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More than a million people attended Toronto's Pride parade on Sun., July 4. (Adrien Veczan/The Canadian Press)
More than a million people attended Toronto's Pride parade on Sun., July 4. (Adrien Veczan/The Canadian Press)

Expat Canadians on same-sex marriage in the U.S.: ‘I am hopeful for real change’ Add to ...

Colleen Pendergast from Edmonton is now living in Nantucket, Mass.

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The area I live in is pretty diverse – the state’s capital is here, there are universities around and a very large rural component. The voting population typically elects members of the GOP. I don’t think it would be unfair to say this part of the state is mainly conservative with a significant middle-of-the-road component.

That being said, the general philosophy tends to be – “I’m not going to get into your business, so don’t get into mine.” I think that is a large reason why same-sex marriage hasn’t been an important issue politically. However, the fact is that Pennsylvania bans same-sex marriage and has no state laws mandating the protection of the LGBT community.

My personal experience has been that people generally shrug their shoulders and say something like, “It doesn’t affect me so I don’t care.”

Brian Monkman from Oakville, Ont., is now living in Mechanicsburg, Penn.

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Yes, clearly attitudes have changed.  For those who are frustrated by how long it can take for truly significant change to happen in a democracy, it has been something to watch this debate shift in the United States.  During the elections in 2004, there was a motivated and organized effort to support state-level initiatives that enhanced or clarified the restrictions of legal marriage exclusively for heterosexuals.  George Bush even talked about a constitutional amendment to permanently enshrine the basic tenants of DOMA.  Fast forward barely eight years and the people making those arguments are way back on their heels while supporters of expanding legal marriage to include same-sex unions clearly have greater confidence and a feeling that they are about to make history.

My views on this issue are informed by my time in Ottawa in the late-1990s when this debate was beginning in earnest in Canada.  I was working on Parliament Hill at the time and renting a room from two gay fraternity brothers.  Parliament established the Law Commission of Canada to consider government's role in regulating people's most intimate relationships.  The Law Commission's report was titled Beyond Conjugality (eventually completed in 2001).  I agreed with most of the conclusions of the report.  However, the report continued to support keeping civil "marriage" on the books, in large part, because legal marriages have become so integrated into the legal framework of so much of civil society.

We should maintain civil unions (and broadly define them among consensual adults with demonstrable ties to each other) and keep marriage in the personal/spiritual realm where the eternal union of souls is defined, first and foremost, by the love and faith that true marriage entails.

Ashley O'Kurley from Alberta is now living in Miami

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I live in San Francisco, so if I were to just look inside our little liberal bubble, I'd say the change has been hard to see.  Support for same-sex marriage has long been widespread and pretty overt.

What I have noticed is a steady change in how same-sex marriages are portrayed in the mainstream media.  We're seeing more openly gay celebrities talking about their marriages (e.g., Ellen Degeneres and Portia deRossi) and more shows that feature healthy same-sex marriages (Modern Family is a great example).  I think that's helped many Americans feel comfortable that gay people are very much like the rest of us, rather than a special group of people with very distinct lifestyles.

Mainstream political support has helped immensely too.  When the President and Vice-President say that they support same-sex marriage, I think that really helps tip the scales.

Overall, I think it's hard to point to a single incident that created the dramatic shift in public perception.  It's been a slow and long tide change that seems to have finally reached a tipping point.  About time.

Sri Artham from Toronto is now living in San Francisco

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