By Nancy Nicol

Nancy Nicol, York University

This paper will expand upon my research in creating the documentary Politics of the Heart, which explores the social movement in Quebec that led to the recognition of same sex relationships, same sex marriage, and recognition and rights for same sex parents. There has been a sea change in the status and rights for lesbians and gay men in Canada during the past decade. In June 2002, the Quebec National Assembly voted unanimously to create civil unions open to heterosexual and homosexual couples and to revise the filiations provisions of the Civil Code, extending equal parenting rights and recognition to same sex parents (Bill C-84). In July 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize same sex marriage. Yet, prior to 1995, little existed in terms of any forms of relationship recognition for lesbians and gay men in any jurisdiction in Canada. The early 1990s in Quebec witnessed a wave of police violence against homosexuals; in 1994 in Ontario, a bill to recognize same sex relationships was defeated in a storm of homophobic backlash; and in 1997 in British Columbia, despite the incremental adoption of legislation recognizing same sex relationships, a major controversy broke out when the local Surrey School Board banned three children’s books that depicted same sex parents. These contrasting scenes form the bookends of a critically important period in LGBT social movement politics in Canada. From 1995 to 2005, the movement was forever altered by engagement with legal reform and by sweeping changes in public policy that went far beyond the expectations of the early nineties, opening up new questions for today.

Lesbianism and homosexuality have been seen as a violation of social expectations and norms; so much so, that seventy-six nations still maintain criminal sanctions against homosexuality and many states in the United States have enacted measures banning same-sex marriage. During the early years of gay liberation in Canada, the courts treated lesbianism as grounds to be declared an unfit mother and, in an inverse of the traditional (and essentialist) assumption that in the case of a dispute over custody the child was always best placed with the mother, many lesbians lost custody of their children or lived in fear of losing custody of their children. Reflecting to some extent the pressures imposed by the legal and social illegitimacy of homoparental families, earlier studies on lesbian and gay parenting in the United States and Canada emphasized the ways in which lesbian or gay male parents are the “same” as heterosexual parents. As same sex parents have gained rights and recognition, more recent studies have begun to look at what makes same sex families different (Epstein 2004).

In Quebec, where Politics of the Heart was filmed, a well-organized lesbian community has existed in Montreal for the past thirty years and participated in the women’s movement including being involved in the establishment of women’s health care services, pro-choice organizations, and clinics. Throughout that time, lesbian mothers’ organizations remained small support groups, principally made up of mothers who had divorced a man and who lived in a reconstituted family with their children. The issues of that period were custody rights in divorce cases, invisibility, social stigma, isolation, and shame (Demczuk, Chamberland, Caldwele 2004).

In October 1998, the Lesbian Mothers Association of Quebec was founded. In the course of its existence, it has proven to have a very different history compared with the earlier lesbian mothers’ support groups. From the sixty women who responded to a call for the founding meeting, the Lesbian Mothers Association grew to represent nine hundred lesbian and trans-parented families throughout Quebec by 2005. The issues for these women were reproductive rights, access without prejudice to fertility clinics, the ability to negotiate their lives in relationship to known sperm donors or as three-parent families, and recognition and legal rights for both mothers (since only the birth mother was accorded any status in law in relation to the child). Initially, the Lesbian Mothers Association acted as a support group, but very quickly it became a political organization, reflecting a higher level of confidence and sense of entitlement. As Politics of the Heart documents, the Association was central to the fight for same-sex parenting recognition. It has also played an important role in the establishment of a gay men’s parenting network called “Papas and Daddies” in 2005 and a multi-ethnic LGBT group called “Multi-Mundo” (Greenbaum 2005).

Reflecting this greater sense of entitlement, Mary Lamey, who was a member of the Political Action Committee of the Lesbian Mothers Association, states:

Once you decide that you’re going to live as a lesbian, you’ve already thrown off what the world’s expectations are, right! The world already says that you shouldn’t be a lesbian. So once you’ve crossed that frontier, you’ve made a decision. Are you going to not have children because the world says you shouldn’t have children, that this is some sort of social experiment? No, you know who you are, and you know what your motivations are. And . . . the world is not always a kind place [and] you want your kids to be safe in the world; then, the world’s got to change, not your kids (Lamey 2004).

