Gays Go North To Tie The Knot

Hedy Halpern, left, and Colleen Rogers sit in front of the fireplace at their home in Windsor, Ontario, on Tuesday, June 17, 2003. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said Tuesday he will file a bill to permit same-sex marriages, a change that would make Canada only the third country where homosexual couples can legally wed. AP

Gay American couples are beginning to head for the border city of Windsor, Ontario, to take advantage of Ontario's court-ordered legalization of same-sex marriages.

By Tuesday, 12 gay couples had been granted marriage licenses in Windsor, the city licensing clerk told the Detroit Free Press. Three of the couples were American.

Suburban Detroit residents Jennifer Paty and Erin James are among those planning to head to Windsor, just across the river from Detroit, to seek a marriage license. They just need to do some paperwork required in Canada, certifying James' divorce 15 years ago.

"We've waited this long, we can wait a little while longer," Paty told The Detroit News.

An Ontario appeals court last week declared Canada's definition of marriage, as the union of a man and woman, invalid and changed it to a union between two people. The move prompted a conservative group in Michigan to urge the strengthening of Michigan law against same-sex marriages.

Hours after the decision, two Canadian men tied the knot in the country's first legal same-sex wedding. The ruling applies only in Ontario, but on Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien announced that he would propose a bill to legalize gay marriage throughout the country. Currently, only Belgium and the Netherlands recognize same-sex marriages.

Among those who brought the suit against Canadian officials were an American couple living in Windsor, Hedy Halpern, a retired Ameritech worker from Dearborn, and Colleen Rogers, a nurse who works in Detroit.

They had a commitment ceremony in May 2000 and now plan on getting a marriage license.

"What struck me was that I was too old for the government to tell me who I could marry and who to love," Rogers said.

In the United States, homosexual marriage lacks full legal recognition in all 50 states. Vermont recognizes civil unions that give homosexual couples the benefits and responsibilities of marriage but are separate from legal marriages.

After last week's decision in Ontario, the American Family Association of Michigan called for state lawmakers to add Michigan's existing "one man-one woman" marriage policy to the state constitution.

"I am confident that the overwhelming majority of Michigan residents believe that marriage should remain defined between one man and one woman. Period," the group's president, Gary Glenn, said in a statement.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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