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The Globe and Mail

When they met, gay marriage wasn’t legal. Twenty years later, they finally wed

Shirley Walker, left, and Carrol-Anne Sceviour.

The Globe and Mail

WHO: Carrol Anne Sceviour, 63, human rights director, women and LGBTQ at Ontario Federation of Labour. Shirley Walker, 67, activist, retired.

RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Married since 2015


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How they met …

CARROL ANNE: In 1996, I attended the Coalition of Labour Union Women's conference in Seattle. I remember the first day, sitting there and looking across the hall and I saw this absolutely fabulous looking woman. My friend who I was with could tell that I was interested. It's funny because up until then, I had mostly dated tall blonds.

SHIRLEY: Over the next few days we got to know each other, sharing our interests and the fact that even though we grew up thousands of miles away from each other – Carrol Anne in Newfoundland and me in North Carolina – we had very similar upbringings.

CARROL ANNE: On the Sunday before I left, she kissed me and my knees just about gave out.

SHIRLEY: I can't say it slammed me quite as quickly, but I thought she was a lovely sister and a cool lady. We began to call and write and visit over the next months.

How they came together …

SHIRLEY: The first time marriage came up was about two years in. Carrol Anne gave me what she called a betrothal ring and said that she hoped we would be able to build a life together. After that, we started to talk more seriously about the future.

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CARROL ANNE: It was more logical for Shirley to come to Canada because of the immigration laws, still the process took a long time. I'm pretty sure that at one point every immigration officer in Buffalo had a picture of Shirley cross their desk. After six ,years we finally got approval. I still remember packing up my van in Seattle and being so nervous. We had done everything right, but you never know, and with us there is the chance we would encounter racism, sexism, homophobia. We assume we would be hours at the border and then it only took a few minutes. I was like that IKEA commercial: "Start the car!" We drove for three or four miles before we stopped and got out and hugged and did a happy dance.

Why they made it official …

CARROL ANNE: We decided we wouldn't get married until it was legal in Washington, so that took almost a decade.

SHIRLEY: Marriage was not something I saw for myself, but it ended up being a really wonderful day for so many reasons. Our officiant was a friend who I have walked the picket lines with over the years, my kids were very involved and my grandson was the ring bearer. I think that was the best part: When I told him his grandmas were getting married, he said, "Okay, but I have soccer in the morning that day, so it has to be in the afternoon." To think that he will grow up seeing our marriage as so totally normal – that just felt so beautiful and significant.

CARROL ANNE: We just celebrated our 21st anniversary. Our marriage was 2015, but I go with the highest seniority date.

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