The ways in which relationship recognition, parenting rights, and same sex marriage have unfolded in Canada are multifaceted, with unique histories in different parts of the country. This is particularly the case in Quebec, with its distinct linguistic, cultural, and political identity, and legal traditions. Quebec has a very high level of trade unions and feminist organizations, which is in part linked to its history of national self-determination. Membership in public and private sector unions is one of the highest per capita in North America. The Confèdèration des syndicats nationaux (CSN) / National Trade Union Confederation, a federation of all the Quebec unions, as well as the Fèdèration des femmes du Quèbec / Quebec Women’s Federation, a province wide organization of women, play an important role in Quebec society, and have had a significant impact on the context and outcome of the struggle for LGBT rights (Lagacé, Demczuk, McCutcheon 2004).

The individuals featured in Politics of the Heart were at the forefront of the movement to win same sex parenting rights, relationship recognition, and same sex marriage in Quebec (see Appendix below for notes on the subjects). They represent three inter-connecting aspects of this history as it unfolded from illegality to equality: the grass roots organizing of lesbian mothers including the first couple to launch a lesbian mothers adoption case in Quebec (Greenbaum and Paquette); the first couple to file a successful marriage challenge in Canada (Hendricks and LeBoeuf); and two coalitions that played key roles in the struggle for equal rights and same sex relationship recognition: La table de concertation des lesbiennes et gais du Québec / The roundtable of lesbians and gays of Quebec, a coalition of lesbian and gay organizations in Quebec, and La coalition québécoise pour la reconnaissance des conjoints et conjointes de même sexe / The Quebec coalition for recognition of same sex relationships, a broad based coalition that includes trade unions and women’s organizations throughout Quebec.

The Federation of Women of Quebec is one of the oldest and largest feminist organizations in Quebec, with regional councils located throughout the province. In the 1990s there were approximately eighteen hundred women’s groups and individual members in the organization. In 1995, The Federation of Women of Quebec organized The Bread and Roses March to demand an end to poverty for women. The Bread and Roses March was an extraordinary event, organized throughout the province of Quebec with roughly five hundred thousand women traveling by foot to the National Assembly in Quebec City. The government agreed to meet with them and they succeeded in making some significant gains, notably, the raising of the minimum wage, indexation of benefits for people living on social assistance, and supports for immigrant women (Demczuk, Caldwele 2004).

It was in this context that Irene Demczuk and others formed a committee for recognition of lesbian rights in the Federation of Women. For Demczuk, as an activist in the Federation during this time, there was, as she describes it: “an extraordinary paradox [since] four fifths of the organizing committee of the Bread and Roses March were lesbians but we were not able to speak in a collective voice to say we would also like to add to the list of demands a demand for equality for lesbian women.” So, in September 1995, during the general meeting of the Federation following the Bread and Roses March, Demczuk demanded the support of the president of the Federation, Françoise David, to launch the Committee for the Recognition of Lesbians in the Quebec Federation of Women. This committee worked very intensively between 1995 and 2000 to build support for lesbian rights within the women’s movement in Quebec. This work laid the groundwork for the support from the Federation of Women when they were asked to join La coalition québécoise des conjoints et conjointes de meme sex (the Quebec coalition for the recognition of same sex couples in 1998. The president of the Federation of Women presented a paper supporting relationship recognition for same sex couples and same sex parenting rights and recognition to the Parliamentary Commission hearing in 2002 and appeared before the media to defend the demand for recognition of lesbian and gay parenting rights and relationship recognition (Demczuk, Caldwele 2004).

Beginning in the mid 1980s, there was work being done in the trade union movement to combat discrimination and to integrate lesbian and gay rights into collective agreements as well as to develop support for human rights and equality in society. The submission made by the CSN to the Parliamentary Commission in 2001 demonstrated years of work that had been done by the CSN on the question of recognition of same sex couples. The CSN’s presentation to the Parliamentary Commission hearings supported the recognition of families and parenting rights for same sex couples. As well, significantly, they argued with the Justice Minister that civil unions should not be established for homosexuals, as was originally proposed in the preliminary legislation, as that would create a segregated status; but rather, the CSN argued, civil unions should be open to anyone regardless of their sexual orientation (Lagacé 2004).

