Toronto
2 min

Las Vegas North

For better or worse, marriage fever sweeps Pride

Toronto
City Hall is opening its marriage licence office this weekend, so same-sex
couples can swing by to get hitched during Pride festivities.




It’s just one of the many efforts made to cash in on the Ontario Court Of
Appeal decision this month that legalized same-sex marriage here.




“We’re going to get a boost of numbers for people who come here to get
married,” says Pride co-chair Kyle Knoeck, who says he might buy toasters for
the newlywed contingent in Sunday’s parade. “The decision also puts Toronto on
the map as a gay-friendly destination.”




Just for Pride, Toronto’s marriage licence office is open extra hours Saturday
and Sunday between 11am and 5pm. Couples can get a licence for $110. In the
first week alone, more than 100 marriage licences were issued to same-sex
couples and it wasn’t limited to Canadians.




“There were two couples from China, one from the Cayman Islands, one from the
US and one from England,” says Brad Ross, a media spokesperson for the city.




The ruling could create a cottage industry. Same-sex wedding planning websites
are springing up and travel agencies and hotels are offering gay wedding
packages.




Rita Leonard and Paula Rutledge of Winnipeg have already launched a website,
Pridebride.com, aimed at planning lesbian and gay weddings. Another
Toronto-based website, Gaywedding.ca, is also offering services.




“The biggest hurdle we’ve faced is keeping up with demand,” says Leonard.
“There’s a lot of money out there. There are a lot of gay couples who have been
together for years that have just been waiting for this.”




Though some religious groups still claim the right to refuse to perform
same-sex weddings, others are excited to do them. The Metropolitan United
Church already has three weddings booked, one on Pride Day.




“We had four new people say they wanted to have a ceremony the day the ruling
was announced,” says Rev John Joseph Mastandrea. “That’s phenomenal.”




The Jews haven’t been left out. Kingston Rabbi Justin Lewis leads a small
reform congregation that has its arms wide open.




“Our congregation is completely accepting of gay and lesbian individuals and
couples,” says Lewis.




Last summer he married a Toronto couple when they couldn’t find a local
synagogue that would allow it.




If nothing else, the ruling inspired the subject of one man’s MBA thesis. Are
Toronto businesses ready to open their arms to gay and lesbian couples?




“This research will study the impact of a positive decision on same-sex
marriage legislation in Canada, including the potential business impact on the
hospitality and tourism industry in Toronto,” says John Walker, an MBA student
at the University Of Guelph.




He’s expecting to collect the majority of his information by the end of August
and hopes to answer questions such as: Will gay couples spend more than
straight couples on a wedding? How many will actually get married?




“Some people think it’s the end of gay culture,” says Walker. “We all know that
in the heterosexual world, [marriage] is not a proven success.”




And not everybody believes it’s going to create a windfall for Toronto,
particularly in these weeks after the height of the SARS scare. Ric Tremaine,
president of the Gay Tourism Guild Of Toronto, just returned from Pride in Key
West.




“Toronto is not high on their radar screen,” he says. “Is this going to turn
things around for Pride? I don’t think so.”




Will there be more pressure to couple up this Pride?




“I’m not feeling it,” says Knoeck. “My mother hasn’t made the dreaded phone
call to ask if I’m getting married. And if people don’t want to couple up, they
can always have a threeway.”




* with files from Paul Gallant




* Walker’s survey is at http://liad.gbrownc.on.ca/mbaresearch.