June 30, 2004
first legal gay marriage is now certified
Bourassa and Joe Varnell's marriage became official this week, two years after
they said their vows. That ceremony, it turns out, was historic: Canada's first,
officially sanctioned gay marriage."
Although there have been other marriage ceremonies performed for gay and lesbian couples, Canada has the distinction of recognizing and registering the earliest known gay and lesbian marriages in modern times: our double marriage ceremony with Anne and Elaine Vautour, officiated by Rev. Brent Hawkes at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto (MCCT) on January 14, 2001.
At the time, we were issued a government record of marriage, following the legal process of reading the banns of marriage on three consecutive Sundays in church, but the governments of Ontario and Canada refused to acknowledge the legality of the marriages and we began a legal battle to get the marriages registered.
The court agreed that our marriage was legal, in the historic Ontario divisional (lower) court decision on July 12, 2002, and again in the Court of Appeal for Ontario decision on June 10, 2003. In the latter instance, the court ordered the registration of our marriage.
The decision made our marriage legal, as of January 14, 2001, preceding the legal same-sex marriages of the Netherlands (April 2001) and Belgium (January 2003). The date of registration for our marriage is June 11, 2003, a long time between a marriage and its registration. It represents enormous effort from many people.
After a long systemic delay in obtaining a copy of our certificate of marriage, we were presented our marriage certificate, together with Anne and Elaine, on June 27, 2004, at MCCT's Pride Day service. Douglas Elliott, the lawyer from Roy Elliott Kim O'Connor who led the legal team that fought for our rights (including Patricia Lefebour, Trent Morris, Victoria Paris, and Sasha Dmitrenko) proudly handed over the long-fought-for and dearly treasured documents.
Our thanks to everyone involved in the marriage initiative, and to our friends and supporters everywhere who continue to work for equality and human rights! Marriage equality is still denied in 7 provinces and Canada's territories due to political delay. We continue the work we began in 2000. Please call on Prime Minister Paul Martin to bring in same-sex marriage legislation without delay.