for their pride weekend (however we did visit Montreal in June 2002 to support our book, Just Married).

This year we enthusiastically returned to Montreal for the incredible celebration known as Divers/Cité. Out of the three provinces where marriage challenges were heard (and won) in court, Quebec is the only province still waiting for equal marriage. With recent venom from the Vatican poisoning the world, we felt it most important to stand in solidarity with our friends in Quebec: a A papal kiss-offprovince that rejected the Catholic Church in the 1960's after people became fed up with the Bishops' collaboration with corruption (part of what is known as "the Quiet Revolution").

We knew Montreal was primed for equal marriage, when we found ourselves juxtaposed against Papal bigotry on the front-page of the August 1 edition of le Journal de Montreal (cover shown at right).

Still, we were surprised to find enthusiastic, all-out support for equal marriage, both by participants in the parade and by observers on the sidelines. Below you will find a report written by Michael. After years of tireless work, this Montreal couple at last received the recognition and support for equal marriage that they deserve from their city and province. It is only a matter of time before they receive their legal right to marriage, but to ensure this victory, the couple needs you to write to Members of Parliament.

We wish to thank Michael and René for their warm and generous hospitality and for advocacy assistance during our visit to their city. Greg Lawrence, niece, and Douglas Elliott (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)As always, we greatly appreciate the support of our lawyer Douglas Elliott who marched with us accompanied by his spouse Greg Lawrence, and their niece (making her debut Pride appearance, at right). We also wish to thank John Thompson and his entourage from Toronto who helped us enjoy the nightlife. Our deepest gratitude to Robert Meilleur and our Halifax friends Raymond Taavel and Jay Thordarson who made sure that we had a taste of a unique Divers/Cité experience during the closing hours of outdoor celebrations in front of the Rue Berri stage!

Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell

Extravanganze ensemble (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)
The Extravaganza ensemble provided entertainment on community day.

Maybe there is a god for homosexuals
by Michael Hendricks

"It's a question of equality. We want the same choices as everybody else."
Michael Hendricks, Montreal Gazette, August 4, 2021

As we prepared another same-sex marriage presentation for this year's Montreal Pride ("Divers/Cité"), René and I went over the possibilities. In an all-visual presentation, there is not much you can do with the very "straight" (and legalistic) subject of civil marriage.

Back in June, we lucked into a sale of old theatre costumes including 40 tuxedos, all kinds, and one incredible 6-foot high, three-layer cake costume. The cake gave us an idea. We have known for some time now that the portrayal of marriage deals with symbols but wedding rings are too small, religious mumbo jumbo can be taken for parody (which we carefully avoid) and honeymoons are more a concept than reality. Since we have had success with little wedding cakes, why not try a giant one? And the tuxes could be the wedding party or other couples, whatever.

But our biggest problem was getting a diverse selection Kevin Bourassa, Rene LeBoeuf, Michael Hendricks, and Joe Varnellof people to join us for the march. "Equal marriage" tends to draw earnest but anonymous gays and lesbians who are great friends but do not a Carnival make. Too homogenous, too gay male in bermudas, too serious lesbian. Already we knew that we would be joined by Joe Varnell and Kevin Bourassa, our friends from Toronto, the first couple to be married in Canada, and their lawyer, Doug Elliott (all carbon copies of us). What to do?

Rene and Michael in front of a walking wedding cake.  Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto choir boy Greg Lawrence is holding an equal marriage sign at the left.  (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)So we asked Fugues, the Montreal gay review, to announce that we had free costumes for couples of all sexes to join us and we would give them the tuxes.

Then René went to work on the cake costume, turning it into a knock-off of Cinderella's dress (the one with the ribbons which the birds decorated). That, plus a banner saying "Mariage civil, un choix, un droit" (civil marriage, a choice, a right --- but it rhymes in French), us in tails and top hat like the plastic men on the gay wedding cake, was the best we could do with what we had.

Weeks went by and no one took us up on our offer of tuxes. We are used to doing the gay marriage thing alone --- most folks we know are busy at Pride organizing their own groups while gay and lesbian couples in general are not much on public appearances (as we have learned over the last 5 years).

One day in mid-July, at a meeting of the Sex Trade Workers Coalition, we told the other members of our dilemma, joking that is just as hard to get homo couples out for a demo as it is to get sex workers out. One of the girls piped up: "We can fix that."

When I told my boss at the Quebec Committee of People Living with HIV that I was going to hire a strongman to wear this heavy cake costume, he volunteered on the spot. (Dominic is a heterosexual graduate nurse who has a heart of gold but only weighs 135 lbs.) I tried to be polite and point out that it weighed a ton with all those ribbons and (plastic) flowers on it. But he insisted.

By the week before Pride Day, things were looking up. Still there was a certain sameness to this portrait that bothered us. But, at least, for once, we would not be all alone and we would have lots of women in the marriage party.

Eleven A.M. on site for the parade. René and I are nervous wrecks. The cake got there in one piece, Dominic is ready to go but no one else even showed up! At 11h15, suddenly the girls show up and don their white, diamond fringed tux tops. One of them is a great photographer and offers to take pictures. We are as ready as ever we have been.

Opps, a group of "exotic drags" shows ups --- a bride (with heavy 5 o'clock shadow), a bride's maid, a bride's mother and a groom with a painted on mustache. Think pink.  (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)They join us, adding colour and life. Then, Lola arrives!

Lola made quite a name for herself at last year's Pride where she appeared chained to a cross with her size 42-EEEEEEE breasts (better living through chemistry) in full view. Lola is over six feet tall and beautiful. She is also proud, with a capital P. Needless to say, Lola got the front page of the papers last year and the gay community complained for weeks that she misrepresented "the issues" (actually, she was ahead of the times).

This year, unknown to anyone, Lola had planned to be bang-on relevant. Dressed as a bride from waist down, and her mountainous wonders from waist up, plus a demure veil, Lola is carrying a sign held up by helium balloons: "Pour quand le mariage gay au Québec?" (When for gay marriage in Quebec?). She tippy-toes over to us on her 5 inch white spike heels and asks if we would mind if she joined our party.

Rene and Michael talk to the media prior to the start of the parade. (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)René and I exchange regards. Maybe there is a god for homos after all? We do a quick press conference for a throng of thirsty journalists, with "our gang" around us, and then the parade takes off.

For the next two hours, everyone has a wonderful time. Laughing all along, we are received by loud applause and cheers at ever step on the way. Front page of The Gazette, Aug. 4, 2003The next morning Lola gets the cover of La Presse and Le Devoir, we get the Le Journal de Montréal (doing the forbidden kiss) and The Gazette (with Montreal's Catholic Cathedral in the background). According to the papers, the theme for this year's Divers/Cité was "gay marriage" plus a total rejection of the Church. The opinion pieces, once very negative about marriage for Hendricks and LeBoeuf, attacked the Vatican and called for access to marriage immediately.

Front page of le journal de Montreal, Aug. 4, 2003Here's the description of us from La Presse (my translation):

"Michael Hendricks and René LeBoeuf, Montrealers who wish to marry after sharing their lives for 30 years, reviled the Vatican's position before joining the march, dressed in tux and tails, in the middle of dozens of drag queens, floats and the hundreds of participants who made up the parade."

For once, our marriage battle resembled our real lives as gay men who have enjoined every aspect of our community for the last three decades. Everyone was there.

Read a selection of comments from our mail.Link to our media coverage of related issues.