Ten Years of Same-Sex Marriage in Ontario, Canada.
A 2002 poll found that 47 per cent of Canadians opposed to same-sex marriage, but by 2012 ,that number had dwindled to 18 per cent.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHEL CHANTELOIS of Two Gay Men
ARTICLE FROM THE TORONTO STAR, CANADA
Mathieu Chantelois, right, and Marcelo Gomez-Wiuckstern celebrate their marriage at Toronto City Hall 10 years ago
Ten years ago, the Ontario Court of Appeal said “yes” to same-sex marriage, granting me the right to marry the man I love. That changed everything.
Like most homosexuals, I grew up in a heterosexual family. I imagined that one day I would have a family of my own based on love, one of the values my parents had successfully passed on to me.
In my teens, I had to give up on that dream when I realized I was gay. I would never be able to marry, and to replicate the loving family structure in which I had grown up. The realization came as a shock.
Back then, same-sex partnerships existed in legal limbo, where confusion reigned. It seemed unthinkable that I would be able to marry one day. But instead of fighting for marriage equality, I started trashing the institution. Marriages were so passé, often awkward, and even a little creepy. Why would I do that to myself?
I remember being overconfident during my first job interview; I was 16. I think that’s why the interviewer asked what scared me the most. “A woman in a wedding dress,” I replied. I didn’t even have to think about it. It just came out. Afterwards, I remember asking myself why. It’s only now that I think I understand the reason.
Almost out of the blue, on June 10, 2003, I was suddenly marriage-worthy. Something unexpected happened: I instantly forgot about my teen years. I became a kid again, excited to marry the man of my dreams.
My partner and I were among the first same-sex couples to have a wedding ceremony at Toronto City Hall. Without fanfare, we walked a hundred paces down a small, cold, uninviting hallway to wait for the wedding chambers to open. The ceremony took a few minutes. Ever the gentleman, I let my groom sign the register first. And with the stroke of a pen, he became my husband, so-named on our marriage certificate. The clerk was embarrassed and apologetic as she wrote my name on the remaining line, the one for the wife. It was almost funny. And it was no big deal.
Outside, the wedding procession was not as joyful. Protesters, including busloads of Americans, were waiting to chant slogans at us.
Clutching Bibles and flags, these paragons of morality linked my marriage with shame and sin. There were children with them, chanting along. None of it bore any resemblance to the applause and confetti that usually greets newlyweds.
I left under a hail of insults, shaken but standing tall. Sad, but overflowing with joy. I had one thing on my mind — the man of my dreams, whom I’d just married.
In 2002, an Ekos poll found that 47 per cent of Canadians had an unfavourable opinion of same-sex marriage. Taking into account the high number of undecideds, the pollsters concluded that opponents of gay marriage made up a majority. In 2012, an Ipsos Reid poll found that just 18 per cent of respondents were “totally opposed” to same-sex marriage. What happened?
Almost overnight, society accepted our marriages. Contrary to the dire predictions of the most virulent opponents, the sky has not fallen and no one has been hurt by our having this right. The majority now sees in homosexuals the common thread uniting all human beings: the desire to love and be loved.
But the law, which is often said to lag behind new social realities, sometimes moves faster than awareness and education. There is still much work to be done here, although there’s no doubt the toughest struggles will happen elsewhere in the world.
We have only to look at the acrimonious debate in France to realize there are still battles to be fought. Some Americans (no doubt the same ones who invited themselves to my wedding) have taken their picket signs out of storage and hoisted them in their own backyards.
It is also worth remembering that marriage equality is not an end in and of itself. In 78 countries, homosexual acts are punishable by imprisonment and even death. Not to mention the hate crimes being committed against gays and lesbians every day both here and elsewhere.
Still, I like to think it’s worth celebrating our 10th anniversary. Not just my own, but our whole society’s. Here at home, the decade was characterized by a real desire to understand each other and to put an end to all forms of intimidation and discrimination.
Today, I’m no longer scared of wedding dresses. And neither are the vast majority of Canadians; even when those wedding dresses are worn by two women walking down the aisle together.
Mathieu Chantelois is editor of Le magazine Cineplex (the French language in-theatre magazine for Cineplex theatres in Quebec) and is chair of Pride celebrations for the largest LGBTQ Community Centre in Canada, Toronto’s The 519.