this case is ultimately about the recognition and protection of human dignity
and equality in the context of the social structures available to conjugal couples
in Canada ... the question at the heart of this appeal is whether excluding same-sex
couples from another of the most basic elements of civic life - marriage - infringes
human dignity and violates the Canadian Constitution."
is not a case of the government balancing the interests of competing groups. Allowing
same-sex couples to marry does not result in a corresponding deprivation to opposite-sex
couples. Nor is this a case of balancing the rights of same-sex couples against
the rights of religious groups who oppose same-sex marriage ... the Charter ensures
that religious groups have the option of refusing to solemnize same-sex marriages.
The equality guarantee, however, ensures that the beliefs and practices of various
religious groups are not imposed on persons who do not share those views."
me, it is an issue of fundamental human rights. The role of national leaders is
to say that you are full members of society."
looks like the hot topic at this year's Wilde About Sappho literary event will
be same-sex marriage. And the highlight of the event may be the presentation at
St John the Evangelist Anglican Church on Elgin St, where Kevin Bourassa and Joe
Varnell will read from their book, Just Married."
important that the Mayor recognize all the rights of citizens ... It sets the
conditions for change and tolerance to occur."
life is fine, but we're fed up with having our courtship in court."
actions have fired up U.S. same-sex marriage advocates, who say the move will
put increasing pressure on this nation to follow suit."
has always been in the vanguard in relation to many societies in the world. We
have met our responsibilities."
Bourassa and Joe Varnell's marriage became official this week, two years after
they said their vows. That ceremony, it turns out, was historic: Canada's first,
officially sanctioned gay marriage. So said Ontario's highest court this week
... Kevin and Joe aren't domestic partners. They don't have a civil union. They
have a marriage, legally indistinguishable from any other marriage in Ontario."
encourage Americans to come up and to export the legal rights we now enjoy here.
Make no mistake. What you see happening here in Toronto is what the future looks
like in the U.S.A."
must respect each other's faith. We must not have a theocracy here in Canada where
one religion rules all."
Customs officials at Pearson International Airport in Canada were able to stop
the latest pair of "domestic terrorists." Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell attempted
to enter the United States Thursday as a married couple, filing a joint form,
when they were informed by a U.S. Customs official that they would have to file
a great disappointment not to see the same leadership on this issue with Paul
Martin that we have seen with the justice minister and the prime minister."
I first applied for my deceased partner's Canada Pension benefits, and I was denied
that claim, I really felt as though our relationship didn't count," Mr. McNutt
said of the years he spent with Gary Pask. "So this is a real victory, not only
for me but for my partner."
it the largest class action judgment in Canadian legal history. The use of class
actions in this context is novel. It is the only time a class action award has
been made to remedy discrimination against gays and lesbians."
prime minister Paul Martin is considering changes to a legal reference on gay
marriage now before Canada's top court, sources say - a move that could delay
controversial new legislation until after the next federal election."
Advocacy News - 2003: Year in Review
January 8, 2004
- The Year in Review
been wonderful with the strides that have been made. We both regard winning this
case as inevitable. It's really coming down to how much money the government wants
to waste fighting against its own citizens. But once the case has been won, that's
only the beginning. That will give us legal tolerance in the law, but that's not
enough. We need to move beyond tolerance to acceptance as part of the larger community.
That's the kind of journey that can only begin when all the legal impediments
to equality have fallen. Then we can start to work on the real issues, which are
Our review of 2002 pronounced that year to be "great". 2003 was even better: a fantastic year. At last, equal marriage arrived in North America on June 10 when the Court of Appeal for Ontario legalized our marriage and opened the doors for other same-sex couples to do the same.
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. In 2002 this web site received 373,124 visitors (3,724,265 hits) from 124 countries.
During 2003 we received 1,072,263 visitors (185% growth over last year), who generated 18,334,557 hits (almost 400% growth) from computers in 165 countries. We expect to receive our 2 millionth visitor in June this year.
