Sunday, 8 April 2012

Our Wedding - June 28, 2003

Ric Reed and I discovered very quickly that we were two people who related to each other very well.

For years there was speculation about same gender weddings. The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches blessed same gender couples naming the ceremony 'Holy Unions'. We thought about how nice it would be if we could 'marry' in the normal sense of the word naming committed relationships what they really were - marriages.

In December, 2000 or January 2001 - a Professor of Law at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario stumbled upon the fact that ordained clergy were authorized to carry out blessed unions by the reading of banns despite of what others may say. This law had been instituted in the early days of settlement in Canada - around the time of the United Empire Loyalist migration.

In January 2001, two couples (Kevin and Joe, Elaine and Anne) who had been together for some time and were looking for a means to have their bonding recognized for what they  were  - marriages - approached Brent. He agreed to read banns for both couples engendering quite a bit of static from the more conservative part of society.

The banns were read and these two couples were married in a public ceremony at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto (MCCT) . Interest in the ceremony was huge - so much so that special tickets were printed for guests who would fill the sanctuary - and to prevent overcrowding and breach of fire safety by-laws.

This event was much publicized (before and during) so there was a crowd of media folk - as well as a number of 'naysayers'. For a few weeks Sunday morning worship services became quite interesting due to the noisiness of  the opponents.

Two years later, this matter had been brought before both the Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada. In June 2003, the Supreme Court unanimously decreed that same gender 'marriages' would be recognized in Canada.

Ric worked for Lucent Technologies, a huge IT business with offices in many parts of the world. One of their offices was situated in the outer suburb area of Markham northeast of downtown Toronto. His idea was to apply for a transfer from the office in Alameda, California to the one in Markham and we would relocate to a larger apartment between where he worked and downtown where I worked.

Moving ahead now to the Spring of 2003 Parliament ratified the ruling of the Supreme Court. Shortly after that Ric suggested that we explore the possibility of marriage as the means of expediting his immigration to Ontario.

I telephoned MCCT and was put through to Bill Estey - the newly appointed Wedding Coordinator. This was in the final week of June and thousands of people were coming to Toronto for Gay Pride AND many who were couples were seeking the opportunity of being married while they were here.

The date of the telephone call was Tuesday, June 24 and I asked Bill if there were any vacancies in his calendar for Saturday? He replied in the affirmative giving me the times of 4:00, 5:00 or 6:00 PM. I chose the first time slot.

With that the circus began. We had to plan quickly for our 'wedding outfits' (as both of us enjoy the leather culture we wanted to wear leather garments if at all possible). We visited the two prime leather garment places in Toronto as well as one of the stores which specialized in formal garments (tuxedo shirts and bow ties were to be a part of our ensembles).

I was astonished by how fast word of our wedding spread and, soon, we were receiving flower arrangements and boutonnieres  from friends near and far. Also media! News of the Supreme Court of Canada decision spread far and wide and press, radio and TV from Canada and the U.S. wanted to be present. I thought that the telephone would never stop ringing!

                      An arrangement which we received from a friend who resides in Winnipeg.

The 24th was a Tuesday when we set the time for the ceremony. Immediately after hanging up Bill called back to say that the CBC wanted to film and interview us on the following day when we went to City Hall for our marriage license. I had answered the telephone so I looked to where Ric was sitting, told him the gist of the call, and added that this was the CBC and his folks in Arkansas would never see that video clip.

Probably they did not - but they were to see some of the footage shot by American networks. Both ABC and CNN became involved and when the local CBS station in Little Rock wanted to air a 'Gay Rights' story, they would borrow the tape from the ABC affiliate and show that! To add to Ric's discomfort. his Dad's birthday was June 28th and the fact that the youngest son being married to a man on that day possibly would not be the most acceptable birthday gift!

On the following morning we went to City Hall to get the marriage license and CBC Television was right behind us. There were a few other couples - straight ones - there for licenses too. Any of you who have been shot by a TV crew will know that that is never a quick and straight forward operation. We would fill out the form and take it to the Clerk only to have something go wrong with the shoot and were asked to repeat the exercise. Among the other couples applying at that time were a mature man and woman. I apologized to them for the holdup and the man responded in a strong European accent, "It's OK - You have been waiting far too long for this moment already!"

For a good part of that day we seemed to be tied to the CBC folk even to being taken by them for a film clip to be shot in Queens Park.

Back at my apartment the telephone kept on ringing and, quite often, the caller was Bill. We did agree to two other interviews. CNN asked if we could come to a studio in the CBC Building in downtown Toronto at 10:30 Saturday evening. Bill's response to that request was, "That's their wedding night for Pete's sake!" I sighed and okay-ed the request.

The next call was a request that we be interviewed here in Toronto early in the following week by Robert K (a well-known interviewer on the ABC and Discovery networks - as I am not sure of the proper spelling, I will not attempt to print his surname) for a segment in Ted Koppel's "Nightline" program on the following Wednesday evening. 

The wedding went ahead as planned on the Saturday afternoon. We were picked up at home by long time friend, Frits. I have an elderly neighbor who has a fascination with movie and TV production and, so, I invited him to come to the wedding with us. Also, when the interview for the Ted Koppel show was taped, my apartment was/is much too small for that to happen here so Orm agreed that the shoot happen in his living room. He was fascinated by the opportunity to watch a TV segment being shot.

                                        Ric and I approaching the altar for the ceremony

 We had wanted a lesbian couple to be our witnesses but, as the wedding was on the day before Gay Pride, they had other commitments. However - they were there.  Instead of Penny and Cheryl, we asked Ron and Jean Guy to be the witnesses and they agreed. 

           The Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes is reading the ceremony and that is Ron standing to my right.

                       Ric reciting his vows to me while Jean Guy listens from behind him      .

                                                    Ric placing the ring upon my finger.

                                                   Now Husband and Husband

The final task - as always - is to sign the registry.

Only that was NOT the finale for Ric and I - we still had to face another media scrum

                                        At last we were free to be greeted by friends outside.

Now we are married - what to do next? The Toolbox was suggested so we jumped into some cars and drove the eight or so blocks down to there. Our entry was a sensation to the staff as well as to some out-of-town guests who were relaxing on the patio. As for the management, nothing would have it but that their kitchen supply us with our 'Wedding Supper' which we really enjoyed.

At 10:30 that evening a limousine came by the apartment building to whisk us down to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Building on Front Street. We were ushered into a small room with two comfortable chairs side-by-side. We were hooked up for sound and then left alone. We could hear the technicians there, then the ones in New York City, then the ones in Atlanta and, finally, those at CNN. We had no idea as to what would be asked of us but the interview went smoothly.

Fast forward to Tuesday when Robert K and his crew showed up. While the crew were setting up their equipment in Orm's apartment upstairs, the three of us sat out on the balcony and chatted. When the equipment was ready a technician came for us. Ric and I sat on Orm's 'two person' couch  while Robert K. faced us with the microphone. The interview seemed to go well although there was one question asked of me which I was not sure how to answer. When I saw the tape later I noticed that my voice squeaked at that moment.

The following day - Sunday - was Gay Pride.  We started the day by attending the wedding of two other male friends at Metropolitan United Church. Then we went to the annual MCCT Pride Service at the
South Stage on Church Street. There we were congratulated by a number of people - including some prominent politicians. After that, was the parade where Ric and I were honored by being asked to carry the flags of our respective countries.

My good friend and neighbor, Orm, taped everything to do with the ceremony and I have had that transferred to DVD with both Ric and I having a copy each.

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad to have read this, and so glad for you and Ric. The photos are great. I wish I had known when all that was zooming out over the media and the internet that one day I'd know you.