time for the government to stop listening to churches and start marrying gays
and lesbians ... do what's right for all the people that elected them." Joe
Varnell, Montreal Gazette, August 4, 2003
must respect each other's faith. We must not have a theocracy here in Canada where
one religion rules all." Kevin Bourassa, Canadian Press,
August 4, 2003
Community Church of Toronto lawyer Douglas Elliott being interviewed by Montreal
media: civil unions are a form of segregation. "It's a symbol that you're
inferior." (Montreal Gazette)
Goldwater, lawyer for Michael Hendricks and René LeBoeuf, marched in her first
window in an apartment building overlooking the parade route. The person at bottom-left
is showing us their new wedding ring with joyous appreciation.
Hendricks (left) chats with Member of Parliament Marlene Jennings (Liberal Party)
during community day (August 2). At centre is the president of Jennings' H. John
Relton (President of Jennings riding association). Jennings stressed the importance
of contacting M.P.s to express support
for same-sex marriage.
Democratic Party leader Jack Layton and his wife Toronto City Councillor Olivia
Chow at this year's parade in Montreal. Layton told the Montreal Gazette
that he thought the Vatican statement was "unfortunate" and said it
was "crossing the line".
Thompson, Christopher Plenty, Jes and Doug, all from Toronto, enjoyed the progressive
music downstairs at Sky, following the parade.
and Daniel, both from Toronto, took in the sites at Sky's rooftop patio, which
includes a bar, pool and hot tub.
will not come into your church and tell you who can receive communion and who
can't. Don't come into my government's house and tell me who can marry and who
can't." Joe Varnell, Canadian Press, August 4, 2003
encountered our Toronto friends Javier Castillo and equal marriage advocate Jorge
Da Costa dancing in St. Catherines street.
Canada's first married same-sex couple marched in the city's Gay Pride parade
and issued a stern message to the Roman Catholic Church: Mind your own business.
Kevin Bourassa, who marched hand in hand with his husband, Joe Varnell, said the
Catholic church has no business telling Canadians of other faiths who they can
marry." The Globe and Mail, August 4, 2003
Montreal, Canada's first legally married gay couple were highlights of the parade,
receiving thunderous cheers from the crowds. Kevin Bourassa, 45, and Joe Varnell,
33. were married in Toronto in January 2001." 365Gay.com, Aug. 4, 2003
year we enthusiastically returned to Montreal for the incredible celebration known
as Divers/Cité. Out of the three provinces where marriage challenges were heard
(and won) in court, Quebec is the only province still waiting for equal marriage.
With recent venom from the Vatican
poisoning the world, we felt it most important to stand in solidarity with our
friends in Quebec: a province
that rejected the Catholic Church in the 1960's after people became fed up with
the Bishops' collaboration with corruption (part of what is known as "the
knew Montreal was primed for equal marriage, when we found ourselves juxtaposed
against Papal bigotry on the front-page of the August 1 edition of le Journal
de Montreal (cover shown at right).
we were surprised to find enthusiastic, all-out support for equal marriage, both
by participants in the parade and by observers on the sidelines. Below you will
find a report written by Michael. After years of tireless work, this Montreal
couple at last received the recognition and support for equal marriage that they
deserve from their city and province. It is only a matter of time before they
receive their legal right to marriage, but to ensure this victory, the couple
needs you to write to Members of Parliament.
wish to thank Michael and René for their warm and generous hospitality and for
advocacy assistance during our visit to their city. As
always, we greatly appreciate the support of our lawyer Douglas Elliott who marched
with us accompanied by his spouse Greg Lawrence, and their niece (making her debut
Pride appearance, at right). We also wish to thank John
Thompson and his entourage from Toronto who helped us enjoy the nightlife.
Our deepest gratitude to Robert Meilleur and our Halifax friends Raymond
Taavel and Jay Thordarson who made sure that we had a taste of a unique Divers/Cité
experience during the closing hours of outdoor celebrations in front of the Rue
Bourassa and Joe Varnell
Extravaganza ensemble provided entertainment on community day.
there is a god for homosexuals by
a question of equality. We want the same choices as everybody else." Michael
Hendricks, Montreal Gazette, August 4, 2003
we prepared another same-sex marriage presentation for this year's Montreal Pride
("Divers/Cité"), René and I went over the possibilities. In an all-visual presentation,
there is not much you can do with the very "straight" (and legalistic) subject
of civil marriage.
in June, we lucked into a sale of old theatre costumes including 40 tuxedos, all
kinds, and one incredible 6-foot high, three-layer cake costume. The cake gave
us an idea. We have known for some time now that the portrayal of marriage deals
with symbols but wedding rings are too small, religious mumbo jumbo can be taken
for parody (which we carefully avoid) and honeymoons are more a concept than reality.
