Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pastor Credited With Canadian Gay Marriage Win Receives Highest National Honor

(Ottawa) Longtime Canadian LGBT civil rights activist Rev. Brent Hawkes will be invested Friday into the Order of Canada by the Queen's representative.
The Order of Canada is the country's highest civilian honor.
Created in 1967, it recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to community and service to the nation. Over the last 40 years,more than 5,000 people from all sectors of society have been invested into the Order.
"To my knowledge, Rev. Dr. Hawkes, is the only person to receive their country's highest honor in recognition of their gay activism," said Douglas Elliott, founding president of the International Lesbian and Gay Law Association.
Hawkes has been on the front line of gay activism in Canada for decades. For more than 30 years he has been the senior pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto.
In 2001 under considerable publicity he conducted a double wedding for two same-sex couples at the church and then went to court when the province of Ontario refused to register the marriages.
He performed the wedding ceremony for Kevin Bourassa & Joe Varnell and Elaine & Anne Vautour, wearing a bulletproof vest on the advice of police and following a series of threats from socially conservative activists.
To conduct the ceremony without marriage licenses - something that had been denied gay couples - Hawkes found a loophole in the law. It allowed the ancient Christian practice of Publishing Bannes.
By announcing the impending marriages in church on three consecutive Sundays marriage licenses were not required.
The Ontario government refused to register the marriages, citing federal law. Under Canadian law the definition of marriage is a federal responsibility while registering and recognizing them is a provincial matter.
The couples along with seven couples who sought secular marriages in Ontario took the government to court. A judge ruled that the prohibition on gay marriage was unconstitutional and gave the federal government one year to amend the law. Eight other provinces and territories followed.
Finally the federal government abandoned plans to appeal and brought in legislation legalizing same-sex marriage across the country. (story)
Michaelle Jean, the Governor General of Canada, will preside over the investiture ceremony at Rideau Hall, the Royal residence in Ottawa.
Hawkes has previously been honored with the City of Toronto's Award of Merit, the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal, the United Nations Toronto Association Global Citizen Award and the YMCA Peace Medal.
In 2006 Hawkes had his own wedding, marrying longtime partner John Sproule.

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