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January 29, 2004 (Updated Feb. 7, 2004)
Marriage Trail 2004: from N.Y. to T.O.
Traveling from the U.S., same-sex couples will join a historic "Civil Marriage Trail" to Toronto this Valentine weekend, February 12-15th, 2004, to legally marry. The American couples will join Canadian couples in a Valentine's weekend in support of equal marriage. They will make their journey to Canada in memory of the historic freedom trail route, notes Trail Co-chair Brendan Fay.
Slaves, using the Underground Railroad, made their way to Canada where they found the freedom and equality denied in the U.S. The idea for the trail came to Fay when he and his spouse Tom Moulton returned home after getting married in Toronto this past July 27th. Canada is the third country in the world, besides the Netherlands and Belgium, to recognize full marriage rights for same-sex couples.
"The Civil Marriage Trail started in celebration of the fact that our community could finally get married so close to home. Finally, our relationships were getting the equal legal recognition and respect they deserved! We held a community forum this past September and we are now proceeding with our much anticipated trip up to Canada where NY same-sex couples are finally allowed to express legally the full commitment of their love," said Fay.
Organizers are inviting couples to join The Civil Marriage Trail journey to Canada the weekend of Thursday, Feb. 12th (evening) -- Sunday, Feb.15, 2004. The Marriage Trail has arranged for individual ceremonies with Judge Harvey Brownstone on February 14th. The judge presided over many Canadian same-sex marriages, including Fay and Moulton's, and has posted a "forward" on the Civil Marriage Trail web site www.civilmarriagetrail.org Visitors to the site can register online and learn about Toronto's licensing fees and more. The ceremonies will be conducted free of charge by Judge Brownstone.
On Saturday (Feb. 14) we join with community leaders and supporters of marriage equality. Couples are being asked to arrange their own means of travel and to join other travelers at Toronto's marriage bureau on Friday morning for application for marriage license.
Ontario is one of two Canadian provinces including British Columbia that have legalized gay marriage since the June 10th ruling. The country joins the Netherlands and Belgium in extending civil marriage to same-sex couples, and because it has no residency requirements and is in close proximity, hundreds of same-sex couples have crossed the border to marry.
Governments across the globe are reassessing laws seeking to end discrimination against same sex families. In the US same sex couples are denied fundamental legal rights (1049 according to the federal General Accounting Office) and societal or church recognition.
"Reality hits home and people are amazed when we tell them we could be deported, denied entry to emergency rooms, denied health insurance, and the right to joint adoptions or co-parenting rights," said Fay.
Jesus Lebron, project organizer and founder of Marriage Equality, a grassroots organization seeking civil marriage rights since 1996, said "This Valentine's Day we join with couples in a historic legal recognition of their love and commitment for the equal right to marry and we anticipate return to the U.S. prepared to challenge our system which currently treats our families as second-class. We are heartened with the growing movement here in the U.S. and internationally and with local efforts by legislators assembly member Richard Gottfried and senator Thomas K. Duane who have introduced same-sex marriage bills in Albany."
Fay and Lebron stated that they will continue to help other couples across the border to achieve their equal marriage rights and look forward to a day soon when same-sex couples will enjoy the simple civil right to marry without having to travel abroad.
Fay notes that "While governments across the world extend civil marriage rights to same sex couples here in the U.S. there is a deepening prejudice, and divisive campaign to amend the constitution," referring to President Bush's recent State of the Union address where he signaled support for an amendment. "Our country, our laws, our constitution, is no place for discrimination. We call on political and religious leaders to join our campaign to end the anguish of discrimination experienced in the denial of the 1,049 federal marriage rights and join this civil rights movement of our time.
"We are now in the wedding pages of over 250 newspapers across the US. There are growing numbers of synagogues and churches where we can marry. The day is not far off when we will be able to legally wed in the local town marriage bureau! Our love will see us through and our grandchildren will look back and be amazed that there was such a time as discriminating as ours!,” said Fay.
Among the couples traveling on the Civil Marriage Trail are Julia Ballard and Deanna Erutti, who are expecting their first child in June, and Robin Hanson and Susan Levin of St. Louis, Missouri. The couple began dating in May 2002 and have been registered with the city as domestic partners. Levin is an IT project manager and Hanson a doctoral student at Saint Louis University. Also tying the knot are Frank Jump and Vincenzo Alosa, who have been living together in Brooklyn since 1990. Jump is a NYC schoolteacher and Alosa, who emigrated to the U.S. from Torino, Italy in 1982, is a NYC contractor and designer. The couple is “ thrilled to be tying the knot in Toronto,” and thank the Canadian government for their “broad-minded and inclusive marriage laws.”
Following the Toronto Valentine trip the Civil Marriage Trail Project has eyes set on Massachusetts.
look forward to May weddings in Boston and Cambridge!" said Lebron.
Couples interested in joining the Trail are encouraged to learn as much as possible about marrying in Canada and to consider seeking the advice of an attorney to answer any questions they may have to prepare for the trip.