Since we have had success with little wedding cakes, why not try a giant one?
And the tuxes could be the wedding party or other couples, whatever.
our biggest problem was getting a diverse selection of
people to join us for the march. "Equal marriage" tends to draw earnest but anonymous
gays and lesbians who are great friends but do not a Carnival make. Too homogenous,
too gay male in bermudas, too serious lesbian. Already we knew that we would be
joined by Joe Varnell and Kevin Bourassa, our friends from Toronto, the first
couple to be married in Canada, and their lawyer, Doug Elliott (all carbon copies
of us). What to do?
we asked Fugues, the Montreal gay review, to announce that we had free
costumes for couples of all sexes to join us and we would give them the tuxes.
René went to work on the cake costume, turning it into a knock-off of Cinderella's
dress (the one with the ribbons which the birds decorated). That, plus a banner
saying "Mariage civil, un choix, un droit" (civil marriage, a choice, a right
--- but it rhymes in French), us in tails and top hat like the plastic men on
the gay wedding cake, was the best we could do with what we had.
went by and no one took us up on our offer of tuxes. We are used to doing the
gay marriage thing alone --- most folks we know are busy at Pride organizing their
own groups while gay and lesbian couples in general are not much on public appearances
(as we have learned over the last 5 years).
day in mid-July, at a meeting of the Sex Trade Workers Coalition, we told the
other members of our dilemma,
joking that is just as hard to get homo couples out for a demo as it is to get
sex workers out. One of the girls piped up: "We can fix that."
I told my boss at the Quebec Committee of People Living with HIV that I was going
to hire a strongman to wear this heavy cake costume, he volunteered on the spot.
(Dominic is a heterosexual graduate nurse who has a heart of gold but only weighs
135 lbs.) I tried to be polite and point out that it weighed a ton with all those
ribbons and (plastic) flowers on it. But he insisted.
the week before Pride Day, things were looking up. Still there was a certain sameness to this
portrait that bothered us. But, at least, for once, we would not be all alone
and we would have lots of women in the marriage party.
A.M. on site for the parade. René and I are nervous wrecks. The cake got there
in one piece, Dominic is ready to go but no one else even showed up! At 11h15,
suddenly the girls show up and don their white, diamond fringed tux tops. One
of them is a great photographer and offers to take pictures. We are as ready as
ever we have been.
a group of "exotic drags" shows ups --- a bride (with heavy 5 o'clock shadow),
a bride's maid, a bride's mother and a groom with a painted on mustache. They
join us, adding colour and life. Then, Lola arrives!
made quite a name for herself at last year's Pride where she appeared chained
to a cross with her size 42-EEEEEEE breasts (better living through chemistry)
in full view. Lola is over six feet tall and beautiful. She is also proud, with
a capital P. Needless to say, Lola got the front page of the papers last year
and the gay community complained for weeks that she misrepresented "the issues"
(actually, she was ahead of the times).
year, unknown to anyone, Lola had planned to be bang-on relevant. Dressed as a
bride from waist down, and her mountainous wonders from waist up, plus a demure
veil, Lola is carrying a sign held up by helium balloons: "Pour quand le mariage
gay au Québec?" (When for gay marriage in Quebec?). She tippy-toes over to us
on her 5 inch white spike heels and asks if we would mind if she joined our party.
and I exchange regards. Maybe there is a god for homos after all? We do a quick
press conference for a throng of thirsty journalists, with "our gang" around us,
and then the parade takes off.
the next two hours, everyone has a wonderful time. Laughing all along, we are
received by loud applause and cheers at ever step on the way. The
next morning Lola gets the cover of La Presse and Le Devoir, we get the Le Journal
de Montréal (doing the forbidden kiss) and The Gazette (with Montreal's Catholic
Cathedral in the background). According to the papers, the theme for this year's
Divers/Cité was "gay marriage" plus a total rejection of the Church. The opinion
pieces, once very negative about marriage for Hendricks and LeBoeuf, attacked
the Vatican and called for access to marriage immediately.
the description of us from La Presse (my translation):
"Michael Hendricks and René
LeBoeuf, Montrealers who wish to marry after sharing their lives for 30 years,
reviled the Vatican's position before joining the march, dressed in tux and tails,
in the middle of dozens of drag queens, floats and the hundreds of participants
who made up the parade."
once, our marriage battle resembled our real lives as gay men who have enjoined
every aspect of our community for the last three decades. Everyone was there.