The web site continues to provide information for academics, reporters, producers, supporters and opponents. It was referenced (with URL address) several times in the Canadian national newspapers, The Globe and Mail, and The National Post. Other dailies across the country wrote stories referencing this web site's content.
Enthusiasm on the road
Our journey brought us to the United States, Canada's east coast, and central Canada in 2003. We met with a wide variety of groups and individuals, including lawyers, jurists, activists, unions, parents, academics, politicians, clergy and members of the media. We worked for equality in 9 cities (repeating visits to some cities like Montreal and Philadelphia). Our speaking engagements included 6 universities and colleges (again with additional repeat visits).
Equal marriage in the media
In 2003 we did over 87 interviews (not including press conferences and academic/student interviews) with accredited media organizations.
Beyond media interviews and appearances, we also remained active in making our own contributions. In May, the French edition of Just Married: Gay Marriage and the Expansion of Human Rights was published and later in the fall, we wrote about the Charter in an introduction to the University of New Brunswick's Law Journal. We also wrote on lighter issues for Gaiety and Voice magazines.
We were thrilled to work with PFLAG Canada and Zig to develop a public service announcement campaign in support of equal marriage. Services and expenses were donated to produce announcements for print, radio and television.
Victory in the courts
The biggest event of the year , was the victory for equal marriage in both Ontario and British Columbia! Half of Canada now lives with equal marriage. The Supreme Court is scheduled to review proposed same-sex marriage legislation in April 2004.
More to be done
While tremendous progress has been made, half the population of Canada still live in an area that will not marry same-sex couples. We will push on.
Canada has come a long way, but homophobia remains deeply engrained in our culture. Again this year politicians were compelled to apologize for their anti-gay bigotry. Such attitudes contribute to the atmosphere that fosters violence against the gay community and those who support us (see Andy Scott, below).
The arrival of equal marriage in Canada was, in part, made possible by the labour of individuals, groups, and courts in other countries. So it has been a pleasure to be given new opportunities to work with groups in Europe and the U.S. In particular, we congratulate our American neighbours on their own successes this year.
Our hearts are with those who faced losses in 2003.
Our thanks to everyone who contributed, directly and indirectly, to the tremendous accomplishments listed below.
Our ongoing appreciation to our families, friends, and supporters, as we begin our fourth year on the road to equal marriage.
Best wishes for 2004,
year began with headlines saying "Canadians warming to gay marriage".
A Maclean's magazine/Global TV/Southam
News poll showed 48 per cent of Canadians supported same-sex marriage. That wasn't
enough to gain support from the federal Liberal government. Liberal leadership
candidate Sheila Copps, however, promised to use "the
pulpit of elected office to push forward full equality."
The Ontario Association for Marriage & Family issued a statement of support for equal marriage, anticipating the "long overdue recognition of same-sex marriage.
The Standing committee on Justice and Human Rights began hearing testimony for and against same-sex marriage in an effort to form a Parliamentary response to the ongoing victories for equal marriage in court.
New Brunswick became a battleground for equal marriage this year. We asked the councillors of Saint John to support same-sex marriage, while local advocates joined us in a national Valentine's Day campaign calling for equal marriage. "This is the first step toward getting a national movement to do this every Valentine's Day," Joe Varnell told the Toronto Sun.
The Centre for research and comparative legal studies on sexual orientation and gender identity (CERSGOSIG) announced the creation of a databank of legal resources.
After losing their first round in court, British Columbian couples returned to the B.C. Court of Appeal to argue for same-sex marriage again (Feb. 10-12).
The Justice Committee was accused of badgering witnesses who have come to testify in support of same-sex marriage. The rocky beginning worsened as the committee heard some of the most hateful thoughts and beliefs of those who oppose equal marriage. A member of the Catholic Women's League said, "To redefine marriage to be more inclusive of homosexuality is to create a new morality in which homosexuality is not merely tolerated but is normalized and would branch out into sexual activity with babies, children of both sexes, and with animals." Bestiality, incest, polygamy, infidelity and drugs were all linked to same-sex marriage and/or the gay lifestyle by REAL Women and Westboro Baptist Church. The Canadian Christian Women's Organization suggested amputation as a "powerful inducement to abstain or leave the country if one must have one's kicks." But positive support came from Canada largest union, CUPE, and the country's largest Protestant church, the United Church, when both groups testified in support of same-sex marriage.
