is my sister calling a radio station when all of the religous fundamentalists
are ranting and saying, 'Just a second, what about my brother? He has this
right!', and standing up to talk about that. I think that activism is something
that all of us can share in. That's been a lesson I've learned by becoming involved
in this. Activism can happen by speaking at the office coooler, raising an issue
in your school or congregation. My hope is that Joe and I are encouraging people
to do that."
is marriage. It's the gold standard in social acceptance, and it's mobile."
rights are indivisible," says Bourassa. "We don't think of this so much
as about our rights, but whether or not the government should have the right to
let one group be treated differently. Obviously, we don't think they should be
have touched another, half a world away, and I am sure your win will contribute
to the precedent law over here."
gay men who won an Ontario court battle to have their church wedding legally recognized
were "on Cloud 9" after arriving in London last night to celebrate Pride
you for your courage in this difficult battle. I was thrilled to see you in the
London Pride parade. Thanks for sharing some of your time in the sun of public
on what side of the fence you sit on, Joe Varnell
and Kevin Bourassa are human rights advocates or evil homosexuals threatening
the holy institution of marriage ... Racists may not have wanted to share a seat
at the front of the bus with Rosa Parks but after the laws were changed, they
had no choice. Neither men can say for sure what the outcome of the federal government's
appeal will be, but they are both sure there is no going back, and they're confident
it's only a matter of time before human rights win out over religious bigotry."
celebrities making the rounds of this year's Gay Pride parades across the country
are dressed neither in leather nor drag. They're wearing something else that pushes
the envelope - gold wedding bands."
undying refusal to be less employees, family members, citizens or husbands has
inspired me to see that there is no glass wall between me and society. You have
written that love can ensure the opposite - holding someone's hand can do that."
for writing 'Just Married' and sharing your experience with the world. I'm so
proud of you two that I can just burst. You've really made a major difference
in the lives of so many people, not just in Canada, but around the world."
Canada released its first snapshot of gay and lesbian lives in Canada on Tuesday,
but it's far from a complete picture."
believe when Canadians start to talk about it, they will decide all families in
Canada are equal."
and Varnell are conscious of their role in history, but also of the very personal
way their fight affects Canadians who hear about their story. They have heard
about teenagers in small-town Ontario who came out to their families after seeing
the couple on television - teenagers who had previously contemplated suicide because
of their sexual orientation."
- The Year in Review
Ultimately, the couple hopes that gay and lesbian people won't have to move to big cities and gay neighbourhoods to feel accepted and safe.
"When you're a member of your community, the demonization can't happen," Varnell said. "You're not seen as 'that gay couple down the street', you're suddenly 'that nice John and Fred, or Susan and Elizabeth, down the street who look after our dog when we're on holidays.'
Gays await court decision,
by Jason Tchir, The Toronto Sun, Dec. 27, 2002
There is no doubt that 2002 was a great year for the advancement of equal marriage for same-sex couples, and an amazing year of growth for both of us, as we finished our second year as human rights advocates.
Success on the Internet
We launched this advocacy web site in November 2001, in time to report on the Ontario marriage hearings. That month we had 2,852 visitors. One year later, our monthly total surpassed 100,000 visitors. We received 373,124 visitors (3,724,265 hits) from 124 countries at our web site during 2002. We anticipate more than one million visitors in 2003.
Enthusiasm on the road
We travelled to Europe, the United States, and across Canada in 2002 where we met with a wide variety of groups and individuals, including lawyers, jurists, activists, unions, parents, academics, politicians, clergy and members of the media. In total, we travelled approximately 28,000 kilometers working for equality in 14 cities. Our speaking engagements included 9 universities and colleges (with additional repeat visits) in Canada and the U.S.
Equal marriage in the media
In 2002 we did over 85 interviews (not including press conferences and academic/student interviews) with accredited media organizations. Our work away from Toronto generated additional front-page coverage of the issues in Halifax, London, New Brunswick, Ottawa, and Sudbury.
