"Mr Varnell and Mr Bourassa may be Canada's most celebrated gay couple..."
New York Times, Sept 19, 2021

Sponsor gay marriage advocates Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell in the AIDS Walk For Life

"The couple who blew the lid off the debate in early 2001"
Now Magazine, June 24, 2021

Read more about Just Married


To contact Kevin and Joe:


Our wedding day thanks


Professional, high-resolution photographs of Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell are available at:

Canadian Press
Picture Archivist



The first registered gay marriage: January 14, 2021


Read our review of 2002.


2003 - Year in Review: another great year for same-sex marriage.


Distinguished leadership award for Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell from the Equality Forum


2004 San Francisco Equality Awards - celebrating same-sex marriage

First gay marriage was supported by CIBC - 2006 Diversity Award for "courage in changing the world"

T.O. pair fights for all gays (Toronto Sun, Oct. 7, 2004)

"Q&A: North America's 1st gay newlyweds", PlanetOut Network, May 12, 2021

"Gay married couple denied entry by U.S. customs", CTV, Sep. 19, 2003

"Gay family denied entry to US", BBC, Sep. 19, 2003

"Canadian gay couple barred from U.S.", CBC, Sep. 18, 2003


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Biographies of Kevin Bourassa & Joe Varnell:

"The debate has to be based on empathy and love. I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, the first gay men in North American to claim to be married. They are very fine people. Kind, clever and compassionate... I would defend them against oppression, abuse and threat. But equally, I will tell them I cannot condone their actions. To their great credit, they accepted this disagreement, knowing, I think, that all three of us had no hatred in our hearts."
Michael Coren, Columnist and Christian TV talk show host
The Toronto Sun, July 6, 2021

Front-page news: the marriages of the Vautours and Bourassa/Varnell

Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell became international advocates when their January 14, 2021 marriage, and subsequent legal challenge, captured world headlines. They have written a critically acclaimed book about their wedding, "Just Married", published by Doubleday in Canada and by the University of Wisconsin Press in the United States of America. A French translation of Just Married was published by Les Éditions Stanké in 2003.

Photo by Ken TongKevin Bourassa

(b. 1958) Born in Saskatoon, and raised in Ontario, France, and Germany, Kevin moved to Toronto in 1976 to attend university. School was soon overshadowed by opportunities in radio and print media. Kevin turned to more conventional employment, in the 1980’s, working as a computer programmer and analyst. The 1990’s brought a transition out of information technology and into banking, where Kevin specialized in process management. Beginning in 2002, Kevin was a full-time advocate for marriage equality until 2005. He now works in a bank's Internet business group.

"U.S. Customs officials at Pearson International Airport in Canada were able to stop the latest pair of 'domestic terrorists.' Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell attempted to enter the United States Thursday as a married couple ..."
Concerned Women For America, "Homosexuals Pose New Threat to U.S.
Border Security", Sept. 24, 2003


Photo by Ken TongJoe Varnell
(b.1969), a Toronto native son, discovered the awesome potential of a classical education early in life. Armed with a thorough knowledge of the history and drama of Elizabeth’s England,
Joe naturally turned to teaching and playing bridge for a living. He continued in this mainstream career until he met the man of his dreams and returned to school to become a web developer. After working on the web sites of a financial institution, and a consumer electronics company, Joe is now a consultant (Content Architecture), in a bank's Internet technology group.
"Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell are two very courageous pioneers blazing a trail that is raising awareness of all that it means to be gay and who are educating, advocating and making this province, and indeed country, a better place to live in for all of us."
The Voice - Editorial August 2002

Kevin and Joe have travelled to Europe, the U.S.A., and across Canada, advocating marriage equality through appearances, fundraisers, parades, speeches, and rallies. The couple are members of the Coalition For Marc Hall and they are active in building other alliances in and outside of the gay community.

Joe and Kevin were on the 2002 faculty of the International Lesbian and Gay Law Association's conference on marriage, partnerships and parenting (Turin, Italy), and they were featured authors at the 2002 Ottawa International Writers Festival. They worked in 14 cities, gave over 85 interviews, and spoke at 9 universities and colleges.

In 2003 their engagements included:

"Bourassa and Varnell continue to live in the public eye, giving speeches and granting interviews till all things are equal for gay couples."
The Toronto Sun,
Oct. 7, 2004
  • reading from Just Married on the Lambda Wilde About Sappho literary tour (Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto),
  • speaking at Borders and Boundaries law symposium (organized by Spinlaw: University of Toronto Law School and Osgoode Hall Law School),
  • a 7-city pride speaking/appearance tour, with the honour of being grand marshals for parades in London, Halifax and Saint John,
  • conducting human rights workshops at an ecumenical gathering of Christians in Philadelphia (WOW2003), and
  • serving as panelists at the Gill Foundation's OutGiving 2003 conference (Georgia).
Joe and Kevin's activities in 2004 included:
  • lecturing at George Brown College (Toronto).
  • Toronto and Haliafax Pride parades.
  • delivering the keynote address at Equality California's annual awards (San Francisco).
  • speaking at the University of Buffalo (New York).
  • serving on two panel discussions at Equality Forum (Philadelphia).
  • delivering a seminar in Toronto: Lessons in Telling Our Stories: messages for a community on the verge of equality.

They are widely published authors, with an appeal to a diverse audience. Their

"The journey of Bourassa and Varnell may well become one of those defining moments of courage. The moment that raised our threshold of awareness and sparked righteous indignation that may become the catalyst for change."
The Empty Closet,
Nov. 11, 2003

writing has appeared in an assortment of commercial magazines and adjudicated academic publications, including the international journal Feminism & Psychology (Sage Publications, U.K.), and the historic University of New Brunswick Law Journal. The couple have accepted invitations to speak at many universities, colleges and institutes including:

Carleton University
Centennial College
Dalhousie Law School
George Brown College
Mount Allison University
Mount Saint Vincent University
Pennsylvania Bar Institute
St. Thomas University
University at Buffalo
- The State University of New York
University of New Bunswick
University of New Brunswick Law School
University of New Hampshire
University of Ottawa

The Philadelphia-based Equality Forum honoured Joe and Kevin with a Distinguished Leadership Award in 2003.

In 2004 Gaiety.ca Magazine designated the couple as "Leaders of Distinction", the California State Assembly presented Kevin and Joe a Certificate of Recognition, and Equality California gave the couple the 2004 Creating History Award for their contribution to equal marriage. In 2005 they received the Metropolitan Community Church's Founder's Award, and they were among an esteemed list of international GLBT leaders, past and present, honoured at Equality Forum's celebration of civil rights leaders: "40 years, 40 heroes".

"New-age pioneers thrust into the forefront of the gay rights movement in Canada in this young millennium, Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell are definitely blazing a trail in our storied history. A history and movement that continues to witness Canada leading the way for the world."
Voice Magazine,
August 2002

In 2006 the couple were presented CIBC's Diversity Award for "unwavering commitment to changing mindsets in the face of opposition and hatred; for reaching out to others who are struggling with issues of identity at work; and for your courage in changing the world in your own way ..."

The couple love to cook at home with friends. For adventure, they like to travel or explore the arts together, as consumers and creators. The two were executive producers for a classical music CD featuring The Onyx Wind Quintet (1999).

Kevin and Joe hope to foster additional projects in the arts, long into their twilight years. They share their home with Daphne, sister of the late Chloe (1995-2003).

Link to order Just Married online.

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