We participated in the 2003 Wilde About Sappho literary tour in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. It was a chance to meet readers, authors, and the media to discuss equal marriage through our book, Just Married. We gave to lectures to students in the Child & Youth Worker program at George Brown College (Toronto).
Member of Parliament Andy Scott, chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (the group that held hearings on same-sex marriage), hosted a marriage forum in his home riding of Fredericton, New Brunswick.
We spoke to a variety of groups, offering perspectives on same-sex marriage, including Trinity St. Paul's United Church (Toronto), the Fraternity (Toronto gay professionals' group), and a law symposium hosted by the University of Toronto Law School and Osgoode Hall Law School.
The appeal of the landmark Ontario divisional court marriage case was heard in the Court of Appeal between April 22 and 25. The government used circular arguments and a strategy that has already failed in lower courts.
The federal Bloc Québécois party's Justice Critic, Richard Marceau, issued a position paper on same-sex marriage, urging the Canadian government to respect the Charter.
Couples seeking their right to same-sex marriage in British Columbia won their second attempt for justice in the province's highest court on May 1. The court followed the lead of Ontario, giving the government until July 12, 2004 to adhere to the Charter.
Member of Parliament Elsie Wayne, (representing Saint John, New Brunswick) expressed her bigotry against gays and lesbians and same-sex marriage in the House of Commons. "If they are going to live together, they can go live together and shut up about it."
On June 10 the Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled that our Jan. 14, 2001 marriage was valid. Ontario was ordered to register our marriage and begin issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples immediately. The common-law definition of marriage was changed for all of Canada.
We appeared at the Centenary United Church (June 12) for a forum on same-sex marriage, two days after the court decision. We were late and still dazed from the experience of the past 48 hours and relied on lawyer Douglas Elliott to convey our message. On June 18 we read from our book at the Markham Community Library.
The Canadian government scrambled to respond to the change in the common law definition of marriage. On June 12 the Justice committee on marriage voted to accept the Ontario Court's equal marriage decision and on June 17, Prime Minister Jean Chretien announced the government's intention to draft legislation in support of equal marriage for all of Canada.
On June 21 Canada's Justice Minister said, "It would be a good thing if the provinces went ahead to recognize same-sex unions based on the Ontario court decision." No other province follows this advice, without a court order.
We celebrated the arrival of same-sex marriage in Ontario at an annual Pride week reception at the Law Society of Upper Canada (June 26). Our reporting of this event was be used in a desperate ploy to portray the justices in our case as being biased (See July). News reports falsely claimed that we have removed this report from our web site.
Moncton and Toronto Pride parade honoured married same-sex couples. In Toronto, we canceled a registered float when organizers invited us to come to the front of the parade. We march on foot alongside friends and lawyers involved in the marriage challenge in Canada and the U.S.
British Columbia became Canada's second province to allow same-sex marriages on July 8, 2003 when a B.C. court agreed to align itself with the Ontario Court of Appeal decision.
The government announced the draft legislation on same-sex marriage on July 17. The governmemt also revealed the questions that will be included in a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Justice Minister promises to defend our right to marriage in any future court actions.
The Ontario Court of Appeal was accused of bias by Focus on the Family, using our reporting of a Law Society of Upper Canada event (see June, above), as evidence.
We conducted two seminars based on our book, Just Married, and served as grand marshalls in the London Pride parade. We were also honoured to be the grand marshalls in Halifax, Nova Scotia and the first Pride march in Saint John, New Brunswick.
The Vatican published a document titled Considerations in its ongoing campaign against marriage for same-sex couples. The paper portrays same-sex marriage as the "legalization of evil". Homosexuality is depicted as "a serious depravity", "intrinsically disordered", "gravely immoral" and "deviant". Politicians are ordered to obey. Condemnation of the hate-filled document came instantly from around the world .
