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AMERICANS CAN NOW MARRY IN VANCOUVER
by REX WOCKNER
2003-07-16

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BRITISH COLUMBIA LEGALIZES GAY MARRIAGE, AMERICANS CAN NOW MARRY IN VANCOUVER

A second Canadian province legalized full same-sex marriage July 8. British Columbia's Court of Appeal followed in the footsteps of Ontario's Court of Appeal which forced legalization of same-sex marriage on June 10.

Less than an hour after the new ruling, Tom Graff and Anthony Porcino were married in front of Vancouver's B.C. Law Courts building by United Church minister Tim Stevenson, a gay member of the Vancouver City Council.

Both provinces' highest courts declared the federal government's opposite-sex definition of marriage unconstitutional. The federal government has agreed with that conclusion and is in the process of formally legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

In the meantime, hundreds of same-sex couples already have married in Ontario and now weddings have begun in British Columbia as well. Neither province has a residency requirement for marriage. Foreign same-sex couples can buy a marriage license and get married the same day.

The B.C. Court of Appeal initially struck down the federal definition of marriage on May 1 of this year but suspended its ruling until July 2004 to give the feds time to rewrite the marriage laws. Subsequently, Ontario's Court of Appeal struck down the federal definition of marriage but did not include a grace period. In light of the Ontario ruling, the B.C. court decided to close the gap, thereby legalizing same-sex marriage in the province instantly.

The court stated: 'The Ontario Court of Appeal ... granted immediate relief, including a reformulation of the common-law definition of marriage to permit same-sex marriages, and an order that the Clerk of the City of Toronto issue marriage licences to the same-sex couples who had been denied licences. ... The federal government has instructed its counsel not to appeal either the Ontario Court of Appeal decision ... or the decision of this Court, and ... marriages between same-sex couples have been taking place in Ontario.

'Any further delay in implementing the remedies [of our May 1 decision] will result in an unequal application of the law as between Ontario and British Columbia, with same-sex couples being denied the right to marry in British Columbia until July 12, 2004, while same-sex couples in Ontario may marry as and when they choose to do so. [T]he Court is satisfied that it is appropriate to amend the order in these appeals to lift the suspension of remedies, with the result that the declaratory relief and the reformulation of the common-law definition of marriage as 'the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others' will take immediate effect.'

GETTING HITCHED IN VANCOUVER

Here are excerpts from the provincial Vital Statistic Agency's 'how to' on getting married in British Columbia: 'The Marriage Act requires that you obtain a marriage licence. ... The bride or groom must apply in person to the Marriage Licence Issuer in your community. Only one member of the couple needs to apply for the licence, but you will be asked to provide identification for both the bride and the groom. Information required with identification will include: full name, including given names; birth date and birth place; marital status [and] current address. A fee must be paid at the time of application.

'Anyone over 19 years of age is eligible to apply for a marriage licence in British Columbia. Anyone under 19 years of age must first obtain the consent of both parents. ... No one under the age of 16 years can be married without the consent of the Supreme or County Court. You do not have to be a B.C. resident in order to be married here, but the licence is only valid in this province. Blood tests are not required under B.C. legislation. If one or both of the intended parties was recently divorced (within the last 31 days), proof of divorce must be provided.

'Couples can choose a religious or civil ceremony. Either type of ceremony must be witnessed by two people. Religious ceremonies are performed by a religious representative of your choice, as long as they are registered with the British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency under the Marriage Act. Civil ceremonies are performed by marriage commissioners, who are appointed by the executive director of Vital Statistics. Contact the marriage commissioner directly to make an appointment and arrangements.

'The religious representative or marriage commissioner who performs the wedding ceremony will also help to complete the necessary Marriage Registration Form. This form is then sent within 48 hours of the marriage ceremony by the religious representative or marriage commissioner to the Vital Statistics Agency, where the marriage is registered and a legal record is kept. At the time of the ceremony, your religious representative or marriage commissioner may provide you with a statement of marriage — this interim document can be used temporarily to prove that you are married. After the marriage, and following the receipt and registration of the Marriage Registration Form, a permanent Marriage Certificate will be automatically mailed to the bride and groom from the Vital Statistics Agency.'

For additional details, including how to find a marriage-license issuer and a marriage commissioner, and to download forms, visit www.vs.gov .bc.ca/marriage/howto.html.

SINGAPORE P.M. WELCOMES GAYS

Singapore has quietly begun welcoming gays into government jobs, including those considered the most sensitive, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong told Time magazine June 30.

Goh said the policy change was inspired in part by a desire not to exclude talented gay foreigners from immigrating.

But the move is not being trumpeted in order to keep from alarming conservatives.

'Let it evolve, and in time the population will understand that some people are born that way,' Goh said. 'We are born this way and they are born that way, but they are like you and me.'

GAY BISHOP GIVES UP

The gay man appointed bishop of the Church of England's Reading diocese withdrew his acceptance of the job July 6 following a huge, weeks-long row that threatened to destroy the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church in the U.S.

Canon Jeffrey John has lived with a partner for 27 years but claims they no longer have sex. That was too much for church conservatives in Britain and several developing nations who threatened that the Anglican Communion would split apart if John's appointment was allowed to stand.

In stepping down, John said his consecration would cause too much damage to church unity.

Anglican conservatives continue to reel over the selection of an openly gay bishop in the U.S. state of New Hampshire and over the bishop of Vancouver, Canada's recent decision to offer church gay-union ceremonies.

JAPAN OKs PAPER CHANGES FOR TRANS

Japan's House of Representatives unanimously passed a measure July 10 that will allow certain transsexuals to change their gender in all-important 'family registry' documents.

The measure will take effect in one year.

According to the Japan Times, the law permits people to change their registration if they have been diagnosed by two doctors as having a different psychological makeup from their biological sex and a desire to live as the opposite gender physically and socially. Applicants must be single and childless and no longer have functioning reproductive organs due to sex-change surgery. The documentation change will eliminate problems that transsexuals face in such matters as voting and filling out job applications, the Times said.

2,000 MARCH IN CARACAS

About 2,000 people marched in Caracas, Venezuela's third gay-pride parade June 29 led by Pride Queen Mariluchi who rode in a yellow convertible and carried a pink poodle.

The march ended at Museum Plaza with speeches and artistic performances. The city government provided the stage and sound equipment.

Activists unveiled a new gay-pride flag that won a contest carried out in gay bars and on the Web. It combines the red, blue and yellow Venezuelan flag with the gay rainbow flag.

SECTION 28 KILLED

A July 11 vote on sex education in Britain's House of Lords had the effect of repealing the notorious Section 28, a law that prohibited local governments from promoting homosexuality and prohibited schools from teaching that homosexuality is acceptable. The House of Commons had voted to overturn the law in March.

Enacted by the Tory government in 1988, the section stated: 'A local authority shall not (a) intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality; (b) promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.'

The section was repealed locally in Scotland three years ago.

HUNGARIANS MARCH

About 4,000 people marched in Budapest, Hungary's gay-pride parade July 6. Police wearing riot gear protected the marchers from Neo-Nazis 'who formed a marauding throng at the base of Erzsébet híd' bridge, said the Budapest Sun.

Mayor Gábor Demszky attended the pride launch event the previous evening at the Mûvész Cinema complex. He described Budapest as a beacon of tolerance and fraternity.


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