Our most significant contribution in the world of media was the publication of Just Married: Gay Marriage and the Expansion of Human Rights. After a year's effort, a hardcover edition was published in June by Doubleday in Canada and by the University of Wisconsin Press in the United States. Our first review was a cover story with excerpt in the Books section of the Globe and Mail.
Victory in the courts
The biggest event of the year, from the perspective of equal marriage, was the victory for equality in both Ontario and Quebec Courts! A strong message was sent around the world - a message that the government of Canada continues to resist. An appeal of the Ontario marriage case is scheduled for April 2003.
More to be done
While progress has been made, Canada still has a long way to go to diminish the engrained homophobia in our culture. A couple of opposition politicians felt compelled to appologize in Parliament for their remarks aimed at the sexual orientation of opponents. Such attitudes contribute to the atmosphere that fosters violence against the LGBT community. Another year passed without solving the 2001 murder of Aaron Webster and 2002 closed with the discovery of another murdered gay man in Ottawa. Some things don't change fast enough.
Our hearts are with those who faced losses this year, our thanks to everyone who contributed to the tremendous accomplishments listed below, and our appreciation to our friends and family for their support as we begin our third year on the road to equality.
It has been days since we were denied registration of our marriage documents.
year got off to a fabulous start when Enza "Supermodel" Anderson
announced her candidacy for leadership of the Canadian Alliance party, Canada's
anti-gay extremists. Enza participated in the political process and engaged the
right-wingers in nice, up-close, personal encounters. The
hopeful candidate ensured LGBT issues, including same-sex marriage, were visible
in this most unwelcoming of political parties.
The Law Commission of Canada's recommendations for equal marriage were made public. The Justice Minister does not heed his own advisors and continues the legal battle in defense of discrimination.
government of Quebec conducted public hearings
to help it determine how to end discrimination against same-sex couples and their
families. It was all
in preparation for the introduction of a civil union bill in Quebec parliament.
A Valentine's concert by the Onyx Wind Quintet was the first opportunity in the year to raise funds for legal expenses in the Ontario marriage challenge. Volunteers from the civil case and the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto worked together to produce a memorable and successful evening.
Lois Wilson warned against Canada becoming a church-state as arguments over
same-sex marriage took place in the Senate. It was all over Bill S-9, an attempt
to defend discrimination
against same-sex couples. Senator Wilson said that the Canadian government's alignment
with faith-based bigotry was "unconstitutional and morally repugnant".
With the Quebec government talking about civil unions, the judge in the Quebec marriage challenge ordered the case reopened in order to determine the impacts of this new development.
this web site continued to grow in outreach, we decided to create
trust accounts in aid of legal expenses for all marriage cases (or any designated
choice), and for a presence in the Toronto pride parade. Thanks to the Bruce
E. Walker law office (Toronto) for establishing and managing the account.
The Quebec government unveiled the anticipated civil union bill on April 25. The bill was a step forward - the best that a province could offer without federal cooperation - but still left marriage to opposite sex couples, ensuring the continuation of a legal battle.
Justice LHeureux-Dubé retired from the Supreme Court of Canada
this year. At a dinner
to honour her in Toronto, the retiring Justice said, "Law
is not for lawyers, not for academics, it is for people. And all people want from
the law is justice."
We joined the coalition for Marc Hall because faith-based arguments used to keep a same-sex couple from a prom are similar to the doctrine used to deny marriage to same-sex couples. Faith-based bigotry was defeated in a court decision to allow the prom date to continue. We took it as a good sign for our pending decision in the marriage case.
Authentic Lives produced a rights awareness workshop on May 25 and donated proceeds to the Equal Marriage trust fund for legal expenses.
Our book Just Married: Gay Marriage and the Expansion of Human Rights was published to critical acclaim on June 1 by Doubleday in Canada and by the University of Wisconsin Press in the United States.
