Adovcacy News - Equality Now
November 15, 2003
Equality Now rally for equal marriage
Martin as the new Prime Minister must remain true to his party's commitment to
same-sex marriage. The days are over when legal discrimination should be allowed
to exist in this country. We are asking him to do the right thing and give lesbians
and gays the right to marry if they so choose."
The corner of Church and Wellesley pulses with energy on Friday evenings as the workday commuters dash to their weekends, passing those headed into the village for a drink or a dance. Last night the heart of the gay village had a quicker pulse than usual as hundreds of protestors gathered on Wellesley in preparation to march through the streets. Our destination: Air Canada Centre and the Federal Liberal coronation of Paul Martin as Prime Minister. Our message: marriage equality for all Canadians.
The early evening was slightly cool, but we found warmth in the spirit of the assembling crowd and in the conversation of several old friends. We arrived at the rally with Halifax activist, Jay Thordarson. We first met Jay during our 'Summer of Love' tour stop in Halifax. Since then we have marched with Jay in Saint John and Montreal and when Jay learned that a business trip to Toronto would coincide with the rally, he volunteered to march with us again.
Also among the early arrivals were Anne and Elaine Vautour, the couple we were fortunate to have shared our wedding day with. Lately the four of us only seem to meet when preparing to march through the streets of Toronto, so it was nice to manage a few minutes to catch up on their lives and to bring them up to date on ours.
The crowd was larger now, the numbers swelling as groups arrived to hear the pre-march speakers. New signs, placards and banners would suddenly join those that we had already seen, heralding the arrival of the different groups. As each group arrived they added a fresh beat of energy and enthusiasm to the assembly.
Shortly after 6 o'clock, the crackle of the mic hushed the crowd. The evening's first speaker was Salome Loucas representing Women Working With Immigrant Women. Salome urged us to remember that all families must be treated equally, and that included gay and lesbian families. The crowd was vocal in its agreement, often interrupting Salome's remarks with clapping and whistling.
The second pre-march speaker was another friend of ours. Bob Gallagher has long been involved in advocacy and is a master of running things behind the scenes at a press conference. Representing the coalition known as Canadians For Equal Marriage, Bob reminded everyone last night, that he is equally at home in front of the mic. He remarked that equal marriage was likely to be one of the central issues in the next federal election. He cautioned against the dangers of the political apathy that sometimes characterize our community and urged us mobilize in every one of Canada's 301 ridings to remove those MPs who would deny us our rights. Each of Bob's sentences was punctuated by the cheers and applause of an increasingly energized crowd.
The final speaker before we set off was Carolyn Egan, the president of United Steel Workers of America, local 8300. Building on the energy that Bob and Salome had generated, she exhorted us to remember that issues of equality were universal. When one of us suffers, we all suffer. The crowd, which by now included Enza 'Supermodel' Anderson and newly-elected Toronto City Councillor Adam Giambone, cheered its agreement and fired up we set off down Church street.
The march itself took over an hour, but despite the dropping temperatures and uneven pavement, the mood of the crowd remained jovially militant. Slogans specific to equal marriage came out of speakers and bull horns, the words crafted to fit the familiar cadences of classic protest chants. Student groups nodded their heads as we chanted 'We're queer, we're here and some of us want to get married."
Two women carrying CAW flags, perhaps recalling labour disputes, chanted loudly "Equal marriage under attack, what do we do - stand up, fight back."
March organizers reminded us of the national implications of equality as we declared 'From B.C. to Newfoundland, equal marriage on demand'.
As we marched along, our police escorts stopped traffic to allow us to pass through the intersections. The crowd chanted loudly as we passed under the traffic lights and horns would honk in solidarity. Each show of support brought a cheer from the crowd and revived our energy.
The biggest show of public support for our cause came towards the end of the march as we were going past the Hummingbird Centre for the Arts. An animal rights group was staging an anti-fur rally in front of the pelt porting opera going set. Whether it was mutual belief in each others causes or simply a sense of fraternity with another group of demonstrators, we cheered loudly for each other, exchanging high fives as we marched passed.
We had been walking for over an hour as we approached York Street, the last leg of our journey. We fought off fatigue by changing the past hour's chanting slightly ("We're queer, we're here and some of us need to sit down." ) and the laughter seemed to perk us up in time for the final stretch to ACC.
Our voices were louder than they had been since we began our walk and we kept up the volume as we filed into the parking lot in front of the arena. Through the glass doors we could see, suspended from the rafters, all of the provincial and territorial flags. As if speaking to the banners and by extension the nation, we repeated our earlier call to action, "From B.C. to Newfoundland, equal marriage on command"
A sound system was quickly assembled in the back of the truck that had led the march and we began a second round of speeches. The second group included:
Each speaker brought a message of justice to the gathering, reflected through the prism of their unique personal experience. The young and militant queer activist found support and unity with a lesbian spiritual leader. Canadian students echoed the call of the steel worker and through it all, the crowd roared its support. The crowd cheered approval as speakers recalled the great Liberal leaders of the past, in particular Pierre Trudeau who gave us our Charter. When those that would oppose equality were mentioned, the cries of 'Shame' echoed off the walls.
As the rally came to its end, Equality Now, the organizers of the march, promised that there would be future rallies to hold Paul Martin to his party's promises. If he chooses to respect equality, he will receive support from across the social spectrum of Canada. As he assumes the role of Prime Minister, he must step up to the responsibilities of leadership and declare unequivocally, his support for equal marriage.