A collection of faith groups cobbled together from Catholic, Evangelical and Islamic traditions request leave to appeal the Ontario same-sex marriage decision at the Supreme Court of Canada.
Daniella Kirst made her first foray into activism by organizing an equal marriage rally in Calgary, Alberta (Aug. 10). We spoke at our first Christian conference, Witness our Welcome, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Aug. 14-17). We conducted two workshops based on our book Just Married.
Canadians For Equal Marriage was formed, a coalition and link partner we are happy to be a part of, working on behalf of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto.
Gaiety magazine generously organized a reception in honour of our long-delayed marriage registration. Guests donated funds to the Equal Marriage Fund (trust account in support of legal expenses), and enjoyed gracious hospitality. The next next day, we were sent to a resort for 5 days in northern Ontario. It was the longest break we've had together since beginning our advocacy work.
Art Vautour-Toole was arrested in New Brunswick when he protests his province's refusal to issue provincial documents in his new marital name, even though federal documents are changed to reflect his new name.
The Quebec marriage appeal was delayed until Jan. 26, 2004, on the request of the Catholic Church and the Evangelic Fellowship of Canada (due to illness).
The Canadian Alliance party failed to pass a motion aimed at maintaining marriage discrimination: another step towards full implementation of same-sex marriage across Canada.
We were refused entry into the United States, under family status, when we attempted to travel to speak at a human rights conference in Georgia. Support came from U.S. politicians but we're labeled "domestic terrorists" by Concerned Women For America. For the first time, we turned down interviews with mainstream media. CNN, CBS, and NBC news producers come calling, but we declined interviews with U.S. media on the request of U.S. advocates who had concerns about a backlash.
The Supreme Court of Canada announced that it would not allow appeals of the Ontario court decision that changed the common law definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. For the first time, same-sex couples were supported in their legal efforts by Canada's Attorney General/Justice Minister.
Canada issued a factum containing the arguments that will be used in support of equal marriage during the reference to the Supreme Court of Canada, scheduled for April 16, 2004.
Philadelphia-based Equality Forum announced Canada as the featured nation at its 2004 conference (April 26 - May 2). We were honoured to receive a Distinguished Leadership Award.
Nunavut became the first province or territory in Canada to recognize same-sex marriages solemnized outside of its borders, while still refraining from enacting equal marriage for its own citizens at home.
Andy Scott, the chair of Parliament's marriage committee, was attacked by a man who was on a postering campaign against same-sex marriage. Scott cast a tie-breaking vote on the committee in support of equal marriage. An Alliance party Member of Parliament was fired from his cabinet position after a newspaper reports the MP's bigoted views, including a belief that a 40-year conspiracy has led to the acceptance of same-sex marriage.
A multi-media (print, radio, television) public service announcement campaign was launched in support of equal marriage, on behalf of PFLAG Canada and this web site. The campaign was created by Toronto agency Zig and produced by Industry Films.
We joined a protest staged during the Liberal leadership convention in Toronto, in response to Paul Martin's poor support of same-sex marriage. We delivered two lectures to nursing students at George Brown College.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declared that gay and lesbian couples have a right to same-sex marriage.
Paul Martin (Liberal party) became Canada's new Prime Minister upon the retirement of Jean Chretien. A new cabinet was formed with Irwin Cotler as the new Justice Minister. The new team politicized same-sex marriage again, in the face of an upcoming election.
Ontario's Superior Court of Justice agreed that surviving partners from same-sex relationships were owed benefits from the Canada Pension Plan, resulting in the recovery of between $100-$400 million for the members of this class action.
The three justices involved in the Ontario Court of Appeal marriage decision were designated as "Nation Builders" by The Globe and Mail. Michael Stark and Michael Leshner (married on the day of the June 10 Ontario court decision) were Time magazine (Canada) newsmakers of the year.