British Columbia advocates  call for equal marriage at the travelling parliamentary hearings in Vancouver (April 1, 2003).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"... it appears that the mandate of this committee is not to garner public input, to decide indeed that our relationships are worthy enough to qualify for marriage. To us it is more like a trial, and we are called to justify our very existence. We have read evidence, and comments that to allow us to marry, would open the door to gay men having sex with animals, marrying the family dog, or our sisters. This was read into evidence by a pastor of a Christian church. One witness suggests that in some countries it’s not unusual for homosexuals to have unmentioned body parts removed."
Lloyd Thornhill & Bob Peacock

 

 

 

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"We are part of the fabric of this great country called Canada. We don’t come to you with hat in hand, begging for scraps ... We are calling on government to show leadership on this important issue, don’t wait for the courts to direct you. Grant us our right to marry now."
Lloyd Thornhill & Bob Peacock

 

 

 

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December 2002

 

 

 

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"As a teacher of public school’s youngest learners I ask you to do the honourable and just thing in sending a strong message of acceptance to all Canadians. One of the most important contributions you can make in contemporary Canadian society is demonstrating leadership on social issues."
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“There are far too many people in the world, who like sheep, “bah” politely and raise their hands to vote and follow the masses. We can easily allow people to be sheep or we can teach, question, challenge and help them to become critical thinkers. What will you choose?"
James Chamberlain

 

 

 

 

 

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"One question we asked a psychologist one time, was a question others had accusatively asked us: 'Won't you be modelling homosexuality for your children and make them grow up gay too?' The psychologist replied, 'Not at all.. What the children are learning from you two is a model of how to have a loving relationship.' "
Robin Roberts

 

 

 

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"My 25-year-old niece, Meran, got married last June. They had a beautiful wedding in her parents' garden in Victoria. Afterwards, they wrote and thanked us for the wedding gift we gave them. In the card, Meran wrote, "You two have always been a model of love for me." Yet when we watched the ceremony, it was starkly painful, knowing that our government will let us model love that inspires people to marry, but won't let us make that same degree of legal commitment ourselves."
Robin Roberts

 

 

 

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"We simply want our federal government to include us as full, complete citizens, to honour our love as we honour every other Canadian citizen's. It is this civil right that we desire. We hope the government will stop using our taxes to fight against us, and see how health-giving it can be to include us in legal marriage. This is completely about equal rights, equally loving rights."
Robin Roberts

 

 

 

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"It isn't as simple for us as getting married was for my sisters or for my brother or Dawn's brother. But it should be. Instead, we've had to create a number of legal regimes. They have cost us money and time."
Elizabeth Barbeau

 

 

 

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"I have always wanted to have children, and we really hope to become parents some day. When that happens we will adopt each others' children. If we were married we wouldn't have to go through the expense and the complexity of an adoption simply to recognize that the children of our relationship belong to both of us."
Dawn Barbeau

 

 

 

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Legal - Canada

April 1, 2003

British Columbia advocates speak for
equal marriage at Vancouver hearings

Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal recipient and couples from B.C. marriage case call for justice

Bob Peacock and Lloyd Thornhill

The following is the text prepared by Bob Peacock and Lloyd Thornhill for their April 1 testimony in Vancouver (British Columbia) at parliament's travelling Justice and Human Rights Committee marriage hearings. Bob and Lloyd are part of the British Columbia marriage challenge now in court:

Bob Peacock and Lloyd Thornhill (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2002)
Bob Peacock and Lloyd Thornhill

In just a few short months, Bob and I will celebrate thirty-five years of a life-long covenant. When we first met in 1968, Pierre Trudeau a short time earlier had stated: Government has no business in the bedrooms of the nation. At that time we never dreamed that we would be appearing before this committee, some 35 years later, asking government to stay out of our bedroom. But, with the greatest of respect, that is what we are asking.

