Friday, June 13, 2003

Ontario rocks!

City Hall issues same-sex marriage licence
By Sarah Hammond / Friday, June 13, 2003 - 07:00

Local News - Kingston City Hall issued its first marriage licence yesterday to a same-sex couple following a landmark ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Jennifer Hannah, one of the organizers of this year’s Kingston pride parade, and her partner, Tina Tom, received the licence from the clerk’s department.

“It was very exciting to be the first people, but we don’t even know if we want to be married,” Hannah said. “I guess we [got the licence] because we could, because we now have the choice.”

On Tuesday, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that same-sex couples have the right to legally marry in the province, touching off a rush of licence applications and some same-sex weddings.

Hannah said she and Tom didn’t realize the decision had been handed down by the court until a friend from Toronto called to ask their wedding date.

“We turned on the news and of course it was all over the news, and then Tina said, ‘Hey, we should go down and get a licence,’ ” Hannah said.

Hannah said the spur-of-the-moment decision felt great.

“I was a bit nervous because I was expecting some confusion or resistance,” she said. “But none of that was true. Congratulations were offered.”

The couple hurried to get a licence because they’re worried the court ruling may be stayed, Hannah said.

“I’m a little skeptical – we’re waiting to see if it’s going to be challenged. But it’s still been a really good experience,” she said.

Julie Darke also praised the ruling.

Darke, who is a pride committee member and the sexual and gender diversity co-ordinator at the Human Rights Office at Queen’s University, said homosexual couples who want to have their relationships recognized and valued the same way heterosexual relationships are have cause for celebration.

“The kind of legitimacy that it gives our relationships really does help counteract the shame that many lesbians, gays and bisexuals carry about their sexual orientation,” she said.

Even if gay couples don’t wed, getting a licence is a symbolic victory, she said.

“In some ways it seems like the castle is finally crumbling,” Darke said. “We may have reached some critical threshold in terms of court decisions and public opinion.”

The pride parade this Sunday in Kingston is one of the core events of pride month, and has been organized by the Kingston Gay, Lesbian,

Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Committee. There will be a few small floats, with the majority of the parade participants marching through the streets.

Ken Watson, co-chairman of the pride committee, said he thinks the appeal court decision fits nicely with the theme of the parade, “Honour the past, build the future.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first gay organization established in the Kingston area.

“There were a lot of people putting forth a lot of effort, for a long time, to achieve this victory,” he said, adding that whether or not someone chooses to take advantage of this new privilege, it’s a symbolic victory for the gay community.

“It’s a statement that same-sex relationships are of equal value,” he said.

According to John MacTavish, co-chairman of the pride committee, the parade is also a good opportunity for those who support the queer community to come out and show it.

The parade allows the queer community to come together and be able to walk in strength, he said.

“It gives a voice to our community,” he said. “And it shows the diversity within our community.”

MacTavish said this year’s theme was chosen to recognize the contributions of individuals who helped foster the queer-friendly environment that exists in Kingston today.

Other cities across the province hold pride parades throughout the summer, but Kingston is the only city to organize a pride month for its queer community, according to MacTavish.

The day of the parade, people can gather at 12:30 p.m. in McBurney Park. The wading pool at the park will be open from noon to 4 p.m. with a lifeguard and there will be craft tables and booths set up with information about services available to the queer community. The parade begins at 1 p.m.

Pride parades have been held in Kingston for 13 years. The first parade was organized in 1990 after a handful of people made the first “Pride Stroll” down the sidewalks of Princess Street in 1989.

In 1991, the Kingston police chief issued the first parade permit closing Princess Street and since then up to 300 have taken part in the festivities.

It rained on the parade last year, but an estimated 250 people still showed up, MacTavish said.

“It really showed the commitment of the community to still go through with it in spite of the weather.”

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