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social sciences

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Hawkes, Brent (b. 1950)  
page: 1  2  3  

Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton, who attended the weddings, called upon provincial officials to recognize the marriages, but, as anticipated, they would not.

MCC Toronto sued, asking the court to review the refusal of the registrar to issue marriage certificates to the two couples. Eight other couples who had been denied marriage licenses by the city of Toronto joined the case, which was heard in November 2001.

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A favorable decision came down in July 2002, when a three-judge panel on the Ontario Superior Court found that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples was a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Justice Harry LaForme wrote, "The exclusion of same-sex couples serves no pressing, nor even legitimate, government objectives . . . . The restriction against same-sex marriage is an offense to the dignity of lesbians and gays because it limits the range of relationship options available to them. The result is they are denied the autonomy to choose whether they wish to marry. This in turn conveys the ominous message that they are unworthy of marriage."

The couples were unable to get marriage licenses or certificates immediately, however, because Justice Heather Forster Smith suspended the ruling for two years to give the Parliament time to rewrite the legal definition of the word "marriage." Meanwhile, the government appealed the decision.

In June 2003, however, a three-judge panel on the Court of Appeal concurred with the lower court that preventing same-sex couples from marrying violated their equality rights under the Charter. Writing collectively, the justices criticized the government's case for restricting marriage to heterosexuals, calling their arguments full of stereotypes and "circular reasoning."

The justices further stated that "the couples are not seeking to abolish the institution of marriage. They are seeking access to it" and proceeded to give them that access by changing the phrase "one man and one woman" in the definition of "marriage" to "two persons." The change went into effect immediately.

A month after the ruling, Hawkes officiated at the marriage of MCC founder the Reverend Troy Perry and his partner of almost two decades, Phillip De Blieck. Since the couple lived in California, their union was not recognized in their homeland, but they welcomed the opportunity to wed. Perry also hoped that if same-sex American couples traveled to Ontario or British Columbia to marry, states might follow the lead of these progressive Canadian provinces. Unfortunately, his hope has not been realized except in the state of Massachusetts. However, since 2005, same-sex marriage has been legal throughout all of Canada.

Hawkes and Sproule obtained their own marriage license on Valentine's Day 2006 and were wed on March 7, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the day they fell in love. The entire congregation attended the ceremony and added to the festivities by making a three-tiered wedding cake and other handmade gifts. Many also wrote letters of congratulation.

"I have spoken to the couples whom I have married and they tell me how surprised they are about how transforming marriage is when the magic of the ceremony unfolds. But when you are surrounded by that much love and support, how can you not be transformed?" commented Hawkes after the wedding.

Hawkes has received numerous honors for his work for equality, including the city of Toronto's Award of Merit (1994), the United Nations Toronto Association's Global Citizen Award (1995), the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches' Human Rights Award (2001), the city of Toronto's Access, Equity & Human Rights Award (2003), and the International Court System's José Sarria Lifetime Achievement Award (2005).

In 2007 the Canadian Governor General bestowed upon Hawkes the country's highest civilian honor, naming him to the Order of Canada. Among those applauding the award were Toronto city councilors, including Kyle Rae, the only openly gay member of the group, who stated, "Given how the rest of the world is now recognizing Canada as an equity-seeking nation, the work that Brent has done is an example to be pursued by other nations. He has enriched all our lives."

Even as Hawkes accepted the honor for his achievements, he cautioned against complacency, saying, "We have got to ground the gains we've made because they could be taken away." He is particularly concerned about the threat posed by religious conservatives. To meet it, he has reached out to clergy of other denominations in order that they may present a united front, which he believes is urgently needed. "The supportive religious community has to be mobilized because the opposition is religious," he stated.

Hawkes continues to demonstrate the resolve and the hope that he expressed at the 1995 Pride festival service: "Justice must be pursued, no matter what the cost. Have confidence in our collective strength. We can change the world."