We have followed the hearings since the day they began, and I must say that reading the evidence of some witnesses, and comments made by some committee members, it appears that the mandate of this committee is not to garner public input, to decide indeed that our relationships are worthy enough to qualify for marriage. To us it is more like a trial, and we are called to justify our very existence. We have read evidence, and comments that to allow us to marry, would open the door to gay men having sex with animals, marrying the family dog, or our sisters. This was read into evidence by a pastor of a Christian church. One witness suggests that in some countries it’s not unusual for homosexuals to have unmentioned body parts removed. She also was unhappy that gay and lesbian people received certain benefits from government. But, as she clearly stated, it’s not to late to correct that mistake.

When asked by Svend Robinson, what did Jesus say about homosexuality? One lady turned to a nun for assistance and replied: There were no homosexuals during that time. Some of these people appear quite normal, that is until they open their mouths and the whole room is contaminated with their ignorance, hate and bigotry. We have read minutes where committee members have clearly stated their views on this issue, let’s keep marriage between one man and one woman, it works well that way. Yes, it works very well for heterosexual couples, but marriage at the moment does not work well for us. That’s because we presently can’t marry, and have our relationships recognized by government.

During our many years together we have faced the same problems as other married couples. There have been births in our families, but also deaths. Between both of us we have lost two fathers, one mother, two brothers, and one son. Bob sang at my father’s memorial, and I delivered the eulogy at his father’s memorial. We are both fathers and grandfathers. We married knowing full well that we were gay, but in the 60’s it seemed easier to do what all our friends were doing, that was to marry a young woman. But we didn’t understand the heartache that decision would cause. The first day that I met Bob I fell madly in love with him; I want to assure this committee that I feel no different about him today. So, whatever government decides in respect to same-sex marriage, our love will remain the same. Also our determination will not falter we will continue our fight for justice, and to run the race until we reach the prize.

Since we gave our lives to the Lord in 1988 we have met so many broken people in our community. They weren’t broken because of their sexuality, but because they were Christian and a pastor or church elder had falsely told them that they were an abomination in God’s eyes. They were then recruited into a form of change ministry, otherwise known as ex-gays. I must tell you that I have yet to meet anyone who was once gay, but is now heterosexual. However, I have met many who have pretended to be healed, or changed, only to find out a short time later that they had fallen from grace. These ministries have taken a toll on gay and lesbian youth, many have committed suicide, many others have either poured acid on their genitalia, or caused severe damage with a knife or razor. Yet these groups still flourish in society.

A very dear friend of ours was the director of such a group for 10 years. He used to appear on TV and state that any homosexual could change if they really wanted to. Anyone who didn’t was just weak. Well Frank was one who fell from grace and confessed to a church elder. The elder told the pastor and a week later Frank was forced to stand before the congregation and confess his sin. His wife and two daughters sat in the church and wept. That mistake cost him his ministry and his family. He recounted the story to us, of how he believed that God would kill him, so he went on a sex binge, where he had sex with 27 partners over one weekend. Frank developed AIDS and died a few years late. Before he died Hanna Gartner interviewed him on national TV. She asked him one question that I’ll always remember. She said: Frank is there anything that you truly regret? Frank was only a few weeks from death at that time, he responded weakly, yes, I only wish that I hadn’t told all those young people that they could change their sexuality. A few weeks later Bob sang at Frank’s memorial. He was very respected and the church was jammed with people, many from his old church. He worked with mentally challenged people and there were about six of his clients at the memorial. As I sat in the front pew, I watched the line of people walking past his picture. Near the end of the line these dear people appeared. As they walked by they reached out to touch his picture, the tears were streaming down their faces. As I watched I thought, these poor people didn’t even know that Frank was gay, if they had it would not have mattered. He was someone that they loved and cared for, now Frank was gone. I remember thinking, if everyone in that church showed the same kind of love as these dear people, what a wonderful world it would be.

We have come here today so that you, the members of this committee could see us, and listen to a small part of our story. Since the hearings started you have heard similar stories and you will hear many more. We are part of the fabric of this great country called Canada. We don’t come to you with hat in hand, begging for scraps. We come to ask, no demand that government do what it was elected to do. That is to do what is right, not what might be popular. If equal rights were granted based on polls, or popularity, there would be no equal rights. We are calling on government to show leadership on this important issue, don’t wait for the courts to direct you. Grant us our right to marry now.

