advice for couples in states, provinces, or territories that still discriminate
against same-sex couples.
January 14, 2001, over 30 uniformed police
officers, some on horseback, and untold others in plain clothes, stood guard outside
and inside a Toronto church for what a judge would later decide was the world's
first same-sex marriage ceremony.
one-third of the floor space of the Metropolitan
Community Church of Toronto was devoted to the news media, who far out-numbered
the few protesters that were outside, some wearing devil masks and impersonating
the radical religious right.
Anne and Elaine Vautour and Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell were married before
several hundred of their closest friends, the cameras flashed and news reporters
scrambled to record the historic events. I saw reporters with tears in their eyes.
outlets ranging from Newsweek to The New York Times and Ms. to Mother Jones had
representatives among the 80 reporters and photographers who covered yesterday's
wedding between two gay couples in Toronto. There were media representatives from
as far away as Virginia, New Mexico, California and even Japan, said Brad Salavitch,
media relations coordinator for Metropolitan Community Church."
Michael Clement, The Toronto Sun, Jan.15, 2001
Rev. Brent Hawkes handled the media hordes with the kind of grace and experience
that can only be gained from almost 30 years of activism. His church had brought
together a communication plan that could only have been guided by some Higher
wedding was a culmination of weeks of media saturation for both couples- often
involving news interviews in their homes being portrayed as "just plain folks."
Their faces still appear as lasting icons of the issue of same-sex marriage.
Community Churches have been staging "media events" around same-sex relationships
for many years. Founder Rev. Troy Perry has organized relationship-blessing events
in Washington, D.C. and dozens of locations, generating tons of publicity, but
nothing could match the media saturation in Toronto on January 14, 2001.
Front-page news: the marriages of the Vautours
over 37 years, MCC has had a singular message - "if we are to be a truly free
people, we have to come out of the closet and tell the truth about who we are.
To know us is to love us, but they have to get to know us."
married in front of the news media is a major step I encourage you to consider.
almost 20 years, I've been helping MCCs generate news media coverage around equality
issues and now we're at the stage where we must expand the effort in a big way.
will say they're tired of seeing this issue in the news media and they're right
- it's gone on too long. The answer is more media coverage, not less. Will you
years of age. I married my partner of 19 years, George Olds on February
14, 2004 at MCC Toronto, in the presence of many of the same people who attended
the historic events of January 14, 2001.
media weren't there for our wedding because they'd been at Toronto City Hall photographing
us two hours before. We were honored for our work around same-sex marriage and
a bus was provided to bring our wedding guests from City Hall to MCC Toronto.
You know, I almost wish the media had been present at our event - to
see my brother Don playing his bagpipes, to witness the dozens of couples in long-term
relationships who joined us for our photo session or to see all our "in-laws"
getting to know one another for the first time at a family wedding.
husband has always been my biggest supporter in helping deliver the equality message
to the news media. He once said, "Ian, every time we make the news, we make history."
If you're committed
to changing the world and you're planning a same-sex marriage or a commitment
ceremony, consider "going public." You never know what the results might be.
how you can make history.
After consulting with everyone directly involved, issue an invitation to the news
media through a "news release." Tip - you don't have to invite all the news media,
it's your event. Pick select reporters or outlets that are likely to be supportive.
Consider offering an exclusive to one media outlet - I recommend the largest daily
newspaper in your area. Do not invite radio stations, since this is a visual event
and besides, many commercial radio stations are hotbeds of right-wing bigots who
are best ignored. If you're invited to an open-line show, be prepared for anger
and bigotry and don't lose your cool.
Target the mainstream media, not
the so-called gay media. Your goal is to reach as many mainstream people as you
can with the message.
Have someone help you with the media before hand
and on the special day - believe me, you'll be too busy with other details. If
there's a strong, supportive equality organization in your community, consider
seeking their help and support. Remind them that it is your event, however you'll
appreciate having someone on the day of the wedding to provide interviews when
If you invite lots of media, be prepared for all kinds
of weird, wacky and wild media requests for access and special photos. Decide
what's best for your issue and cause and don't be afraid to say "no thanks" to
unacceptable requests. Allow media photographers lots of access and room during
the ceremony - even if it's very distracting. You'll appreciate the quality of
photos that will result, even though photographers can be disruptive. Your goal
is to generate the best photographs and so is there's.
Invite some local
politicians and carefully record their replies to your invitation. One of them
just might send you a congratulatory reply that you can "leak" to the news media.
Imagine if some right-wing politicians sends you a form letter supporting your
marriage. Bingo - you've got news.
Seek police protection where necessary,
even by asking for local politicians to help you. If your event becomes publicly
known ahead of time and there are any security concerns, ask your local police
department for protection.
Carefully choose a location that sends a
message. No message is more powerful than marrying in a church or religious location,
since the photographs will illustrate both freedom to marry and freedom of religion.
If your event is not a religious one, then consider holding the ceremony in front
of a city hall, legislature building or a non-supporting church building. Have
a plan in case you're arrested so that when you get to make that single phone
call, you call the media.