Married in Canada

BY Michael Rowe

August 14 2005 11:00 PM ET

My partner,
Brian, and I are celebrating our 20th wedding

anniversary this
year. We married in the Metropolitan Community Church in
1985 with a “Holy Union.” We were married
legally two years ago, when same-sex marriage became
legal in several Canadian provinces. Our friends
Katherine and Chuck, the

parents of my
godson Michael and goddaughter Kate, were our witnesses as
we became the first gay couple in history to marry in a
United Church of Canada. Still, we count our Holy
Union as our wedding day; in 1985 we had no intention
of waiting for the laws to catch up with our marriage.

This summer,
though, they finally did. On July 20 Canada’s acting
head of state signed into law Bill C-38, which changes
the legal definition of marriage from “a man
and a woman to the exclusion of all others” to
“two persons.”

In the preceding
months the tone from the religious and political right
had become increasingly shrill and desperate. They were
losing the battle to make gay marriage a “moral
issue” about “family values.” The
Canadian people, represented by the Liberal Party of
Canada, saw the right of gays and lesbians to marry as
an issue of equal human rights, not morals.
What’s more, gays and lesbians weren’t asking
for “acceptance” or even
“tolerance.” We were altering the legal
landscape itself.

On the night the
bill was passed, Brian and I watched with wonder the
spectacle of right-wing Christian politicians—who had
previously worn their arrogant homophobia like
biblical armor—begging for the right to
continue denying gays and lesbians full equality under
Canadian law. They snapped their jaws like confused
monsters magically deprived of their prey.

But in the end it
wasn’t magic, it was just decency and common
sense—very Canadian virtues. The Conservative
Party of Canada, with its fundamentalist base, has
been sent a message: Canada has no wish to become a
direct-to-video version of the United States under George W.
Bush. We stand in solidarity with American gays and
lesbians. We welcome them to marry here. It’s
likely that our new law will draw our communities
together even as it polarizes Canada and the United States
politically.

The religious
right was correct on one point: Same-sex marriage really is
about “family values,” only not the way they
mean. It’s about raising children in a country
where gays and lesbians are fully part of their
families, where prejudice and cruelty are called to account.
It’s about knowing that “the true north
strong and free” means strength and freedom for
everyone.

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