Thank you,

Lloyd Thornhill and Bob Peacock


James Chamberlain

The following is the text prepared by James Chamberlain for his April 1 testimony in Vancouver (British Columbia) at parliament's travelling Justice and Human Rights Committee marriage hearings. James was recently awarded the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal for his work on behalf of equality and justice:

Please help pay for the cost of equality - the Surrey book banning case

I am a Kindergarten Teacher in Surrey, B.C. I express these comments with respect to what I believe Canada’s youngest learners need to know about the concept of marriage and family.

I recognize that for some adults same-sex marriage is a controversial issue. Some adults choose to hold discriminatory or bigoted opinions about same sex couples and their families. Children are often much more understanding than their adult counterparts. Depending on their age and personal circumstances, children are much less apt to harbor hateful attitudes and positions towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people.

No child is born racist, sexist or homophobic. These are learned behaviours. Same sex marriage is not controversial for five and six years old students. In my experience, they do not view same-gender relationships or homosexuality with disdain unless someone they know and love has taught them that. Young children emulate the adult role models they see around them. They knowingly or unknowingly mimic the adults in their lives and in time come to share some of the same values.

LGBT people and their relationships are wrongly characterized by some as sick, immoral, disgusting, sinful, unhealthy, etc. These misguided adults who, for whatever reason, strongly believe and vocally argue that LGBT people deserve status as second class citizens in Canadian society.

For these people, heterosexual marriage is held upon a pedestal as sacred and superior. Meanwhile, people in common law, single parent, non traditional and/or same sex relationships are treated in exclusionary ways because they simply do not fit a narrow model of what some people think a family should be.

In December, 2002 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against the Surrey School Board for banning books about same-sex families from Kindergarten and Grade One classrooms. The court found that the Surrey School Trustees and administration had allowed the religious and moral views of some parents to influence their decision to ban books featuring families with two moms or two dads.

Public education must be conducted on strictly secular and non sectarian grounds in Canada. The Chief Justice declared in the court’s ruling “The Board allowed itself to be decisively influenced by certain parent’s unwillingness to countenance an opposed point of view and a different way of life. What secularism rules out is any attempt to use religious views of one part of the community to exclude from consideration the values of other members of the community. Religious views that deny equal recognition and respect to the members of a minority group cannot be used to exclude the concerns of the minority group.”

Much of the opposition to same sex marriage in contemporary Canadian society is made in the name of religion. I use this court case to highlight the fact that religion cannot be used to deny same-sex families their rightful place in society or in Canadian classrooms. Whether discussing marriage, or simply the fact that some families have two moms or two dads, five and six year old learners need to know that a variety of family models exist in society and that all are equal in value.

“Tolerance is always age appropriate.” stated the Supreme Court of Canada in reference to legal arguments on the age appropriateness of learning about same sex families in Kindergarten. It is a simple message.

That same message holds true for the topic of same sex marriage. This panel and Canada’s Members of Parliament have a public and moral responsibility to send that same message of tolerance to all Canadians by enacting legislation which extends same-sex couples the legal right to marry.

In my Kindergarten classroom, I have heard the words gay and fag used. I am a teacher who questions childrens’ concepts of right and wrong via teachable moments and direct and forthright discussion. I tackle racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of oppression in the same manner. I ask children questions like:

“What does that word mean?”

“Where have you heard it used before?”

“Has anyone ever called you gay before?”

“Did they use the word gay as a putdown or a compliment?”

“Is that word being used in a friendly way or a hurtful way?”

In discussion of what the word gay means, I’ve had the following responses from different students in a variety of situations over the years. Negative sentiments have been expressed many times using tone of voice, gestures, facial expressions, body language, and words. Here are a few examples:

“It’s so gross, I can’t say!”

“Yuck! It means two boys who kiss each other.”

