An open letter to all Members of Canada’s Parliament

I’m writing to express my support for the government’s proposed legislation to extend access to civil marriage to same-sex couples across Canada.

Some people are worried that religious officials will be forced to marry same-sex couples, but the Charter protects their religious freedom.

The Supreme Court will soon make this clear.

Religious institutions have always set their own rules for marriage. Some religions won’t marry previously divorced persons or inter-faith couples. The Charter guarantees that religions cannot be penalized or limited in any way for only performing marriages that conform to their beliefs. And many people of faith support equal marriage.

Canada is a pluralistic society in which we accept and embrace diverse beliefs, both religious and secular. The law of the land should reflect this diversity.

I hope you will support the equal marriage legislation. Please let me know where you stand on this important issue.

For the record, I am the gay son oftwo heterosexuals, my mother and father, who would have been married forfifty years in July, 2002 were it not for my Dad’s sudden death a few shortmonths before.

This is an intensely personal debate for me.

When the church of my upbringing, the United Church of Canada, released its controversial report in the 1980s -endorsing the rights of gays and lesbian members to seek positions of ordained ministry – I had already left the church. In the years that followed, as I tried to accept the undeniable fact that I was gay, I went through many difficult years which ultimately led to my nearly dying of an AIDS-related illness in 1993. (I tested HIV-positive in 1989.)

While I accept responsibility for my role in this unfortunate development there were a number of circumstances which, I submit, contributed to a whole series of self-destructive behaviours. I was sexually abused by several men, who led heterosexual lives, during my adolescence in the 1970s. I later drank and used drugs excessively. I regret, now, not having reported the sexual abuse at the time but I understand that – struggling as I was with my own sexual orientation – this was not easy for a teenager to do.

The society in which I grew up was just beginning to recognize the prevalence of gay and lesbian persons. We barely had words to describe this sexual orientation which, for so many years previously, had been secretive.

When I “came out”, first to myself and then to my family, in 1981 I was lovingly accepted. In the words of my mother, writing to me then, “nothing has changed when it comes to the love your Dad and I have for you.”

Regrettably my self-acceptance, complicated by the horrific exploitation I experienced as a teenager, was not so easy and the aforementioned consequences are what I now live with. It is for some of those same reasons that I have been unable to enter into a loving relationship with another man. I live in hope that one day I will meet a soul-mate.

The United Church, to which I have again belonged since 1998, would bless such amarriage – something left to the discretion of each congregation. For the past two years or so, civil courts in Ontario and several other jurisdictions would have done so as well. Many friends, same-sex couples,have been married. Some have been raising wonderful, healthy children.

I do not know, if my life had developed differently, whether I would be happily in love with another man today. I do believe that – in the ‘big picture’ – this would only stabilise society, not upset it irreversibly. I fully support religious institutions’ right not to marry anyone they wish.

I cannot support discriminatory practices within the jurisdiction of our provincial and federal governments.


Kenn Chaplin


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