Advocacy News - Marriage advocates out for Pride Toronto
June 26, 2006
Marriage advocates out for Pride Toronto
Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell
Same-sex marriage was once again a significant theme in Canada's largest Pride parade celebrations. Advocates and leaders, couples and lawyers, unions and politicians: all were out in the streets celebrating equality.
An unidentified couple dressed as Mounties marched arm-in-arm, carrying a sign saying "Just Married" on one side, and "Mounties always get their man" on the other side. The crowd clapped in approval, Stephen Harper notwithstanding.
The Reverend Dr. Brent Hawkes, Senior Pastor of The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, stood atop the MCCT float alongside the Rev. Jo Bell, leading a congregation that played a key role in the Canadian drive for equal marriage, being the home to the first legally recognized lesbian and gay marriages (Elaine & Anne Vautour, and our own marriage, January 14, 2001).
Wearing the "fearless" garb provided by Pride Toronto, we were honoured to bring up the rear of the parade on float number 80. Having watched the parade pass us by, cheering those who went before us, we enthusiastically joined the parade.
As we made our way down Toronto's Yonge Street, our final entry in the three-hour procession was overtaken by maintenance crew who were already taking down the advertisements that lined our route. The streets filled up behind us with revelers who joined in behind us, filling the street for as far as one could see.
Douglas Elliott, who represented the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto's marriages in the Ontario marriage case, stood alongside Martha McCarthy, the lawyer who represented couples seek civil marriages. Also on board was lawyer Joanna Radbord, who worked with Martha in the Ontario marriage case. So much legal talent, all dedicated to equal marriage, among many other things, for these past six years.
Marilyn Byers, another Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto member (and PFLAG representative) who provided support throughout the drive for gay marriage was resplendent in purple feathers and cape.
Marilyn provided the first friendly PFLAG audiences for us to test our messages when we first began speaking in public about gay marriage and the expansion of human rights. Marilyn supported our case in and outside the courtroom, as she has done for others, including Marc Hall. We were thrilled to share the experience of celebrating together, confident in a future built on the success of the past
Robert Berry & Les Sheare, who were one of the 2006 Pride Parade Grand Marshals, were "fearless" representatives of that past. The honoured couple have been together 50 years, beginning in a time when our love was criminalized. They were married in 2003.
We shook hands with the couple at the start of the parade, proud of being at the other end of the procession: each of us serving as bookends to the many fearless stories that brought us to Pride 2006.
Thanks to Pride Toronto for the honour.