On November 8, 2001, the Quebec government released a “White Paper” on preliminary legislation to introduce a limited form of civil union for same sex couples (Le Devoir 1). The proposed legislation provided hospital visitation rights and some benefits for same sex couples, but fell far short of equal rights and recognition of same sex relationships and contained nothing with regard to same sex parenting rights and same sex adoption. La coalition, which had been asking for a meeting with the Justice Minister for months, reacted with outrage at the limited extent of the proposed legislation and demanded and got a meeting with the Minister of Justice, Paul Bégin. At that meeting, Bégin agreed to hold a public Parliamentary Commission, which would accept presentations on the proposed legislation. The LGBT community and La coalition – including their allies in the trade union movement and the Quebec Federation of Women – responded by organizing an extensive public campaign and preparing papers and organizational presentations for the Parliamentary Commission. In particular, members of the Lesbian Mothers Assocation launched a press campaign to raise awareness in Quebec on the need for recogniton and rights for same sex parents. Mona Greenbaum describes their campaign and the impact of the widespread media attention it captured:

People realized that we exist. I don’t think people knew that we existed before that. I mean, we, back in 1998, we didn’t know that we existed! So, you know, all of a sudden it came into the public domain about lesbian parents. So there were a lot of interviews and a lot of debating back and forth whether or not we should have rights as parents. I think Quebec society had evolved enough to that point where the majority of people were very clear that couples, gay and lesbian couples, should be recognized; but when it came to kids, it was very “iffy.” People didn’t know. The group had gone from being just a social and support group, an information group, to being a political group. And those women were very involved and they knew that we were fighting for something very important that was going to affect all of us on a very personal level (Greenbaum 2004).

Irene Demczuk, acting as the coordinator and the spokesperson for La coalition decided that in addition to testimonials from organizations and professionals the National Assembly should also hear from the children of lesbian and gay parents, and so she asked three youths who had been raised by lesbian or gay parents to present their perspectives to the Parliamentary Commission. The testimony of the three youths proved to be a turning point in the hearings. In her testimony to the Commission, Annick Gariépy revealed to the Assembly that her mother had always hid her lesbianism and that even on the day of her testimony her mother did not know she would be testifying before the Commission. She then went on to explain to the Assembly why they should vote to extend parenting rights and recognition to lesbians and gay men:

My mother is a mother who is there for me, who has given the best of herself. She is encouraging, attentive, available, devoted: all the qualities that a mom should have. As I was saying earlier, it has only been four or five years since I started to reconcile myself with my mother’s sexual orientation. I stopped feeling humiliation to have a parent often associated with pedophilia, abnormality – a parent seen as outside the norm. I often asked myself, and this is in my testimonial, how could a feeling as noble and as beautiful as love have inspired in me feelings as devastating as shame? As a child I was mortified by this situation. Continuing to play ostrich and denying them rights normally recognized for heterosexual parents constitutes more of a menace to the family than could ever be the inverse, contrary to what some may think. How could giving all of one’s love and dedicating your life to a child be a menace to society or to the family? Why ask gays and lesbians to renounce a part of their humanity in the name of this difference? (Nicol 2004).

Following the Parliamentary Commission, Justice Minister Paul Bégin rewrote the legislation, establishing civil union for both heterosexual and homosexual couples in Quebec, extending to civilly united couples the same rights as married couples (as marriage is Federal law, Quebec could not change the marriage Act) and modifying fifty-four laws to revise the Civil Code of Quebec to establish new assisted procreation rules and adoption and parenting rights for same sex couples. For the first time in Canada, lesbian mothers would have the right to sign the birth certificate upon the birth of their child and would not have to go through a process of co-parent adoption in order to secure parenting recognition for both parents. Approximately fifty members of La coalition, including the Lesbian Mothers Association with their children, attended the vote (it was the first time that children were allowed into the National Assembly during a vote on legislation) and witnessed as the National Assembly members rose and voted unanimously and without abstentions to support the legislation.