“It is when two men sleep together!”

Only once have I had a student say:

“It means when two men or women love one another and live together.”

In asking children where their ideas about the word “gay” come from, they often name their older siblings, parents, other students on the playground and their friends. Most students who have heard the word “gay” before, say it is said in a mean way and that it is used to hurt people. Few, if any, have ever heard the word gay used in a positive context to describe anyone.

When discussion of families occurs in my classroom, I read stories about a variety of family models. I teach about acceptance of differences as we compare, contrast and discuss family models as they relate to each child’s life. We celebrate the fact that we come from all kinds of families. I typically teach a unit on “Families Around the World.” It highlights the multicultural customs, family traditions, beliefs systems and values of a mosaic of peoples. Through this unit and all of my teaching I try to give children a local and global perspective on new concepts. The common message about family I try to get across is: “Families are the same and different, but all families are held together with special glue, called…..love.”

It is a simple message that many adults would do well to heed in the heated debate around same-sex marriage.

Throughout these hearings, I ask that you:

  • Challenge the negative stereotypes and hurtful rhetoric you hear. Know that it is used to denigrate LGBT people daily.
  • Think critically and carefully question the logic behind religious and cultural objections to same-sex marriage.
  • Envision our future and picture what kind of society Canada can become with positive information about same-sex families in our schools and society at large.
  • Remember that no child is born homophobic. Homophobia, Racism and Sexism are learned behaviours.  

 My Request to Politicians:

As a teacher of public school’s youngest learners I ask you to do the honourable and just thing in sending a strong message of acceptance to all Canadians. One of the most important contributions you can make in contemporary Canadian society is demonstrating leadership on social issues.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people and their families want the same legal rights and responsibilities as other Canadians. That includes the right to marry.

Registered Domestic Partnerships or Civil Unions do not accord the same rights as those enjoyed by heterosexual people. They are cheap imitations and insulting to many in the LGBT community. Please think about how heterosexual people would react if the tables were turned and they were denied the right to marriage.

As politicians you can be leaders and critical thinkers on social issues or you can be followers. Public education often talks about trying to instill in children critical thinking skills to help make them life long learners.

With all due respect I would like to share something that has stuck with me through all of my years of teaching. It affects the way I view the world, how I teach daily and makes me strive to help students reach their full learning potential.

I leave you with this quote to ponder:

“There are far too many people in the world, who like sheep, “bah” politely and raise their hands to vote and follow the masses. We can easily allow people to be sheep or we can teach, question, challenge and help them to become critical thinkers. What will you choose?”


Robin Roberts & Diana Denny

The following is the presentation prepared by Robin Roberts and Diana Denny for their April 1 testimony in Vancouver (British Columbia) at parliament's travelling Justice and Human Rights Committee marriage hearings. Robin and Diana are part of the British Columbia marriage challenge now in court. The oral presentation was made by Robin.

Robin Roberts and Diana Denny (Photo by equalmarriage.ca)
Robin and Diana in our hotel when we marched together at Vancouver Pride, 2002

Thank you for this opportunity. I value your willingness to listen with open hearts and open minds to my views on why equal marriage for same sex couples is the only viable option to choose in this cross-country hearing

I've handed out some pictures of our family so you can see who we are. Diana and I got together almost 20 years ago, when she was 40, I was 36, and our children were 4, 5, 13 and 16.

19 ½ years ago, I almost lost the love of my love to suicide. Fortunately for me and for our children, Diana managed to stop from steering our old Volvo off a cliff that autumn afternoon in 1983. Shaking, she returned to our street, our home, my arms. She shared her fears - of loss of respect, of loss of friends, of loss of family, of loss of self, due to homophobia. We sought counselling. Although it did not stop all the losses from happening, it helped us cope. It took Diana's beloved older brother 8 years to break his refusal to talk to us. Gradually, because of the fact that Canada is trying to make things more equal for gays and lesbians and because Diana's family has seen our success as a couple and as loving mothers, they have started coming around. It feels so good to begin to feel their loving support, at last.

