Cindy Su and Lana Yu fell in love in their home country of Taiwan and have dreamed of getting married despite that country’s ban on same-sex marriage. To them, Canada is a beacon of hope for a future where their love is celebrated as equal. On June 26, they’ll be among more than 250 people from around the world getting married in Toronto as part of WorldPride celebrations.
Dubbed A Celebration of Love, the City of Toronto has invited gay and lesbian couples to get married at Casa Loma, in an all-expenses-paid interfaith ceremony to express queer love. At a press conference June 10, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam announced that 116 couples had already registered.
Wong-Tam says some couples are coming from as far away as the Philippines, Guyana, China, Ghana and Serbia — all countries that have banned same-sex unions. “We’re talking about people coming from Asia and Africa,” Wong-Tam says. “They’re coming to Toronto because Toronto’s saying welcome.”
For Su and Yu, this was a perfect alignment of the stars. “We had originally planned to marry in Vancouver and just come to Toronto for the Pride Week. However, upon hearing about the Grand Pride Wedding, we knew the timing was just meant to be; why not get married in a city where our kind of love is most celebrated?” Su says.
The women both went to university in Canada and have been inspired to start an LGBT movement in Taiwan after seeing the advances of the gay rights movement here. “Inspired from the forwardness of Canada, this year we have also co-founded the Lobby Alliance for LGBT Human Rights Alliance in Taiwan,” Su says. “The marriage-equality bill draft has already passed the first reading in the legislature, and we strive to push and lobby the legislators into making Taiwan the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage. Canada has enabled our happiness. We will carry that strength into bringing more people happiness in Taiwan.”
For Colin Gunther and Richard Laslett, of Melbourne, Australia, getting married in Toronto is the culmination of a 37-year courtship. They were already planning to come to WorldPride when they heard about the Pride Weddings event. “We thought immediately that it was time to bring this very long engagement to fruition,” Gunther says. “It is so exciting that Canada will allow overseas persons to marry, thereby showing the tolerance in your society.”
“It is important to celebrate Pride as an international event and use it for a way of cross-communicating the status of gays around the globe,” he adds.
In the video above, Daily Xtra reporter Michael Pihach interviews one of the Casa Loma organizers, as well as Toronto Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, whose stance on gay rights has softened over the years.
“I was raised in an evangelical Protestant environment,” Kelly says, “[in] which the authority of the Bible is very important. But over time, you learn more every year. And I reached a point where I realized that if you respect everyone — if you understand the other person — there’s a good chance they’ll understand and respect you.”