"I wish you the best of luck in this city," David Miller, a candidate for mayor told Phillip De Blieck and Rev. Troy Perry. "If there is anything that Toronto can do to help, I know Kyle's been terrific, but if there is anything I can do to help ..."
gay icon sends a message home
July 16, 2003
"Thank God for this country, thank God for this province, thank God for good attorneys and thank God for good judges."
Rev. Troy Perry arrived at Toronto city hall yesterday, praising Canada as he filled out the paperwork for his marriage to long-time partner Phillip De Blieck.
Toronto City Councillors Kyle Rae and David Miller were on hand with a bevy of media to welcome the couple. Rev. Perry is the founder of the Metropolitan Community Churches, a world-wide gay-friendly denomination that is famous in Canada for conducting the first legal same-sex marriages.
"We've always wanted to marry and do what's right," Rev. Perry told reporters at City Hall. "It's just a shame, still, that we have to come to another country to marry. Thank God for Canada and especially Ontario for what it has done on this issue."
"I'm telling Americans that they have to come up here. Either cross-over in British Columbia or Ontario ... do it now. We have to have couples that are legally married all over our country, to make an impact on our neighbors and people who meet us."
"What difference will it make," a reporter asked?
"It will make a lot of difference for us, once we get back home, legally, in the long run," Rev. Perry replied. "I've been involved in gay rights since 1967 in America. I've lived to see things happen, but I've always believed that to make things happen you have to have people come out of the closet. Now that means coming out of the closet, crossing the border, and getting married. That means announcing to family and friends, if they don't come with you, that you're now legally married ... I don't care what my government says to me now: I am legally married."
"I hate it that I have to fly from here and lose my rights and marriage at our border as I go into my own country. Freedom is about everybody being treated equally. That's all we've ever asked for. Nothing more, nothing less. We won't settle for anything other than equality."
"I never thought this day would come in my lifetime," Rev. Perry said as he tried to hold back his tears.
After obtaining their marriage licence (right), the pair joined Douglas Elliott (lawyer for the MCC Toronto weddings) for a tour of Osgoode Hall and the courtrooms where we won our same-sex marriage victories in Ontario divisional court and in the Court of Appeal for Ontario. It was a symbolic moment as the pair visited the first court in the world to declare the validity of same-sex marriage.
Rev. Perry and Mr. De Blieck then spent a quiet evening having dinner at the home of Toronto friends.
This morning we arrived at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto in time for the 10:00 a.m. wedding. There was a sense of history as well-wishers gathered in the same sanctuary that had began the Canadian marriage challenge for many people. It felt that another historic step was being taken - a baton being passed - as another couple prepared to take steps to achieve marriage equality, this time in the United States.
As Rev. Perry recited his vows to Mr. De Blieck, he fought back tears in a ceremony that represented the long-held dreams of many gays and lesbians.
After the legal documents were signed, Rev. Hawkes announced, "I now present to you, Phillip De Blieck and Troy Perry, partners in life, duly married in the eyes of God and in accordance with the laws of our land."
"In January of 2001 we married two couples here at our church, under the publication of banns," Rev. Hawkes said in a statement to the media at the beginning of a press conference immediately following the service. "After that marriage, the government of Ontario refused to register the marriages. We proceeded to take the governments of Ontario and Canada to court to ensure that these legal marriages were recognized. The Ontario divisional court, and subsequently the Ontario Court of Appeal, ruled that the marriages were legal and any prohibitions against gay and lesbian marriages were struck down immediately.
"Troy and Phillip will now go back to the United States, to continue to lead our denomination, to call for justice around the world, to offer a safe place for our people to worship, and to continue to push for the rights for gays and lesbians, everywhere, to marry."
"I can't tell you how thrilled that Phillip and I are today [now] that we are legally married," Rev. Perry told the press. "We have to put our nation on notice that we are coming home. When we get home, we will still be legally married. We will start the struggle and the fight to make sure that within five years, at least, couples from the U.S. will be able to marry in the U.S.A.
"I am asking that American couples come to this country and marry. I hope that I can get them from all fifty states up here ... I'm asking that they register on our web site, so that we know who they are and so that as the Freedom to Marry group in the U.S. and as we band together to make a difference that we have lots and lots of couples in all kinds of situations to work with."
A reporter asked Rev. Perry explain what compassion means to him.
Are they expecting a fight for recognition in the U.S.A.?
"When we cross the border, it is so sad that we have to go back to our own culture and fight to say to them that we are married," Rev. Perry replied. "We won't back away from that. We are married. I don't care what our government says, we are married and by treaty we say that people who are married here don't have to get remarried again when we get home. If the laws changed tomorrow in the U.S., we are married, and we will not be remarrying again in our culture. We married in Toronto, Canada, on this day."
What about divorce, another reporter asked, perhaps forgetting that she was talking to newlyweds?
"Phillip and I aren't going to get divorced," Rev. Perry said. You won't see us back up here. We won't be divorced. We're old fashioned. After 18 years, we know it's until death do us part."
A reporter mentioned that David Mainse, a religious conservative, was stepping down from an extremist Christian television program and had promised to fight equal marriage.
"We don't need a new Anita Bryant in any culture or country," Rev. Perry said. "Your courts have spoken and they're now preparing laws so that this is permanently part of the culture here in Canada."
"I think that we can see today that another benefit of the court decision is having David Mainse step down from his public platform," Rev. Hawkes added. "That's freed up the television waves from having to deal with this kind of hatred, this kind of attack on the gay and lesbian community."
But Mr. Mainse claims he is not a bigot full of hate. A CBC reporter read a statement from a newspaper.
"I have heard the majority say this about minorities through-out history," Rev. Perry said. "In my own culture the Ku Klux Klan said we don't really hate black folks we just don't want them to go to school with our children. Black birds and blue birds don't rest in the same nest. I've heard all these arguments before. Hate, whatever you dress it up as, is still hate.
"My emotional reaction is sadness, not anger. Those days are gone. I've been called some pretty bad names, people have tried to murder me, in the early days of gay rights. Twenty-one of our churches were burned down to the ground. I've had ministers murdered, members murdered, but I just feel sad for people who really don't get it. We still have Aryan nation groups in America, we're still fighting the battle for civil rights, but for most Americans, that battle is over. It's just how we implement the laws to make sure everybody is treated equally, and that's all Phillip and I are asking for: just to be treated equally."