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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Mounties To Escort Married Gay Couple To Philadelphia

The Mounties always get their man - in this case two men (Toronto, Ontario) The Mounties always get their man - in this case two men.

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police honor guard, usually reserved for heads of state, will accompany a gay married couple from Toronto to Philadelphia this summer.

Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell will be honored at a GLBT civil rights event in Philadelphia on Sunday, May 1.

Bourassa and Varnell were the first gay couple to be legally married in North America. (story)

Two RCMP officers will accompany them to symbolize Canada's commitment to same-sex couples.

The trip will be a far cry from one Bourassa and Varnell attempted to make shortly after their marriage in 2003. The couple was turned back by US Customs and Immigration officers when they attempted to board a flight from Toronto to Georgia. (story)

US Customs and Immigration pre-check people traveling to the US at most major Canadian airports. They couple was rejected after filling out a form identifying themselves as a family.

Bourassa and Varnell were traveling to Braselton, Georgia to speak at a human rights conference.

Their appearance in Philadelphia is part of the 40th anniversary celebration of the GLBT civil rights movement Equality Forum.

"Kevin and Joe are Canadian heroes," said Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director of Equality Forum. "They symbolize Canadian family values and respect for individual liberty."

Bourassa and Varnell will receive the 40 Heroes Award in front of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, the site where the first US gay and lesbian rights demonstration took place on July 4, 1965.

"Kevin and Joe's successful battle for legal recognition of their marriage propelled marriage equality in Canada and across North America," said Lazin.

Also being honored is former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Chretien will receive the International Role Model Award. Following the Ontario court ruling that allowed Bourassa and Varnell to marry Chretien said the federal government would bring in legislation to allow same-sex marriage across Canada.

The bill is currently before Parliament with a scheduled vote next month. Ironically though alleged political wrongdoing by some in the former Chretien Liberal government could topple the current Liberal administration before the vote occurs.

Other recipients of the 40 Heroes Award include Bishop Gene Robinson, Congressman Barney Frank, Ellen DeGeneres, Melissa Etheridge, and Martina Navratilova.

by Jan Prout ©365Gay.com 2005

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