My parents, I'm very proud to say, raised me to believe that homosexual love was equal to heterosexual love. However, it was certainly one thing to voice that about our friends, welcome them into our house with open arms - and another thing to find out that my heart is painted with the same brush. It's almost like having a mischievous god suddenly paint my skin black, and say "Okay, now trying living that life. Feel the prejudice running up and down the streets." I had no choice.

As you learned by reading our written brief, our children struggled from others' homophobia, too. After Clio had observed her older brothers' frustrations at being taunted because of their mums' relationship, she decided that when she went to high school, she simply wouldn't bring her friends home. When she finally did, two years later, she was totally relieved how much they loved interacting with us. As you know from my brief, our youngest son, Josh, had to spend over a year recovering from constant nightmares and an ulcer when his father threatened to kidnap him, apparently because of our relationship.
Diana Denny and Robin Roberts (Photo by Clio Denny)
Diana Denny & Robin Roberts share their lives and love in Victoria, B.C.

One question we asked a psychologist one time, was a question others had accusatively asked us: "Won't you be modelling homosexuality for your children and make them grow up gay too?" The psychologist replied, "Not at all.. What the children are learning from you two is a model of how to have a loving relationship." In fact, as it turned out, they're now in their 20's and 30's. They remain in close contact with us, lead successful, productive lives, and have all entered loving, heterosexual relationships.

My 25-year-old niece, Meran, got married last June. They had a beautiful wedding in her parents' garden in Victoria. Afterwards, they wrote and thanked us for the wedding gift we gave them. In the card, Meran wrote, "You two have always been a model of love for me." Yet when we watched the ceremony, it was starkly painful, knowing that our government will let us model love that inspires people to marry, but won't let us make that same degree of legal commitment ourselves.

For nine years, we had a very warm, Italian, Roman-Catholic family living across the street from us. Marianna was a teenager when they moved into our neighbourhood. She married, they had a son, and ran into marital difficulties. Marianna's mother brought her for a visit. They both sat down in our living room, and asked us to help. Marianna is now together with her husband again. When she came over for tea a little while ago, we got talking about equal marriage for same-sex couples. With amazement, she asked "What is their problem? You two have been models for me of a committed relationship. What I don't understand is how our government can let heterosexual murderers and rapists get married, but they won't let you get married?" I explained that there are some who say we would undermine the institution of marriage. I think we strengthen it. She knows we've strengthened hers.

Diana had a long-time family friend who, having just graduated from nursing school, committed suicide at age 21. In the note she left her parents and siblings about why she killed herself, she wrote, "I'm afraid I am a lesbian"

There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of times that Diana and I have had to make instant decisions about the degree of how safe it is to be 'out' while talking with strangers. One day I was in Tabi's, buying Diana a shirt for work. It had Scottie dogs on the lapel. There were 2 women at the counter, also waiting to have their purchases processed; they were obviously middle-aged daughter and elder mum. They were chatting relaxedly with me while waiting, and said something about how they liked the blouse I was buying. Without thinking or censoring myself, I said "Oh yes, it's sweet, isn't it? My partner's a nurse in a geriatric home, and her patients just love having something fun and different to look..." With that, the elder mum interrupted me, looked cold and disapproving, turned her head from me and said to her daughter "I'll wait outside for you." I felt sorry for the old woman that she couldn't just relax and enjoy the moment of sharing. But by using "partner" and the pronoun "her", I'd blown it.

After the first woman's sale was completed and she'd left to join her mother, the cashier commiserated kindly with me. Censoring our speech with split-second precision happens numerous times a day. This is a common survival tactic for many gays and lesbians, and is very tiring.

Equal marriage for same sex couples will help this problem. Not as soon as it's enacted, but as a logical, gradual result, of people being able to see the equal ability of gays and lesbians to take on the full obligations of marriage with joy and deep commitment. It will be so much easier for gays and lesbians to have long-lasting relationships when those relationships are deemed as fully worthy as straight marriages, and we're free to talk about our spouses honestly.

