Marriage advocates out for pride Toronto





Joanna Radbord (Photo by, 2006)
Lawyer Joanna Radbord, from the landmark Ontario marriage case, on Pride Toronto's "fearless" float.



Mile Komlen (Photo by, 2006)
Mile Komlen, a leader in the CIBC Pride Network working his phone as he helps organize the bank's entry in the parade. CIBC has links to the first legal gay marriages through past and present Pride Network members Joe Varnell and Kevin Bourassa.






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Advocacy News - Marriage advocates out for Pride Toronto

June 26, 2021

Marriage advocates out for Pride Toronto
Parade celebrates and demonstrates resolve

By Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell

Mounties (Photo by, 2006)Same-sex marriage was once again a significant theme in Canada's largest Pride parade celebrations. Advocates and leaders, couples and lawyers, unions and politicians: all were out in the streets celebrating equality.

An unidentified couple dressed as Mounties marched arm-in-arm, carrying a sign saying "Just Married" on one side, and "Mounties always get their man" on the other side. The crowd clapped in approval, Stephen Harper notwithstanding.

The Reverend Dr. Brent Hawkes, Senior Pastor of The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, stood atop the Brent Hawkes and Jo Bell (Photo by, 2006)MCCT float alongside the Rev. Jo Bell, leading a congregation that played a key role in the Canadian drive for equal marriage, being the home to the first legally recognized lesbian and gay marriages (Elaine & Anne Vautour, and our own marriage, January 14, 2001).

Joe Varnell and Kevin Bourassa (Photo by, 2006)

Joe Varnell and Kevin Bourassa in "fearless" garb on Pride Toronto's float.

Wearing the "fearless" garb provided by Pride Toronto, we were honoured to bring up the rear of the parade on float number 80. Having watched the parade pass us by, cheering those who went before us, we enthusiastically joined the parade.

As we made our way down Toronto's Yonge Street, our final entry in the three-hour procession was overtaken by maintenance crew who were already taking down the advertisements that lined our route. The streets filled up behind us with revelers who joined in behind us, filling the street for as far as one could see.

Martha McCarthy and daughter, and Douglas Elliott (photo by, 2006)

Lawyer Martha McCarthy who represented couples seeking civil marriage in Ontario (with daughter in front) and lawyer Douglas Elliott who represented the MCC Toronto marriages in the Ontario marriage case.

Douglas Elliott, who represented the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto's marriages in the Ontario marriage case, stood alongside Martha McCarthy, the lawyer who represented couples seek civil marriages. Also on board was lawyer Joanna Radbord, who worked with Martha in the Ontario marriage case. So much legal talent, all dedicated to equal marriage, among many other things, for these past six years.

Marilyn Byers (photo by, 2006)

Marilyn Byers, of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto and PFLAG, in super-hero costume on Pride Toronto's float.

Marilyn Byers, another Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto member (and PFLAG representative) who provided support throughout the drive for gay marriage was resplendent in purple feathers and cape.

Marilyn provided the first friendly PFLAG audiences for us to test our messages when we first began speaking in public about gay marriage and the expansion of human rights. Marilyn supported our case in and outside the courtroom, as she has done for others, including Marc Hall. We were thrilled to share the experience of celebrating together, confident in a future built on the success of the past

Robert Berry & Les Sheare, who were one of the 2006 Pride Parade Grand Marshals, were "fearless" representatives of that past. The honoured couple have been together 50 years, beginning in a time when our love was criminalized. They were married in 2003.

Robert Berry and Les Sheare (Photo by, 2006)
Robert Berry & Les Sheare (Photo by, 2006)

We shook hands with the couple at the start of the parade, proud of being at the other end of the procession: each of us serving as bookends to the many fearless stories that brought us to Pride 2006.

Thanks to Pride Toronto for the honour.

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