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Closeted gay Alberta avoids the altar even after gay marriage is official

Partners Keith Purdy and Rick Kennedy (right) arrange to sign their marriage license. Chronicle photo by Kim Komenich

I knew, based on news reports and exchanges with Canadian Blenders that Alberta was extremely conservative. Alberta Premier Ralph Klein finally relented on his opposition to gay marriage once it was practically a done deal. But the truth of the matter is, the closet is still keeping gay residents from getting hitched. I thought this story was particularly interesting because of the juxtaposition between our Red state rednecks and the Canuck ones.

On the first day that gays and lesbians in this conservative Canadian province could get a license to marry, just five same-sex couples did so.

But this province is known as the Bible Belt of Canada and is the only one in the famously liberal nation that celebrates family values with an official holiday.

Canada on Wednesday became just the fourth country in the world to allow same-sex marriages, but many in Alberta simply aren’t ready to accept so radical a notion. Eight of the nation’s 10 provinces and one of its three territories have in recent years allowed gays and lesbians to marry, but most people in Calgary, which culturally is closer to the red states of the American heartland than the progressive cities of Toronto and Vancouver, are only grudgingly following suit.

You could transplant here from Dallas and there’s no difference, other than the accent and the weather,” said Darcy Schack, the spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Association in Calgary, who also runs a firm that builds oil drilling equipment. “It’s very much an oil-driven town, very redneck and very conservative.”

Calgary, a thriving city of about 1 million people roughly 450 miles northwest of Spokane, Wash., is the province’s largest city, and it guards its image as a frontier town of rugged individualists. Even its gay community defines itself differently than most. Here, the most popular event of the year is not Gay Pride, but the Gay Rodeo, where serious cowboys ride bulls and serious drag queens wrestle steers.

The city’s gays and lesbians say they are more cautious about protecting their sexual orientation in a province considered Canada’s stronghold of resistance to same-sex marriage. And though they’ve won a right that would have gays and lesbians in many parts of the United States lining up to be married — as was the case last year in San Francisco — many here chose to stay home instead.

“It’s a very closeted gay community,” Schack said after learning the small turnout for marriage licenses Thursday. “One couple was planning to marry but ended up just going on holiday. A couple of people were looking at it but just backed off. It’s a little shocking.”

When the change came, it came quickly. Overnight, marriage licenses throughout Alberta went from denoting “Bride” and “Groom” to “Partner 1” and “Partner 2.”

“Growing up, you knew that you would be unable to marry or, if you did, you would be unhappy,” said Woody George, 31, who has been with his partner, Scott Middleton, for five years. The couple participated in a mock Newly Wed game Wednesday night at a Calgary bar, though neither they nor any of the participants were newly married. “Now that we can, it defines what Canada — and I would think the United States — is all about: Everybody is equal.”

I added a few Freepi comments as a bookend.

Actual Freeper Quotes™

“It’s because their relationships are based on dysfunctional sex practices, and they require multiple partners to satisfy their unnatural lusts. Their strange unions have nothing to do with love or a life time commitment like a real heterosexual marriage.”

“Calgary is THE best city in all of North America, in my humble opinion. And yet most of Alberta is so “redneck and conservative” that it makes Calgary look like a den of Communist homosexuals in comparison.”

“So why doesn’t the province secede from the sewer that is modern Canada?”

“This is not a shock. I seem to recall reading a recent article somewhere that stated that the “marriage” rate for homosexuals in one of the European countries where it has been legal for a while was far far below heterosexual married couples.”

“There is a stronger secessionist sentiment in Alberta than in Quebec, but you don’t hear about it very much because Alberta is so far west and doesn’t get a lot of media attention. Ironically, the North American Free Trade Agreement has done more to keep Alberta in Canada than anything else. This is because NAFTA specifically prevents the Canadian government in Ottawa from implementing the kind of excessive control of the Alberta oil and gas markets that devastated the province back in the 1980s under Trudeau’s National Energy Plan. The secessionist movement in Alberta will probably get stronger over time, but the reality is that Canada is such a large and sparsely-populated country that the Federal government in Ottawa isn’t even capable of enforcing most of the laws it passes (hence the large-scale violation of the mandatory gun registry laws that goes on in Canada’s rural areas).”

“I grew up in Ottawa, but have lived in the west since 1973 (Calgary since ’86). I’d love Alberta to secede, especially to become the 51st State. If I knew of a credible separatist movement I’d join in a minute.”


Also, see this related story: Prince Edward Island dragging its heels in implementing Canada’s new same-sex marriage law.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding