The long road to equality and human dignity. SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: The Personal and the Political. By Kathleen A. Lahey and Kevin Alderson.
Same-Sex Marriage: The Personal and the Political (Insomniac Press, April 24, 2004), is the first book about Canadian gay and lesbian marriage in the country.
The day the Ontario Court of Appeal issued its decision recognizing same-sex marriage was the culmination of decades of work by gay rights activists, the fulfillment of thousands of gay and lesbian couples dreams and allowed gay rights activists around the world to challenge their own countries’ prohibitions against same-sex marriage. This book presents an in-depth look at contemporary same-sex marriage, documenting the activism and legal victories that made this issue front-page news, and the stories of couples who have married.
At the heart of Same Sex Marriage is how we define our civil liberties: what is the distinction between hetero and homosexual legal unions, between interpretation of religious and civil law, and society’s definition of “family”. The authors explore these issues through their individual strengths as legal expert and psychologist. Chronologically, Lahey presents the legal history and cases that stand as milestones which has defined new legislation in several countries, states and provinces. Alderson reveals the experiences of 16 gay couples who, in their own words, tell us about their lives as individuals, as parents, as activists, as gays or lesbians, as members of society, and as married partners.
Same-sex couples outside Ontario, B.C., Massachusetts and San Francisco continue to struggle to be legally recognized as married couples. Interviews, current events, and historical data inform the personal and political stories of Same-Sex Marriage. From these stories emerge a comprehensive portrait of a long, hard fought battle in courts and communities throughout North America and Europe to achieve equality and human dignity.
Same-Sex Marriage: The Personal and the Political
by Kathleen Lahey and Kevin Alderson
Published by Insomniac Press April 24, 2004
384 pages $21.95 trade paperback
Kathleen Lahey was lawyer for three of the couples who won the right to marry from the B.C. Court of Appeal on July 8, 2003. She is the author of Are We ‘Persons’ Yet? Law and Sexuality in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 1999) and founding editor of Canadian Journal of Women and the Law. She lives in Kingston, Ontario, where she is a professor of law at Queen’s University.
Kevin Alderson is an assistant professor of counselling psychology at the University of Calgary. He has published two previous books, Beyond Coning Out: Experiences of Positive Gay Identity (Insomniac Press, 2000) and Breaking Out: The Complete Guide to Building and Enhancing a Positive Gay Identity for Men and Women (Insomniac Press, 2002).
Media are invited to interview Kevin Alderson from Calgary in person, and by telephone interview for the rest of Canada.
Dara Rowland, Dara Rowland & Associates
The stories of Same-Sex Marriage
Pattie LaCroix and Terrah Keener’s story is one of acceptance by only one partner’s family, and of raising a young son together while pursuing their careers as filmmaker and writer.
Murray Warren and Peer Cook have been together 33 years, are activists who won the right to both be listed as parents to their adopted son, and are planning a wedding as a fundraiser for queer youth of B.C.
Robin Roberts and Diana Denny were both married with two children each when they met. They have been together 20 years, and tell of a life together that involves activism.
Bob Peacock and Lloyd Thornhill are born-again Christians who will marry in Vancouver in July, 2004.
Tom Graff and Antony Porcino are Americans who were the first gay couple to marry in Vancouver, where they now live.
For Martha and Lin McDevitt-Pugh who were married in 2001, home is where you are accepted, in their case this is Amsterdam.
Michael Hendricks and René LeBoeuf are same-sex marriage activists who have dealt with AIDS and bar raids that continued in Montreal until 1994.
Roddy Shaw and Nelson Ng were married in Toronto and will return to China soon to challenge their marriage status there.
When Brent and Steve Scheuerman-Stallone of Kansas City, Kansas were married in Toronto, their news was covered by Newsweek and the New York Times.
Facts and milestones
• Homosexuality was decriminalized in the Netherlands in 1811 when it was under French rule and the Napoleonic Code applied geographically to the Netherlands and Belgium. When the same-sex marriage issue was tested in the 1990s, the Dutch court did not cite religious grounds for opposition, but did interpret “marriage” as a hetero union.
