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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Story Of First Gay Couple Who Tried To Legally Marry In 1974, To Be Featured in Canadian Museum For Human Rights

Chris Vogel and Richard North
CBC reports:
Chris Vogel and Richard North are the first gay couple to try and legally marry in Canada. Their marriage certificate, granted by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg in 1974, was one of the first same-sex marriage certificates issued in Canada. However, their union was not recognized by the province. They launched a decades-long legal battle to challenge marriage laws and fight for same-sex spousal benefits. North said he hopes others won't have to go through the struggle they've endured. "Our marriage certificate, hopefully, is a beacon of hope. The museum will be part of the process of changing the way the world sees homosexuality," he said. Read More

LISTEN: 
Excerpt From CBC's Digital Archives 1974 Radio Program, "As It Happens":


Chris Vogel and Richard North (vintage photo)
[Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada] It was a time of protests, legal fights and backlash. With a growing sense of solidarity, gays and lesbians became more visible in Canadian society in the 1960s, '70s and early '80s. Homosexuality gradually became more accepted as more Canadians came out of the closet to demand equality under the law. Chris Vogel and Richard North, a gay Winnipeg couple in their 20s, were stymied in their efforts to obtain a marriage licence from the province. That didn't stop them, though -- they found a sympathetic Unitarian-Universalist minister to perform their marriage ceremony. Now, as they explain to Barbara Frum of As It Happens, they're in a struggle with the provincial government to have the union recognized. 
Did You Know? 
  • Before their wedding ceremony, Vogel and North had the banns read at a Unitarian church in Winnipeg. Marriage banns are a Christian tradition in which the names of the couple and their intention to marry are read for three successive Sundays before the wedding. The reading of the banns negates a couple's need for a marriage licence, but jurisdictions may refuse to register the marriage. 
  • Vogel and North were the first gay couple in Canada to challenge marriage laws. Ten months later, their appeal was ended when a judge ruled that a homosexual couple cannot be considered married because they are of the same sex. 
  • In 1982, Vogel filed a complaint under Manitoba Human Rights Act on the basis that the government was discriminating against him on the basis of marital status and sex. A government employee, Vogel believed he and his partner should be entitled to the same benefits (dental, life insurance, etc.) as other employees and their spouses. The complaint was dismissed the next year. 
  • In light of changes in 1987 to Manitoba's Human Rights Code, Vogel launched another legal challenge in 1988. The case wound its way through the courts, and in 1997 the province's human rights adjudicator ruled that benefits should be extended to gay and lesbian employees. 
  • In 2000, many gay couples hoped to use the banns as a legal loophole for obtaining a marriage licence. 
  • By 2005, the Civil Marriage Act made same-sex marriage legal across Canada. This made Canada the fourth country to legally recognize gay marriage, after the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.

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