In 2004 and 2005 I toured across Canada to New York and Massachusetts conducting over three hundred hours of interviews with same sex couples, lawyers, and activists in the forefront of these battles. My research included key litigant couples in the same sex marriage cases in Canada as well as couples and marriage officiants who participated in marriage ceremonies as an act of civil disobedience in upstate New York and New York City during May and June of 2004. Couples spoke about their exclusion from marriage as confirmation that their relationships were not viewed as equal and deserving of recognition. Those at the forefront of the struggle in Canada were also very conscious that they already had access to same-sex benefits and pensions under common law. For them, the denial of marriage reinforced a stigma of inequality. Others spoke about the ways in which the lesbian and gay community had substituted as a family, as a network of aunts and uncles, or – as Michael and René talk about in the founding of the AIDS Memorial park in Montreal – as providing a place to mourn the loss of loved ones in a context where their relationships were denied. Some couples were interested in the symbolic or religious aspects of marriage; some spoke of their rights to participate in the sacraments of their church. On the other hand, some couples were not particularly interested in the trappings of marriage, but rather were focused on the question of equality. Michael Hendricks and René LeBoeuf quite consciously deployed the symbolism of marriage in an irreverent, yet, political manner. Michael Hendricks states:

We never had wedding bell blue blues. We never wanted a church wedding or all that stuff that people talk about. For us, it was a human rights question. It was a question of equality and social integration. However, with the years we’ve learned quite a lot about costume. We went on a program with some celebrity where she presented us with a wedding cake and to our utter amazement the audience ate it up. And she told us, “you’re those two guys,” and there was the two plastic guys on the top of the cake in high hats and tuxedos. So we tried to make our issue interesting. It never flew as an intellectual idea but as a costume piece it works very well. So you will see that we always appear in public as the guys on the top of the cake (Hendricks 2004).

There has been much debate within the LGBT movement and in feminist and progressive organizations over the question of lesbians and gay men seeking the same rights and recognition of their relationships and families as heterosexuals, particularly with regard to same sex marriage. Some feminists have expressed feeling torn between their recognition of same sex marriage as a question of equality and their critique of marriage as an institution that is, in and of itself, inequitable (see also Ferguson 2007). Much has been written that has addressed the “normalizing” power of marriage and its perceived detrimental impact on the lesbian and gay movement as a movement that has emphasized sexual liberation. Others express concern that same sex marriage will create a divide between “good queers” and “bad queers” (Warner 1999).

It is important to note some distinctions in the context between Canada and the United States. In 2000, the federal government of Canada passed the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act, which extended to same-sex couples all of the material rights and benefits within common law relationships. Moreover, the Act leveled any distinctions between common law and marriage with regard to tangible benefits, in part, in an effort to preserve marriage as a heterosexual institution (McCarthy, Lahey, Elliott 2004). The recognition of same sex relationships in common law significantly changed the context in which the same sex marriage battle emerged in Canada as compared with the status of marriage as an institution in the United States, where roughly a thousand rights and benefits accrue to marriage at the federal level alone (Bumgardner 2004). In Canada, litigants as well as key lawyers involved in Charter litigation seeking equality for lesbians and gay men perceived the extensive structures of family and common law as indices of citizenship (Lahey, McCarthy 2004). By the time the same sex marriage battle was launched in Canada, gay men and lesbians had already gained access to equal rights and benefits and were recognized in common law in all aspects of their relationships except marriage. In that sense, the battle for same sex marriage in Canada was highly symbolic, and the approach of establishing some form of separate structure for same sex couples while maintaining marriage as a heterosexual institution was more sharply delineated as a “separate but equal” approach that kept in place second class status for same sex couples.

In her book The Cultural Politics of Love and Law, Kathleen Hull talks about the cultural power of law used to frame claims of injustice and to develop strategies of political resistance. Her study, conducted prior to 2003 in the United States and based on interviews with couples regarding their attitudes towards public commitment ceremonies in a context where same sex marriage was illegal, resonated with my own research in some interesting ways. Hull reads commitment ceremonies in the United States as enacting legality through cultural practices; as she states, “culture is made to do the work that law would otherwise (supposedly) do” (Hull 2006: 24). She argues that same sex couples that choose such ceremonies are engaged in political resistance even though her interview subjects do not necessarily define their commitment ceremonies as political acts. While intra-community critics of same sex marriage have voiced fears that legal marriage will benefit well-off same sex couples, Hull finds that lower-income suburban couples were more likely to undertake public commitment ceremonies. In light of her findings, Hull argues that the debate on same sex marriage within the gay and lesbian community does not reflect the views of the lesbian and gay public, but rather, the views of political and intellectual elites in the community (Hull 2006: 98-115).