On June 2 we travelled to Italy where we delivered a keynote address at a conference on marriage, partnerships, and parenting. On June 7, the evening of our speech, we learned that Quebec approved the civil union bill. The room broke out into applause, encouraged by the progress.
Same-sex couples and their children were the subject of a book banning case heard by the Supreme Court of Canada on June 12. Judgement is still pending, however, the indications were that the courts were not going to assist parents in promoting bigotry in the classroom.
We finally made time to celebrate the publication of Just Married, on June 19.
After much planning and effort by many volunteers and supporters, a float advocating equal marriage was entered in this year's Toronto Pride Parade (June 30). Couples, our legal champions, and friends from the Quebec and Ontario marriage cases received support and cheers from a million spectators as we waited for a judgement in our Ontario and Quebec marriage cases.
"We're no longer second-class
citizens in this country and the time has come for change. My relationship is
validated and nobody can say we're not a real family anymore."
A landmark decision came from Ontario Court on July 12, when a three-justice panel agreed that the prohibition against same-sex marriage was unjustified discrimination. They gave the government two years to fix the problem.
The next day, we celebrated the victory in London, Ontario, where we were the grand marshals in the pride parade. Some readers object to the front-page coverage. "I understand the media want to cover such news, but I urge you keep it to small articles without photos," one reader urged the London Free Press.
On July 16, the Ontario government (Conservative party) announced it accepted the court's demand to end marriage discrimination, and it called on the Canadian (Liberal party) government to do the same. Manitoba did the same two days later. The federal government's own polls indicated growing support for same-sex marriage.
We travelled to Windsor Pride on July 28 to march with other couples from the Ontario marriage case. But celebrations turned to disappointment on July 29, when Ottawa announced its intention to continue to fight against marriage equality.
Ottawa's decision to appeal attracted wide-spread criticism and Vancouver's pride organizers almost made acceptance of same-sex marriage a condition for politicians who wanted to participate in the August 4 parade. We marched in solidarity with the Public Service Alliance of Canada, some couples from the BC marriage case, and even a visiting marriage activist from Seattle.
The Canadian Federation of Students added their voice to the chorus calling for equal marriage (August 8).
On August 10 we marched for equal marriage in Sudbury, our final pride parade of the season. As always, we met with media and motivated members of the community who were ready to work for change.
A second victory for same sex marriage came from Quebec court on Sept. 6. The decision confirmed that civil unions are not an acceptable response to the Canadian Charter equality provisions. Full and equal marriage is the only solution. Canada's Justice Minister announced Canada's intention to appeal the Quebec decision on Sept.12.
Just Married: Gay Marriage and the Expansion of Human Rights was featured in the Ottawa International Writers Festival on September 21. We were pleased to be able to invite Kees Waaldijk to join us in a public discussion.
On October 9 we travelled to the University of New Hampshire to take part in a panel discussion about same-sex marriage. The next day we delivered a lecture in UNH policy class.
Equal Marriage advocates Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes (MCC Toronto marriages) and James Chamberlain (Book banning case involving same-sex parents and families) received the Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for their ongoing service.
We travelled to Canada's Atlantic provinces, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, for speaking and media engagements between Nov. 3 and Nov. 9. More front-page coverage on the issues.
On Nov. 7, Canada's Justice Minister released a discussion paper in an attempt to formulate a response to the court victories for equal marriage.
Gays and lesbians fighting for their claim on Canada Pension Plan survivor benefits came a step closer to a resolution on Dec. 6 when an Ontario judge agreed to hear a case involving all provinces in Canada except Quebec.
Two decisions from the Supreme court were positive indicators that victories for same-sex marriage would continue to accumulate in Canadian court. First, the court decided that only married couples are automatically entitled to a 50/50 split if the relationship fails and second, the court ruled that a school board was wrong to ban books depicting same-sex parents.
The year in review (CBC)
Judging the good and the bad of the past year (The Sault Star)