Legal News - It's a quiet thing: equal marriage is law
July 21, 2005
It's a quiet thing: equal marriage is law
By Kevin Bourassa & Joe Varnell
On July 19, the Canadian Senate passed Bill C-38 into law by a margin of 47-21. The outcome finally cleared the way for Chief Justice Beverly McLaughlin (acting for the ailing Governor General) to give the bill royal assent yesterday evening. Marriage equality for same-sex couples became the law of the land. After five years of rancorous debate in courtrooms, cabinet rooms and living rooms across the country, the law was brought into reality with a simple signature.
Following this historic moment, the world did not stand still to listen to the roar of celebratory fireworks. No church bells peeled and traffic wasn't snarled by widespread dancing in the streets. The world simply turned on - and that's the way it should be.
The language of debate over the past five years has reflected that at the heart of the debate was not just the question of a small wording change to a marriage law, but more profound questions: 'Are individuals in same-sex relationships persons under the law or not?'; 'Do we form families or not?'. "Are we deserving of dignity or not." Finally the leaders of our country have answered those questions with 'Yes'.
However as Canada takes its place among the world leaders in rights for LGBT individuals, we are reminded that the genesis of the new legal reality was found in everyday love stories. Couples from sea-to-sea-to-sea that asked for the right to unite in love and live in peace. We have been privileged to meet some of those couples, and many of them we now call friends, but all couples who have told their story to the public via the media or in their own private sphere have helped to change Canada forever.
As we applaud this new law, we must not become complacent or forgetful of the work that remains. Those who oppose our equal treatment, despite finding their attitudes increasingly out-of-step with the public belief, will continue to look for opportunities to marginalize us. Our ability to choose marriage will not magically erase the scourge of homophobia. We must continue to combat their anger and fear-mongering with both education and visibility. We have won legally and politically, but our acceptance must be earned by our contributions. We will end homophobia by demonstrating our value to our society both as individuals and families.
Three years ago, in Turin, we heard the words of South Africa's Justice Cameron. In anticipation of the great victories around the world, Cameron urged the LGBT community to leverage our advocacy skills to end other social ills. There are so many who need us to raise our voices in support of them, just as they have done for us, in and outside our community. Indeed we have an obligation to do so.
And what of our own story? Where do Kevin and Joe go from here?
Since the earliest days of our marriage, the majority of our time, our resources and our energies have been devoted daily to affecting change. But this year we returned some of our focus to the plans we had before we began this journey. At last, we have begun to reclaim some balance in our lives.
Last night we celebrated with friends who have been with us throughout this experience. There were toasts to Canada and to friendship and to love. Then conversation turned to other things in a lighthearted and spontaneous way: free from a burden that was shared for so long with so many, thanks to one and all.