Statistics on couples who married in Massachusetts during the first year that same sex marriage was available (between May 2004 and May 2005) show that of 5,400 same sex couples married in Massachusetts (a figure that represents nearly a third of all same-sex partner households in the state identified by the census) almost two-thirds of the couples were women. Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts said that what the figures show, “is that gay and lesbian differences aren’t the most important ones in society, but the differences between men and women are.” Research conducted by Lee Badgett, an economist and director of the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies, showed the average household income of lesbians in Massachusetts is twenty percent lower than it is for gay men (New York Times).

If same sex marriage continues to be recognized as legal in Canada while it remains a political impossibility in the United States, it would be possible to assess the effect of these differences over time. According to Canadians for Equal Marriage, there have been roughly twelve thousand same sex marriages in Canada as of November 2006. On December 7, 2006, members of the Parliament of Canada rejected a motion by the Conservative government to re-open debate on same sex marriage by a vote of 123 to 175, forcing Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a consistent opponent of same sex marriage, to state publicly that his government will not be revisiting the question in the near future (Globe and Mail 1). Polls now show a substantial majority, about sixty-four percent, of Canadians support same sex marriage. It would appear that same sex marriage is here to stay in Canada. This opens up the possibility for new areas of enquiry and research.

As lesbian and gay parents have sought recognition and rights for their relationships and families and become more visible the impact is complex and multi-faceted. On the one hand, prejudices and barriers have been exposed, from school board fights over inclusion in the curriculum of children’s books that depict lesbian and gay families, and incidents of bullying, to on- going legislative obstacles. For example, in Edmonton Alberta, a teenage girl was chased down and assaulted by a group of her classmates merely because she has two mothers (The Edmonton Journal). In addition, the homophobic backlash is evident in the actions taken by various state governments in the United States to ban same sex adoption or same sex marriage, including super Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) initiatives that seek to ban not only same sex marriage, but any form of civil union, domestic partnership, or partner registry for same sex couples. China’s recent adoption policy – which bans adoption by same sex parents, or persons with a facial deformity, or who are obese – is an example of a policy response that, no doubt, occurred in part as a reaction to the recognition of same sex marriage by five different nations.

A major controversy that broke out in Surrey, British Columbia, in 1997 illustrates eloquently the culture wars over same sex parented families and the deep-seated fears that same sex parenting engenders. When kindergarten teacher James Chamberlain introduced three books that depicted same sex parents to his class, as part of the curriculum on “family,” the Surrey School Board banned the books. A series of mass meetings at the board and public demonstrations organized by religious fundamentalists ensued. The controversy continued for almost six years while the case wound its way up to the Supreme Court of Canada, and to some extent continued even after the ruling of the court (Chamberlain 2004).

Key arguments presented by counsel for the Surrey Board revolved around questions of sexuality, procreation and “cognitive dissonance,” a term which comes from popular psychology twenty or thirty years ago (Arvay, Weir 2004). In the Surrey School Board case “cognitive dissonance” meant pretty much the same thing as confusion. “If you introduce these books the children will be confused because these images do not conform to what they see at home” (Weir 2004). Lorraine Weir, a literary theorist at the University of British Columbia, acted as an expert witness for James Chamberlain and the B.C. Teachers Federation, which defended the books. She comments on the issues revealed in the case:

The topic of procreation is irrelevant to these books. But it was a pressing concern for parents and for some members of the Surrey School Board as a result of that lifetime of aversive programming that sees heterosexuality in terms of blissful and truly ethereal experiences that are somehow un-sexualized or desexualized, and same sex partnership as somehow in terms of the most literalized and negative understanding of sexual experience. […] Cognitive dissonance means what is beyond their imaginative range, what exceeds their cognitive grasp. It’s a way of saying that same sex relationships are unimaginable and should not be imagined. And on the other hand, what is so familiar at the seat of this aversive response, as part of a deeply negative landscape that’s associated with the opposite of their normative family values, is what must be marked and recognized as negative. So there’s a double message. On the one hand they are saying to the children, “you must not learn this.” And on the other hand they are saying to the children, “you must learn this as negative” (Weir 2004).

A lesbian mother in Surrey at the time remarked on how invisible lesbian and gay families were, that the opponents of the books constantly referred to the “homosexual agenda” as an outside influence undermining “their” families, seemingly with no recognition that there were lesbian and gay parented families in Surrey (Forster 2004).