• Loving V. Virginia (1967) saw a U.S. Supreme Court decision sweep aside long-standing prohibitions on interracial marriages.
• The Stonewall Rebellions in Greenwich Village, New York, on June 27-28, 1969 was a reaction to police harassment and raids. Now celebrated around the world as Pride Day, Stonewall galvanized growing awareness of queer oppression, and ignited gay refusal to be relegated to the margins of existence.
• Coinciding with Stonewall in Canada, same-sex sexual activity was decriminalized.
• Acting on recommendations of the 1970 report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, the Canadian federal government introduced omnibus legislation in 1974 and 1975 to replace sexist terms such as “husband” and “wife” with gender-neutral terms “spouse” and “cohabitant.” Unfortunately, interpretation of “spouse” was defined as two people of the opposite sex. Subsequent tests in the Supreme Court ruled that this definition did not violate the Charter of Rights.
• In 1974, Richard North and Chris Vogel were the first two gay men in Canada to try and obtain a marriage licence. The Manitoba court heard their case in 1974 (North and Matheson) and ruled against it, citing outdated English ecclesiastical law.
• In 1975, two gay couples in Arizona and Colorado where issued marriage certificates and legally married. In response, the Arizona legislature rushed through emergency legislation defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. Citing passages from the Christian Bible, the Arizona Supreme Court invalidated gay marriages retroactively. In Colorado, the Attorney General issued an opinion that the licences were invalid.
• DoMAs, or defence of marriage laws, in the United States prohibit same-sex marriage aggressively, in the same way that interracial marriage was previously prohibited.
• In Europe, Segregated Legal Structures (RDPs and Civil Unions) gave gay and lesbian couples some legal status but prohibited marriage. These were first crafted in Denmark and Sweden.
• The Charter of Rights which came into effect in 1982 did ensure some equality and rights for gays, however prior to 1985, no government other than Quebec with its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms recognized the equality rights of gays whether as individuals or in relationships.
• Key factors that helped shape the decision on when, where and how to bring the issue to the courts for discussion and legislative change: the 1993 Layland and Beaulne case that resulted in the decision that gays could not marry, interpreting marriage as a hetero union; a group of cases that involved the status of marriages of transgender or transsexual individuals; and the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in M. v H. in 1999 that amended family law with respect to same-sex alimony provisions.
• Lawyers and academics gathered in London, England in 1999 for a conference to hear and discuss how various countries were handling the same-sex marriage issue. Canada’s Madame Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé presented several papers that reflected her support of legal same-sex marriage.
• It took less than two years to get from the opening of the first trial in B.C. in July, 2001, to the first wedding in Ontario in June, 2003. The Ontario marriages and the B.C. marriages shortly after were the first civil marriages of lesbian and gay couples to be performed in North America with open governmental approval since marriage licences had been issued to queer couples in Arizona and Colorado in1975.
• On June 10, 2003, the Ontario Court of Appeal issued its decision recognizing same-sex marriage. Michael Leshner and Michael Stark became the first couple to be married in Toronto.
• In early 2004, the Massachusetts Supreme Court issued the Goodridge decision paving the way for same-sex marriage in that state as of May, 2004.
• In February, 2004, the Mayor of San Francisco concluded that prohibiting same-sex marriage violates the California constitution. Within weeks, thousands of couples were married in San Francisco.
• The federal government in Canada is the first government to not attempt to stave off queer marriage by offering segregated alternatives like RDPs or civil union to gays instead of the right to civil marriage.
• The Ontario and B.C. Courts of Appeal set precedent as the courts with the vision and courage to break through the ban on same-sex marriage in North America.
• Spring, 2004: The federal government, in preparation for an election, is holding a Supreme Court of Canada Reference, a measure seen as addressing a political split on the issue and a way of diffusing the issue during the election. It is not expected to impact current law.