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You know you've come a long way when...

...a gay pastor who broke the same-sex marriage barrier gets positively reported in the redneck-conservative Toronto Sun!

The Order of Canada was awarded for the first time to a gay activist at Rideau Hall yesterday.

Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean presented Torontonian Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes with the country's highest civilian honour for his long-standing work as a gay rights champion.

"About 27 years ago, I was fasting to protest the police actions around the bathhouse raids," Hawkes, 57, said in a phone interview. "And to see how far we've come, that Canada is the first country in the world to give its highest award to a gay activist."

Hawkes has been a pastor at Toronto's Metropolitan Community Church on Simpson Ave. for over 30 years.

In 1994, Hawkes received the City of Toronto Award of Merit. In 1995, he got a Global Citizen Award from the United Nations Toronto Association, for advocating human rights in Canada.

But his greatest success to date has been his fight to legalize same-sex marriage in Canada.

On Jan. 14, 2001, he used an obscure portion of the Marriage Act to wed two gay and lesbian couples. After the City of Toronto refused to acknowledge the marriages, Hawkes sparked a court battle that saw same-sex marriage made legal in the province in 2003.

That "obscure portion of the Marriage Act" is the publication of the banns, an old Christian custom (incorporated into Ontario law) in which a couple's intention to marry is announced in church (or an equivalent public venue) sometime in the weeks prior to the event. All marriages thus contracted in Ontario are technically legal. Rev. Hawkes used this legal loophole to prove that the old arguments against same-sex couples marrying were bunkum, and he couldn't have picked a better way to do it: by catching the conservative Christians in their own trap. For what could be more Christian than marrying in a church?

But some didn't see it that way--conservatives, for one. And conservative crazies, for another. Luckily, the good Reverend persevered, and his hard work bore fruit. Ontario became the first province to legally register same-sex marriages, and the rest were not long in falling into line. The Supreme Court put the final cherry on top of the sundae with its ruling to legalize it, and as you can see, churches that don't want to marry same-sex couples...don't have to. But under civil law, all same-sex marriages are valid and legally recognized...in every province and territory!

You can read all about the fight for same-sex marriage rights in Ontario here, and in all of Canada, here. (Start at the bottom and work your way up to read it all in chronological order.)

And congratulations to the Rev. Hawkes on receiving his Snowflake--it couldn't have happened to a worthier Christian!