Diana and I want to reassure everybody present that we are extremely happy that our federal government separates church and state.

We therefore desire to uphold the right of any church to run its church the way it wishes to, including having the right to choose not to marry same-sex partners. We would only be happy being married by someone who is happy to perform that marriage for us, to celebrate with us.

We simply want our federal government to include us as full, complete citizens, to honour our love as we honour every other Canadian citizen's. It is this civil right that we desire. We hope the government will stop using our taxes to fight against us, and see how health-giving it can be to include us in legal marriage. This is completely about equal rights, equally loving rights.


Dawn & Elizabeth Barbeau

The following is the presentation prepared by Dawn and Elizabeth Barbeau for their April 1 testimony in Vancouver (British Columbia) at parliament's travelling Justice and Human Rights Committee marriage hearings. Dawn and Elizabeth are part of the British Columbia marriage challenge now in court.

Dawn: My name is Dawn Barbeau and this is my partner Elizabeth Barbeau. We live in Vancouver and we are both litigants in the BC Equal Marriage case.Elizabeth & I have been in a relationship together for seven years, and we had a commitment ceremony five years ago. I would like to thank the Committee for this opportunity to speak, and thank you to our family and friends who are here with us today.

Elizabeth: We want to tell you about our relationship and the safeguards we have built in, piece by piece, to achieve the same obligations, responsibilities, and protections that a married couple has. It isn't as simple for us as getting married was for my sisters or for my brother or Dawn's brother. But it should be. Instead, we've had to create a number of legal regimes. They have cost us money and time.

Dawn: Here are some components of our legal regime. We have both had a legal name change, because we want to be easily identified as a family. We exchanged rings and had a ceremony in our back yard, where we invited all of our family & friends. Elizabeth's father played the piano, and kids blew bubbles and balloons. There were probably more straight people than queers. Our neighbours watched from their kitchen window and sent us their blessings. We asked our guests to be our witnesses and to support us in our relationship.

Elizabeth: We have made wills designating each other as beneficiaries. Before our ceremony we prepared a domestic partnership agreement. This was enormously hard work and there are still some elements that we continue to revisit and discuss. We also prepared health care directives that give each other the authority to make medical decisions on behalf of the other if necessary. Thankfully, we've never had to use these healthcare directives. The one time that I did need emergency surgery Dawn drove me to the hospital where I was asked who my next of kin was (when our friend was recently admitted to another hospital in the same city, he was asked if he was married: if he answered "no", there would be no emergency contact person in his file). I had my surgery in the middle of the night and Dawn stayed with me. At one point a woman who was attending to me (she may have been a nurse) was unclear about who Dawn was to me. I said she was my partner, but the woman didn't understand. I said "spouse" and she still didn't get it. Finally, I said "she is my wife" and she understood.

Dawn: Gradually, our finances have become more and more intertwined. In the beginning our finances were separate. We even kept a little petty cash jar in the kitchen and every week we would balance the receipts. After a year or so and as our trust developed in each other, we opened a joint account and used it only for joint expenses. Today we own a house together and all of our finances are in common. I have always wanted to have children, and we really hope to become parents some day. When that happens we will adopt each others' children. If we were married we wouldn't have to go through the expense and the complexity of an adoption simply to recognize that the children of our relationship belong to both of us.

Elizabeth: We wouldn't have to build each piece of our legal relationship if we could simply be married. When my niece Fiona was five years old, she asked her mother, my sister, "Are Dawn and Elizabeth married?" My sister said "Yes they are" because what Fiona really wanted to know was NOT whether we had a state issued license. Fiona wanted to know whether her aunts love each other, and whether their relationship will endure, and whether Dawn is always going to be in her life. The answer to this little girl's real question is YES, but my sister had to misrepresent the truth in order to tell the truth.

It shouldn't be this way.

We are regular people, with a very ordinary relationship. We have a cat named Tama and a garden and a mortgage. Like our siblings, we are monogamous and committed to each other. We desire and we expect that we will be a family together for the rest of our lives. We should have the right to marry each other.


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