Linda Rapp

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social sciences >> Overview:  Canada

In 2005 Canada became the fourth country to recognize same-sex marriages; the milestone victory solidified Canada's position as a leader in the struggle for glbtq equality.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay and Lesbian Churches and Synagogues

Spurred by the gay liberation movement of the late 1960s, a number of religious groups--including specifically gay-oriented churches and synagogues--have been formed to address the needs of gay and lesbian believers.

social sciences >> Overview:  Metropolitan Community Church

The Metropolitan Community Church, a Christian denomination founded to minister to the glbtq community, has grown into a worldwide ministry with over 40,000 members in 18 countries.

social sciences >> Overview:  Same-Sex Marriage

Lesbian and gay couples have been fighting for the freedom to marry since the dawn of the modern glbtq struggle for equality; despite some success abroad, progress toward same-sex marriage in the United States has been slow.

social sciences >> Overview:  Toronto

Toronto's glbtq community has gone from being a hidden subculture to a power base in politics, the economy, and the arts.

social sciences >> Overview:  United Church of Canada

The United Church of Canada has been instrumental in the increased acceptance of glbtq rights, including same-sex marriage, in Canada.

social sciences >> Egan, Jim

One of Canada's first gay activists, Jim Egan began demanding respect and equal rights in the late 1940s; in his later years he mounted a challenge to Canada's law on spousal retirement benefits.

social sciences >> Hislop, George

An early leader of the Canadian gay rights movement, George Hislop was an indefatigable fighter for equality.

social sciences >> Judge, Father Mychal

Father Mychal Judge, who died in the line of duty at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, devoted his life to the care and service of others, including those marginalized by society.

social sciences >> Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), an American organization of some 460 affiliated chapters and 80,000 members, works to support glbtq people and their loved ones.

social sciences >> Perry, Troy

Troy Perry is the founder of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, a Protestant denomination devoted to ministering to the spiritual needs of glbtq people.

social sciences >> Robinson, V. Gene

The Right Reverend Gene Robinson, the first openly gay man to be consecrated a bishop of the Episcopal Church, has earned strong support from members of his diocese, but has become a lightning rod for conservatives within the Anglican Communion.


Burnett, Thane. "Without the Lights and Cameras, This Would Be Just a Typical 21st-Century Boy-Meets-Boy Love Story." Toronto Sun (February 15, 2006): 10.

El Akkad, Omar, and Jennifer Lewington. "Pastor's Fight for Gay Rights Honoured." Globe and Mail (Toronto) (June 30, 2007): A9.

Galloway, Gloria. "Double Wedding Packs Church; Province Won't Register Them." Hamilton Spectator (Ontario) (January 15, 2001): A1.

"Gay Marriages Invalid, Government Says." North Bay Nugget (Ontario) (December 6, 2000): A7.

"Gay Pastor 'Called to Lead People to Freedom.'" Toronto Star (December 17, 2000): News.

Grange, Michael. "Gays, Lesbians Rediscover Christmas." Globe and Mail (Toronto) (December 26, 1996): A6.

"Guest Columnist: Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes." (Interview by Lisa-Catherine Cohen.) Pride Depot (June 11, 2007).

Habib, Marlene. "Los Angeles Men Tie Knot in Toronto." The Standard (St. Catherines, Ontario) (July 17, 2003): B7.

Hernandez, Catherine. "Activism Forged the Match, But Love Forged the Union: Brent Hawkes and John Sproule." National Post (Canada) (May 1, 2006): AL3.

Horgan, Denys. "Gays' Minister Ends Fast after Pledge from Council." Globe and Mail (Toronto) (March 13, 1981).

Lakey, Jack. "Wild Melee Erupts Seconds after Vote." Toronto Star (June 10, 1994): A10.

Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto.

Schmidt, Sarah. "Court Lifts Ban on Gay Marriages." National Post (Canada) (July 13, 2002): A1.

Shephard, Michelle, and Vicki White. "Gay Pride Draws 500,000 People." Toronto Star (July 3, 1995): A1.

Tyler, Tracey, and Tracy Huffman. "Gay Men Get Married after Appeal Court Ruling." Toronto Star (June 11, 2003): A4.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Hawkes, Brent  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2007  
    Date Last Updated July 26, 2007  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2007 glbtq, Inc.  


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