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Friday, January 14, 2011

Same-sex couples mark 10th anniversary

Two same-sex Canadian couples who made international headlines and North American history by being the first to be legally married, will renew their vows, along with 50 others, in a 10th-anniversary celebration Friday.
Joe Varnell and Kevin Bourassa, along with Anne and Elaine Vautour, were the first same-sex couples to be married in Toronto at Riverdale's Metropolitan Community Church on Jan. 14, 2001.
Since then, same-sex marriage has been upheld as a constitutional right across Canada. It has also become legal in several other countries and states.
But getting to this point has not come easy. There were court battles right up to the Supreme Court of Canada.
"I had no idea how huge this was going to be for so many people. It made a huge difference in the world," said Anne Vautour.
The couple have buffed up their wedding rings for their big event. "After 10 years they're looking a little scratchy, so we had them polished," added Elaine Vautour.

Faced protests

Rev. Brent Hawkes married the two despite protests and death threats. He wore a bullet-proof vest at the ceremony and was under police protection during that time.
"There were 50 police outside, searching people as they came into the building. It was all so terrifying. The night before, I called my family and told them, 'I love you. If anything happens to me, I love you,'" Hawkes recalled.
Since then, he has performed hundreds of marriages, and most of the couples are still together. According to the last census, there are at least 7,500 married same-sex couples in Canada and their numbers continue to grow.
But Hawkes said the struggle for equality rights in Canada is not over, especially for those who are transgendered. He said their rights in law have not been recognized.
Earlier this week, Saskatchewan's top court said marriage commissioners cannot use religion to say "no" to nuptials for same-sex couples. The Appeal Court had been asked by the government to rule on a proposed provincial law that would have allowed commissioners to cite religious grounds in refusing to marry gay men or lesbians.
The issue arose when commissioner Orville Nichols, a devout Baptist, refused to marry a gay couple in 2005.


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