Changes to the institution of marriage reflect deeper social changes. Today, there are single parent families, blended families, extended families and same sex families, all of which deeply worries those who see “traditional marriage and family” as the bedrock of society. Same sex families challenge traditional gender roles, the gendered division of labour, as well as patriarchal authority within the family. Opposition to same sex parenting and same sex marriage parallels the right’s opposition to feminist goals of reproductive freedom or state supported universal childcare. The conservative right has linked cuts to state supported social security and childcare to the preservation of “family values” and the “traditional role of women as housewives and mothers,” essentially downloading the costs of the caring for children, the sick, and the elderly onto the privatized family. Even though the federal government under the newly elected Conservative Party was unable to roll back same sex marriage in Canada (they tried and failed), it is notable that the first acts of the government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper were to dismantle the Status of Women, scrap the national childcare program that had been agreed to by the former Liberal government, and eliminate the Court Challenges Program that provided economic assistance to Charter litigation by various groups seeking equality including aboriginal, linguistic, and racial minorities and women’s equity cases as well as lesbian, gay, and transgender litigation seeking human rights, equality, and relationship recognition.

From this perspective same sex marriage may be viewed as part of the same social dynamic, a reform of the institution of marriage which renders it more equitable by removing the historical exclusion of same sex couples, a reform which builds on the reforms of marriage brought about by the changing position of women in society, a reform that for the first time allows lesbians and gay men to marry, or alternatively, for the first time, to reject the institution of marriage.

Defenders of same sex marriage have consistently emphasized that legal recognition is a matter of rights and fairness, whereas opponents reject the framing of same sex marriage as a “rights” issue and invoke moral arguments against homosexuality. Miriam Smith points out:

Recent analyses of same sex marriage have moved beyond the “morality politics” frame. For example, Anna Marie Smith (2001) has argued that the politicization of gender, marriage and social policy through the 1990s is part of the same policy agenda. Welfare reform in the U.S. is a highly racialized debate that has been systematically linked to the regulation of the sexuality of single women, as well as black fathers, including the promotion of heterosexual marriage…. This raises the question of whether the issue of same sex marriage can be linked up with other social justice struggles in the U.S., especially, with the enduring struggle for racial equality (…) and policies and structures that recognize and support the multi and various ways in which we form families rather than policies that enforce and reward certain types of families while denying rights and recognition to others (Smith, 2006).

The question of the relationship of the campaign for same sex marriage to broader social movement activism is also explored in the manifesto, Beyond Marriage, 2006. Posing the question another way, I believe that the prospects for winning relationship recognition and the right to marry for lesbians and gay men, depends upon the level of broader social mobilization. Politics of the Heart is a case study, if you will, in the advancement of lesbian and gay parenting rights and relationship recognition through a broad based coalition movement.


Arvay, Joe. Personal interview. Vancouver, 16 July 2004.

Barratt, Amy and Mary Lamey. Personal interview. Montreal, 30 July 2004 and 18 June 2005. Bégin, Paul. Personal interview. Quebec City, 4 Sept. 2004.

Bellafante, Ginia. “Even in Gay Circles, The Women Want the Ring.” New York Times. 8 May 2005. < =3b6f62961494f853&ex=1180238400>.

Beyond Marriage. Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for all our Families and Relationships. < h t t p : / / w w w . b e y o n d m a r r i a g e . o r g / fu l l _ s t a t e m e n t . h t m l > .

Bonoguore, Tenille. “House Votes Not to Reopen Same-Sex Marriage Issue.” Globe and Mail. 8 Dec. 2006: 1

Boyd, Susan B. “The Impact of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on Canadian Family Law.” Canadian Journal of Family Law 17.2 (2000): 293-331.

Bumgardner, Reverend Pat. Video documentation of same sex marriages by Nancy Nicol, interview by Michelle Handelman. New York City, 18 March 2004.

Caldwele, Evangeline. Personal interview. Montreal, 7 May and 29 July 2004.
Canada. House of Commons. An Act to Modernize the Statutes of Canada in Relation to Benefits and

Obligations. Bill 23. 2nd sess. 36th Parliament. 48-49 Elizabeth II, 1999-2000.

