May 26, 2005

"Only in Canada you say? Pity."

Recently, my wife and I were very proud to attend the wedding of two friends. It was a small civil ceremony held at a private home, perched on a cliff overlooking a beautiful 180 degree view of Howe Sound. Even though the sky was cloudy, the rain had managed to stay away.

After making our rounds through the crowd, re-meeting many of my wife's former colleagues, we all assembled out on the sundeck. A small wooden stand held a register and some papers bearing the BC provincial logo. The Marriage Commissioner performing the ceremony asked us all to come closer. The deck was crowded with friends and family. We chuckled as we shuffled a foot or two towards our friends, two men who had been together for 22 years. They turned and faced each other and the ceremony began.

The couple, their mothers and fathers and long-time friends all wept with joy as they recited their vows and pledged their love and committment to each other. It was simple, heartfelt and absolutely genuine, without the pomp and circumstance of some of the large, church weddings we have also witnessed, but just as grand an event. Perhaps because it was small and intimate, it really had a strong impact on me. I could see how much these two guys loved each other, and how much their family and friends loved and supported them. The sun shone down through the clouds, voices cracked and tears flowed, and they each said "I do". It was beautiful.

When the Commissioner said "by the power vested in me by the province of British Columbia", I felt so proud of my home province. Same-sex marriage only became legal in BC in 2003. As of February 2005, it is legal in 7 of 10 provinces and one in three territories in Canada. All the same, same-sex marriage has been a pretty controversial issue in Canada. In the U.S., even more so.

At the end of the day, I feel that the act of marriage doesn't materially change the level of committment in a relationship. Our two friends have been committed to each other for as long as me and my wife, with the two of them only recently deciding to tie the knot, so I know their committment to each other is very strong, marriage notwithstanding. And these guys have withstood social tests, pressures and prejudices from our society that a heterosexual couple would never have to tolerate.

A marriage ceremony is symbolically, socially, and emotionally a powerful thing; an acknowledgement of a couple's committment to their relationship, done in front of others who are there to witness and support the union.

A little background on same-sex marriage from the CBC web site.

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