October 22 2003 12:00 AM ET
Equality Forum honors Canada as "featured nation"
Equality Forum, the annual international gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender civil rights conference and festival, announced Friday that Canada will be its featured nation for the 2004 gathering, scheduled for late April and early May in Philadelphia. For the past two years, the forum has had an international partner: In 2002, when Equality Forum was still called Pridefest America, the country was South Africa; Germany was featured in 2003.
At a press conference at Philadelphia's Independence National Historical Park, Equality Forum executive director Malcolm Lazin said that the board of directors' choice of Canada for 2004 was unanimous and that Canada has led on issues of GLBT civil rights, exemplifying extreme equality. This past summer Canadian courts ruled that the nation's constitution required the legalization of same-sex marriages, which are now legal in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. The Canadian parliament is considering a bill, supported by the prime minister, to legalize same-sex marriage in the rest of the nation.
In anticipation of the proceedings in May, Lazin said, Equality Forum has bestowed its Distinguished Leadership Award upon Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell of Toronto, Canada's first legally married same-sex couple. "We are honored to have Equality Forum, the premiere international GLBT forum, bestow this award," Bourassa said. "We look forward to serving on the International Family Values Panel and Gay Marriage Panel at Equality Forum 2004."
Lazin also praised the institution that served as a backdrop for the press conference. "We are delighted to add the National Constitution Center to our list of collaborating partners," he said. "We will hold a presidential election 2004 [program] at the National Constitution Center, [focusing on] how GLBT issues involving constitutional freedoms impact the 2004 federal elections."
Equality Forum--which includes cultural events, panel discussions, brainstorming seminars, awards presentations, and many community-wide parties--will be held April 26 to May 2, 2004. "Philadelphia is the site of the nation's first gay rights protests--even before the Stonewall Riots," said John Cochie, chairman of the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus. "It is therefore appropriate that Equality Forum brings people from around the world to discuss gay and lesbian issues in the shadow of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall."
For further information, visit the Equality Forum Web site at www.equalityforum.com.