Chamberland, Line. Personal interview. Montreal, 9 May 2004.

Cherry-Slack, Montel and Michelle Cherry-Slack. Video documentation of same sex marriages by Nancy Nicol, interview by Michelle Handelman. New York City, 18 March 2004.

Cloutier, Mario. “Québec reconnaîtra l’union civile homosexuelle, Paul Bégin travaille à un avant- projet de loi consacrant les droits des couples de meme sexe.” Le Devoir (Nov. 9, 2001): 1.

Demczuk, Irene. Personal interview. Montreal. 7 May and 1 Aug. 2004.

Elliott, Douglas. Personal interview. Toronto, 2 Sept. 2004.

Epstein, Rachel. “Our Kids in the Hall: Lesbian Families Negotiate the Public School System.” In Mother Outlaws: Theories and Practices of Empowered Mothering. Ed. Andrea O’Reilly. Toronto: Women’s Press, 2004.

Epstein, Rachel. Personal interview. Toronto, 2 Sept. 2004 and 31 Aug. 2004.

Ewick, Patricia and Susan S. Sibley. The Common Place of Law: Stories from Everyday Life. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1998.

Ferguson, Ann. “Gay Marriage: An American and Feminist Dilemma.” Hypatia 22.1 (Winter 2007). <>.

Forster, Kim. Personal interview. Vancouver, 16 July 2004.

Greenbaum, Mona and Nicole Paquette. Personal Interview. Montreal, 2 Aug. 2004 and 18 June 2005.

Hendricks, Michael and René Leboeuf. Personal Interview. Montreal, 8 May and 2 Aug. 2004.

Hull, Kathleen. Same-Sex Marriage: The Cultural Politics of Love and Law. New York: Cambridge UP, 2007.

Lagacé, Francis. Personal Interview. Montreal, 7 May and 29 July 2004.

Lahey, Kathleen. Are We Persons Yet? Law and Sexuality in Canada. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1999.

Lahey, Kathleen. Personal Interview. Toronto, 2 Sept. 2004.

Lambda Legal. May 2004. < family/>.

McCarthy, Martha. Personal Interview. Toronto, 30 Aug. 2004.

Nicol, Nancy, Dir. Politics of the Heart. Film. Toronto: Intervention Video Inc., 2005. Petersen, Cynthia. Personal Interview. Toronto, 25 June 2001 and 30 Aug. 2004.

Québec Commission des droits de la personne et des droîts de la jeunesse. May 1994. “De L’Illégalité à l’égalité, Rapport de la consultation publique sur la violence et la discrimination envers les gais et lesbiennes.”

Quebec National Assembly. Act Instituting Civil Unions and Establishing New Rules of Filiation. Bill C 84. 2nd sess. 36th Legislature, June 2002.

Quebec National Assembly. Testimony by M. Ludovic Maillé-Prévost, Mmes Julie Pétrin and Annick Gariépy. 2nd sess. 36th Legislature. Parliamentary Commission, 6 Feb. 2002.

McCutcheon, Laurent. Personal Interview. Montreal, 6 May and 28 July 2004.

Pinello, Daniel R. America’s Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006.

Robinson, Anne. Personal Interview. Quebec City, 4 Sept. 2004.

Smith, Miriam. Review of K. E. Hull, Same-Sex Marriage: The Cultural Politics of Love and Law. Canadian Journal of Sociology Online. 2 Sep. 2006. <>.

Smith, Miriam. “Social Movements and Judicial Empowerment: Courts, Public Policy and Lesbian and Gay Organizing in Canada.” Politics & Society 33: 2 (June 2005): 327-353.

Simons, Paula. “Rural School Needs to Take Homophobic Bullying Seriously” The Edmonton Journal: 21 Nov. 2006. < 4130-9829-c6df8dc5a565>.

Warner, Michael. The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life. New York: The Free Press, 1999.

Weir, Lorraine. Personal Interview. Vancouver, 16 July 2004.




List of Quebec Organizations:

  • Lesbiennes et gais contre la violence / Lesbians and Gays against Violence
  • La table de concertation des lesbiennes et gais du Québec / The roundtable of lesbians and

gays of Quebec.

