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A Marriage Made in Heaven (and Canada)

Published in “Texas Triangle”

May 14, 2004

April 19. I am sitting in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, pondering the full impact of Rodolfo’s and my marriage two days ago by Canada’s first openly gay justice. I can’t help contemplating the significance of what we have done. As we wait in Canada for our flight to Dallas, our love for each other, as well as the rights and responsibilities associated with our marriage, are celebrated the same as any other married couple. In a few short hours we will be home where we will be treated as second-class citizens.

Many asked before we left for Canada, “Why bother to marry if it doesn’t mean anything in the United States?” The simple answer is that it means everything to both of us and to our friends and loved ones. We were able to openly exchange vows in a country that celebrated our love without condemning us and asking us to settle for less. I found the most incredible man with whom to share my life. Rodolfo treats me in a better way and makes me feel as no other man ever has. I have a devotion to him that I have never felt before.

Our wedding activities began when stopped by the office of our Canadian attorney, Bruce Walker, on Thursday morning, April 15. We picked up approval documents for our wedding from the Provincial Ontario Government, which we needed before obtaining our marriage license from the City of Toronto. This step was necessary as I was previously married and needed to prove that my divorce met the standards required by Ontario.

Bruce handled our paperwork during a visit to Toronto in December and he had filed the necessary documents to gain permission for our marriage. These steps are identical whether the couple seeking to marry is heterosexual or same-sex.

Upon retrieving the documents, we proceeded to Toronto City Hall to obtain our marriage license. We handed a clerk our documents from the Ontario Provincial government along with our U.S. Passports and $110 Canadian. Ten minutes later we walked out of city hall with our license and a congratulatory comment and smile from the clerk. What is still a dream in the U.S. was a cinch in Toronto.

Our wedding took place on Saturday evening, April 17. We brought a cashier’s check made out to the Minister of Justice for $75 Canadian and our marriage license and handed them to The Honourable Justice Harvey P. Brownstone who officiated at our ceremony. Justice Brownstone has officiated at over 500 same-sex weddings with more than 100 of those being between American couples. He is charming, warm and one heck of a dancer. Justice Harvey Brownstone’s partner videotaped our ceremony and reception.

As we stood before Justice Brownstone surrounded by friends and family we felt complete. We have shared our lives together for nearly two and a half years. We purchased a condo last July and have lived together ever since. Yet somehow, we are different today than when we flew up here just five days ago.

For Rodolfo the wedding wasn’t political; it was simply an expression of his love for me. I felt the same love for him but for me it was also political. The feelings I have while here in Canada will stay with me as I work to garner the same rights at home.

Comparing the fight for human rights for different minorities misses the point when one group argues that the gay struggle isn’t the same as that faced by African Americans, Latinos, Jews or other groups. Hate and prejudice are not a contest to be judged by an applause meter from some ’50s game show. When any minority feels the sting of hate, it has the potential of being felt by all. When the majority curtails any group’s rights, others should ask, “Am I next?”

The struggle to gain mainstream acceptance will take time as people like Rodolfo and myself (along with our family and friends) share our stories. Personalizing experiences is the best method of derailing fear and prejudice.

Preventing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution doesn’t take a change in public attitude towards same-sex marriage. It takes educating people about the dangerous precedent that would be set by using the Constitution as a means of limiting, rather than expanding, civil liberties.

Whether one is interested in a same-sex marriage for themselves or not, this fight is most likely to be the most important battle of our lifetime. The passage of a marriage amendment would set our rights back a generation.

Some in our community did nothing when gays in the military became the issue of the early ’90s for they had no interest in joining the military. Others ignored the fight against the Boy Scouts of America banning gays as members or volunteers since they had no interest in scouting. Some may feel that employment non-discrimination and hate crime protection are more important than the right for same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, the GLBT community doesn’t have the power to pick our issues as they typically pick us.

If religious and political conservatives are successful in passing a marriage amendment against us do you think they will stop there? The tide will have turned against us and we will continue to be degraded from pulpits and by legislatures.

Domestic partnership isn’t an acceptable alternative to marriage. Federal laws assign over 1,049 rights to married couples, not domestic partners. The time and effort to change laws to equate domestic partner rights and marriage rights is unfathomable. Some fifty years ago the U.S. Supreme Court stood up to other rights deniers in their landmark Brown vs. Little Rock Board of Education decision in stating that “separate but equal” doesn’t work.

Our friends and family attending our wedding, the overwhelming majority of whom are straight, said that we looked happier than we have ever been. Our best men, my son and our friends delivered accolades on our behalf. Friends and family cried tears of joy with us. Many commented that ours was the best wedding they had attended. Others stated that they hadn’t seen two people so in love in years.

Guests departed for the U.S. determined to work towards our gaining acceptance in a country that once prided itself in being the freest on earth. How sad that Rodolfo and I had to head north to taste freedom; and yet how empowering. Canadian businesses gained thousands of wedding dollars lost by American businesses.

It is now time to board our flight. I refuse to relinquish the power of love I feel along with the acceptance by a society more caring than our own. We most all continue our efforts as change agents. I board the flight with trepidation but also with determination!

I encourage you to attend the StandOut Texas rally on Saturday, May 15 at Lee Park at 1 p.m. Show your opposition to this hateful marriage amendment. Check www.standouttexas.org for details on the rally and www.dontamend.com for additional actions you can take. Share your own story with loved ones, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Explain the dangers to all Americans of this hateful amendment. Ask for support. We cannot win this battle alone.

John R. Selig is the Dallas organizer for DontAmend.com. Reach him at .

StandOut!, a coalition of North Texas organizations and individuals supporting equality for all, presents a “peaceful, respectful rally,” on Saturday, May 15, 1 p.m., at Lee Park (on Turtle Creek Boulevard between Lemmon and Hall). Wear red, white and blue, bring an American flag, and join your community in defending the U.S. Constitution against the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment. Speakers will include Texas State Representative Terri Hodge and Texas State Representative Candidate Rafael Anchia (former Dallas School Board Trustee), with performances by Turtle Creek Chorale, One Achord, The Women’s Chorus of Dallas and Oak Lawn Band. Rain or shine. Info: www.standouttexas.org.