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Brent Hawkes receives Order of Canada

Fought bathhouse raids, supported gay marriage

Canadian gay activist Rev Brent Hawkes will be named today to the Order of Canada — the country’s highest civilian honour.

Since 1977, Hawkes has served as the senior pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto. He has been a tireless fighter for gay rights.

On Feb 17, 1981 Hawkes began a 25-day hunger strike, calling on the city of Toronto to launch an inquiry into relations between police and the gay community. Earlier that month, Toronto police carried out a massive raid on four Toronto bathhouses — over 300 people were charged. Hawkes ended his strike when the city appointed an investigator on Mar 12, 1981.

In 2001, Hawkes drew national attention when he used an obscure Ontario law to perform marriage ceremonies for two gay couples. By announcing his intentions on three consecutive Sundays, marriage licenses were not required.

The city of Toronto refused to recognize the marriages, leading to a court battle that saw same-sex marriage made legal in Ontario in 2003.