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HERE AT LAST. After eight long years in the works, the Vancouver AIDS Memorial is finally a reality. City workers began May 10 installing the rust-coloured ribbon, with its 800 names, at Sunset Beach. Now the memorial is all but complete, awaiting only some final landscaping touches and the removal of its protective fence. "It's quite awesome," says Ed Lee, who has stuck with the project since its inception, even as it encountered obstacle after obstacle. Lee and the AIDS Memorial committee are planning to Credit: Gareth Kirkby

YUKON MARRIES QUEERS not MARRIED

And now there are four. The Yukon became the fourth province/territory in Canada to legalize gay marriage last week, after its Supreme Court ruled in favour of two men seeking to legally tie the knot. “The common law definition of marriage is unconstitutional,” Justice Peter McIntyre ruled Jul 14, echoing earlier rulings in BC, Ontario and Quebec. “The new common-law definition of marriage in the Yukon is the voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others.”



Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie seems to support the court’s decision. “I think it’s great when due process can reach these conclusions on behalf of any particular group of citizens in this country,” he reportedly told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). “It shows this country is very open to all views and I think that’s a good thing and the Yukon is no different.”



The latest court ruling shows the time has come for Prime Minister Paul Martin “to make a clear statement saying that the law has been changed across Canada and that all provinces and territories should comply,” says Cicely McWilliam of Canadians for Equal Marriage.



The Yukon is the first territory to legalize gay marriage in Canada. The province of Ontario paved the way in June 2003, BC followed suit one month later, and Quebec joined them Mar 19, 2004. The federal government, meanwhile, is still waiting to hear back on the questions it sent the Supreme Court of Canada earlier this year before, presumably, it changes its marriage laws for the everyone.



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SHARPE SENTENCED TO TWO YEAR

John Robin Sharpe, 71, a gay man whose previous trip to the Supreme Court of Canada won expression rights for artists, will spend two years less a day in jail after being sentenced Jul 19 of indecent assault.



Sharpe was emotionless as the ruling was read, but said he would appeal as he was taken into custody for the assault on a boy-then teenaged-more than 20 years ago. The man, now 35, watched from the gallery.



In March, a jury found Sharpe guilty of indecent assault but acquitted him on sexual assault charges. A charge of gross indecency was stayed by the Crown.



Sharpe was acquitted of child-porn charges two years ago when a judge ruled that his written works of imagination had artistic merit. The judge did, however, sentence Sharpe to four months house arrest for possessing photographs he found to be pornographic-because they involved actual youth in their production.



It didn’t take long for those photos to come back to haunt Sharpe. Vancouver police promptly launched an unprecedented search to locate the people in the photos. One man, now 35, came forward and police charged Sharpe with sexual assault, indecent assault on a male, and committing acts of gross indecency. Some of those charges-which dated from a since-revised Criminal Code-drew criticism from members of the gay community who suggested their use was homophobic.



-Jeremy Hainsworth



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FUNERAL QUESTIONS RESOLVED

Remember all that uproar over the BC Liberals’ funeral services bill and its failure to name same-sex spouses among the list of people with dibs to dispose of a loved one’s remains? The old 1996 version of the act plainly defined spouse in a gay-inclusive way right in the legislation. The new one, which the reigning Liberals passed Mar 23, did not-though government spokespeople swore such a definition would be added to the act’s regulations at a later date. Their promise did little to alleviate concern. Leaving gay rights to the regulations can be chancy, lawyer Ken Smith explained to Xtra West at the time.



Well, now queers need no longer worry. The Liberals quietly pulled the act off the royal proclamation sheet put the gay-friendly definition of spouse back into the act itself, and re-passed the touched-up version May 12. Part one of the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act now defines “spouse” as a person who is married to another person; or has a valid common-law relationship with that person; or “has lived and cohabited with another person in a marriage-like relationship, including a marriage-like relationship between persons of the same gender, for a period of at least two years immediately before the person’s death.” Part three of the act then gives a spouse second priority to dispose of a loved one’s remains, right after anyone the deceased may have named in his or her will.