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Gettin' closer!

Gay Marriage Bill Edges Closer to Law
And some sidebars to the main story:
Separate church and marriage, theologian says


A redneck, proudly part of the ceremony for a same-sex marriage

By ROY MacGREGOR
Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - Page A2

MARA, B.C. -- The most striking thing you notice about Don Bogstie are the hands.

Big, meaty and calloused, they are the hands of all he has been and all he is: a farmer, an oil worker, a hunter, a fisherman, a master carpenter -- huge hands that dwarf the coffee cup as he sits in his rural kitchen and tries to make sense of an ever-changing world.

These same hands came together not so long ago in his own living room, this big man who proudly calls himself a "redneck" leaping to his feet in front of his television and applauding Conservative Leader Stephen Harper for telling a "town hall" audience that the current system of governing this country simply does not work.

Words that could have, and often do, come out of Don Bogstie's own mouth.

Six weeks from now, these calloused hands will be part of a ceremony that, in Don Bogstie's former mind, would have been the last place on earth he ever expected to find himself.

He will stand as proud, he says "honoured," witness to the marriage of the couple on the farm directly across the road that twists along the Shuswap River.

A marriage between a woman and woman.

A redneck, proudly part of the ceremony for a same-sex marriage.

He knows how odd this might seem to some. He is, after all, exactly as he appears: a 64-year-old farmer with a refrigerator door plastered with photographs of his grandchildren. He is a small-town Albertan who always considered himself a man's man.

He even recalls, with neither delight nor regret, an incident that happened to him when he went to the city to write his millwright examinations:

He'd had a few beers and was in the washroom when he felt another man's hands on him from behind. "I just went crazy," he recalls. "Next thing I knew there were all these bouncers hanging off me."

Now he is semi-retired and living in Mara, where he sells eggs and builds things. He considers himself highly conservative and lives in the riding of Darrel Stinson, one of the Conservative Party's most vocal hardliners.

Yet he has no problem at all with same-sex marriage.

Not when it involves Gail and Sandra, the retired teacher and retired laboratory technician who for years have been raising everything from chickens to pigs across the road -- and who decided a while back to do what so many other same-sex couples are doing and formalize their union in a wedding ceremony.

It had taken years before the two even told Don Bogstie they are gay, which makes him laugh to think they even had to tell. "I knew," he says. "They never pushed things, but I knew."

The two asked Jack Andrews, a 60-year-old retired forestry cartographer from nearby Sicamous, if he would give Sandra away and Big Don if he would stand as witness. Both agreed without so much as a question.

"I was honoured," Bogstie says. "I told my 89-year-old mother and I can tell you she was not honoured. She went crazy, tell you the truth." But he paid no heed to his mother's reaction. "Look," he says, "I like them as neighbours. I like them as people. I like them as friends. So why wouldn't I? They're good people and I'm the kind of guy who is there for his friends."

Andrews, who is far more liberal in his politics, used the same phrase about his role in the wedding: "I was honoured.

"I have never considered them 'gay.' They are. But I'm sure they don't look at me and say 'He's heterosexual.' I've never considered them as 'gay' anything -- they're our friends. And they're getting married."

It strikes Don Bogstie as absurd that anyone would think this should ever be an election issue. He wants the same-sex marriage legislation put to a true "free vote" on the matter -- no whips attached, no leaders commanding and members of Parliament accurately reflecting what the constituents wish. He has not the slightest doubt that it would pass.

"The girls call me a redneck," he says with a bit of an embarrassed smile. "At one time I had very strong opinions on gays, I admit that. But where I grew up, I never knew a gay person.

"I still might not necessarily agree with the gay population when they push things. Don't talk to me about gay parades. But I firmly believe that what people do in their own bedrooms is up to them.

"I've mellowed over the years. My beliefs have changed. And they've changed basically because of Gail and Sandra. They've been good friends. They've always treated me with respect. So what can I do but do the same for them? I'm happy as hell to stand up for them." He stops and smiles.

"My promise is that I'll show up and sign all the documents.

"Their promise to me is that I won't have to wear a tie."

rmacgregor@globeandmail.ca



Dispirited U.S. gays choosing Canada

By MARINA JIMÉNEZ

Wednesday, November 10, 2004 Updated at 10:00 AM EST

They're calling it the gay drain. Hundreds of well-heeled gay and lesbian lawyers, professors, educators and film directors from the U.S. are immigrating to Canada, drawn by the country's recognition of same-sex rights, unions and benefits.

Craig Lucas, who wrote the popular Hollywood movies Prelude to a Kiss and The Secret Lives of Dentists, contacted a Toronto immigration lawyer last week after the election victory of Republican President George W. Bush.

"Our rights are slowly being eroded," said the award-winning screenwriter, who plans to move to Vancouver with his partner, a set designer. "It happened in Nazi Germany, the incredible brain drain of artists, scientists and writers who fled to the U.S. Now it's happening here [in the United States]. The government wants gays to live outside the protection of the law."

Michael Battista, a Toronto immigration lawyer, said Mr. Lucas, like many of the gay Americans who have contacted him, has just the kind of skills Canada needs and will have no trouble qualifying to immigrate under the points system.

"I currently have more than 100 applications in the works on behalf of prospective gay American immigrants," he said. "These are highly skilled people with no dependents and substantial savings. Canada is benefiting enormously. They are not deterred by the fact that it can take as long as two years to process their applications."

While some gay Americans applied to immigrate before the Nov. 2 election, the results only reinforced their determination to leave. Mr. Bush has again indicated he would support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Eleven states, including Ohio, Michigan and Oregon, voted overwhelmingly to ban gay marriage, in balloting held at the same time as the election. Ohio also banned civil unions.

That means gay couples in those states may not be able to apply for health coverage under their partner's plan and will have difficulty transferring property in the event of death, delegating power of attorney, and arranging hospital visitation rights or other rights that heterosexual couples take for granted.

Under U.S. federal immigration laws, gay Americans who are living with foreigners are unable to sponsor their partners, which means they must leave the country if they want to stay together.

Americans who immigrate to Canada may sponsor their same-sex partners under the family-class category and be processed on the same application.

The Globe and Mail received two dozen e-mails yesterday, through an organization called Immigration Equality, from gay Americans who have applied to immigrate to Canada and bring in their gay foreign partners as common-law spouses.

"It's clear that the U.S. is becoming a place that is hostile to the long-term health of same-sex relationships," said Phil Schwab, a 36-year-old research policy analyst with a PhD in agricultural genetics. He relocated to Ottawa from Washington with his Canadian partner three months before the election.

"We are the leading edge of the wave," he said. "More and more gays will come here, especially after 11 states voted to prohibit same-sex marriage in their constitution. Many of these changes will be challenged in the courts as unconstitutional, so the battle is not over, but it becomes a struggle to get equality for same-sex relationships."

Tim Sally, a 47-year-old real-estate investor from the gay-friendly city of San Francisco, said he is tired of living in a country that won't accord him the same rights as heterosexuals. He worries that the U.S. conservative political discourse has no place for gay liberals, even wealthy and talented ones, who no longer feel welcome in their own country.

His exit plan? A move to Vancouver with his partner, a German schoolteacher who has been accepted as an immigrant. "It is a brain drain and a wealth drain. Canada is getting the cream of the crop," Mr. Sally said.
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