Toronto residents Dale Spence and Greg Garbacki stood side by side, marrying at last after 15 years together.
More than 100 other lesbian and gay couples, their guests, and throngs of journalists joined them on the spectacular grounds of Casa Loma, the castle in the heart of Toronto. The “Grand Pride Wedding,” Canada's first mass same-sex wedding, included couples from all over the world and was held as part of WorldPride taking place this week.
Dale and Greg never felt much of a rush to tie the knot. But when the couple heard about the “Grand Pride Wedding,” they knew it was the perfect time — in large part because of who stood with them at the ceremony: their three-year-old daughter Peyton in a peach-colored sundress.
"It was about being proud of our family," Dale says. They were one of only a handful of couples at the marriage ceremony — and the only pair of dads — who brought their child along.
Dale and Greg adopted Peyton almost three years ago from the Children's Aid Society of Toronto. Dale was just as on the fence about adoption as he was about marriage, reticent to give up the child-free urbanite lifestyle.
“I wasn’t sure I was really willing to change that,” he says. But all the things he thought he would miss now seem trivial.
“Within five minutes of meeting our daughter, something clicked in me that felt right." He now finds himself often distracted in the middle of the day by the thought of her, a smile across his face.
"It was important for us to have our daughter be part of the day with us," Dale says. After all, she was largely why he and Greg wanted to make their 15-year-relationship a legal marriage.
They've long referred to each other as husband, and after 15 years, their relationship needs no legal document to confirm its permanence. But they want Peyton to feel that her family is as real as anyone else's as she grows up.
“We wanted to be accurate when we used that term so that when she grows up, there's no question about our commitment to each other and to our family," Dale says.
The ceremony felt a little like a movie premiere. "You couldn’t walk a few feet without somebody asking you to take a photo or ask a few questions."
Although the attention was overwhelming, it was part of the point. "For us it’s about being part of something bigger than ourselves," Dale says — showing the world what it looks like for the greater community to support same-sex couples. The joy and celebration of these couples' marriages made news around the world. It stands in vibrant contrast to the homophobia and persecution still experienced by so many gays and lesbians globally.
"What struck me most was the number of people who came in to Toronto and partook in the wedding because where they're from, they don’t have that opportunity," he says. “I take it for granted that I can live my life openly and freely.”
Even Toronto looks brighter. Sitting amid rows of brides and grooms, Dale found a familiar face — a colleague from work.
"I had no idea that she was in a same-sex relationship. It was refreshing to see her there," Dale says. "It gives you a whole new perspective on the people around you.”
115 couples await the largest mass LGBT marriage ever in the gardens at Casa Loma, Toronto. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Darren Calabrese