  • Fèdèration des femmes du Québec / Quebec Women’s Federation
  • La coalition québécoise pour la reconnaissance des conjoints et conjointes de même sexe /

The Quebec coalition for recognition of same sex relationships

  • L’Association des mères lesbiennes du Québec / Lesbian Mothers Association of Quebec
  • La confèdèration des syndicats nationaux (CSN) / National Trade Union Confederation
  • La commission des droits de la personne du Québec / The Quebec Human Rights


  • Le rèseau des lesbiennes du Quèbec / Quebec Lesbian Network
  • La fondation émergence / houses a LGBT phone line, does anti-homophobia work in the schools, etc.

Politics of the Heart interviewees:

Amy Barratt and Mary Lamey were co-founders of the Lesbian Mothers Association of Quebec and members of its “political action committee.”

  1. Paul Bégin (Parti Québécois) was Justice Minister for the Quebec government between 1994-1997 and 2001-2002 and responsible for drafting Bill C 84, instituting civil unions and establishing new rules of filiation that extended equal rights and recognition to same sex parents.

Evangeline Caldwele was a founding member of the Lesbian caucus of the Fédération des femmes du Québec and a member of La coalition québécoise pour la reconnaissance des conjoints et conjointes de même sexe.

Line Chamberland (Sociology, Cégep Maisonneuve) has done research on the lesbian community in Montreal during the 1950s-1970s. She is the author of: “Remembering Lesbian Bars: Montreal, 1955-1975.” Journal of Homosexuality 25.3 (1993): 231-269.

Irène Demczuk (Sociology, UQAM) was a founding member of La table de concertation des lesbiennes et gais du Québec, the Lesbian caucus of the Fédération des femmes du Québec and the chair and spokesperson for La coalition québécoise pour la reconnaissance des conjoints et conjointes de même sexe. Demczuk is the author of several articles and books including, Recognition of Lesbian Couples: An Inalienable Right. Montreal, Ottawa: Status of Women, 2002.

Mona Greenbaum and Nicole Paquette were the founders of the Lesbian Mothers Association of Quebec. They were the first lesbian couple to launch a co-parent adoption case in Quebec. Mona remains the coordinator of the Lesbian Mothers Association of Quebec to this date.

Michael Hendricks and René LeBoeuf were litigants in the marriage case in Quebec. Prior to that time they were members of ACT-UP and Lesbiennes et gais contre la violence. René is a member of the CSN. Michael was a Founding member of La table de concertation des lesbiennes et gais du Québec and chair of the subcommittee on violence.

Francis Lagacé is a part-time lecturer at UQAM in creative writing and a trade-union activist for lesbian and gay rights. Lagacé is currently the spokesperson for the Coalition québécoise pour la reconnaissance des conjoints et conjointes de même sexe and represented the Confédération des syndicats nationaux for the Parliamentary Commission hearings in February 2002. He is the author of Les anges révèlent leur sexe. Montréal; Les Écrits francs, 2006.

Ludovic Maillé-Prévost, Julie Pétrin, and Annick Gariépy were the three youths who testified before the Parliamentary Commission on their experiences as children of lesbian or gay parents.

Laurent McCutcheon is President of La fondation émergence and of Gai écoute in Montreal and a past chair of La table de concertation des lesbiennes et gais du Québec and a co-founder of La coalition québécoise pour la reconnaissance des conjoints et conjointes de même sexe.

Dr. Anne Robinson (Professor emeritus, Faculty of law, Laval University, Quebec City) is a specialist in lesbian parenting issues and custody cases. She testified before the Quebec Human Rights Commission enquiry into violence and discrimination against gays and lesbians in 1993 and to the Parliamentary Commission in February 2002. She acted to advise Michael Hendricks and René LeBoeuf on their same sex marriage challenge.








Nancy Nicol

Nancy Nicol is a Professor of Visual Arts at York University. Her research interests span video art, documentary, art and activism, human rights and equality, LGBT history and rights, and the history and politics of movements for social change. Over the past decade she has been working on a body of work on LGBT organizing including the following documentaries: One Summer in New Paltz (2008) on the civil disobedience same-sex marriage movement in the USA, The End of Second Class (2006) on the struggle for same sex marriage in Canada, Politics of the Heart / La politique du coeur (2005) on lesbian and gay parenting rights in Quebec, and Stand Together (2002) on the early years of gay liberation in Canada. [email protected]