The Love That Proudly Speaks Its Name

Lloyd Thornhill and his partner Bill Peacock were married last year in Canada and were involved in the court case for equal marriage in Canada. Below is a presentation they made to the government’s Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights back on April 1, 2003 before they won the right to marry.

Vancouver, B.C., April 1, 2003
Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Human Rights

Opening comments by the Chair – Hon. Andy Scott:

The way the day will work is that we will have a panel of three witnesses, individuals, or organizations each hour. Each individual–which could be two people–or organization is allowed seven minutes to make a presentation. There will be questions put by the committee. We traditionally go in rounds of seven, seven, seven, three, and three minutes. We usually have two hours, but today we only have an hour because we want to see as many people as we can. So I will advise the members who have a seven-minute round when they have reached five minutes, to offer them the opportunity to give extra time to other members of the committee.

So with that, we have today appearing as individuals, Lloyd Thornhill and Bob Peacock. We have from the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, of Vancouver, Rob Hughes; and from REAL Women of British Columbia, Laurie Geschke and Sharon Frewing.

In the interests of time, we are going to proceed directly to testimony. Again, I remind witnesses that we are talking about seven minutes and that I will be pretty tight about it, because we have to get all of this panel’s work done in one hour.

So with that, to Messrs. Thornhill and Peacock for seven minutes.

Mr. Lloyd Thornhill (As Individual): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to be here this morning.

First of all, on a very little thing, I will waste some of my time saying that I take a little offence to the term “individuals”. We did come as a couple, so I would have preferred that even if we had a forward slash between our names, I would have felt a little closer to the other individual with me.

The Chair: My apologies. I didn’t mean to denigrate your relationship as much as to say that these are just terms that are used–

Mr. Lloyd Thornhill: I realize that. It’s a little thing, as I say.

I’ll start by reading my statement. I have two pieces of correspondence. One was written by me, a statement, and the other was an e-mail I received from a very close Christian lady friend of ours whose husband, who was also a Christian gay man, died of AIDS.

I’d just like to start by saying that in just a few short months Bob and I will celebrate 35 years of a lifelong covenant. When we first met in 1968, Pierre Trudeau a short time earlier had stated that government has no business in the bedrooms of the nation. At that time we never dreamed we would be appearing before this committee some 35 years later, asking government to stay out of our bedroom. But with the greatest of respect, that is what we are asking.

We have followed the hearings since the day they began, and I must say that reading the evidence of some witnesses and comments made by some committee members, I find it appears that the mandate of this committee is not to garner public input but to decide indeed if our relationships are worthy enough to qualify for marriage. To us it is more like a trial, and we are called to justify our very existence.

We have read evidence and comments that to allow us to marry would open the door to gay men having sex with animals and marrying the family dog or our sisters. This was read into evidence by a pastor of a Christian church. One witness suggested that in some countries it’s not unusual for homosexuals to have unmentioned body parts removed. She was also unhappy that gay and lesbian people receive certain benefits from government. But as she clearly stated, it’s not too late to correct that mistake. When asked by Svend Robinson what Jesus had said about homosexuality, one lady turned to a nun for assistance and then replied, there were no homosexuals during that time.

Some of these people appear quite normal, that is, until they open their mouths and the whole room is contaminated with their ignorance, hate, and bigotry.

We have read minutes where committee members have clearly stated their views on this issue: let’s keep marriage between one man and one woman; it works very well that way. Yes, it works very well for heterosexual couples, but marriage at the moment does not work well for us. That’s because we presently can’t marry and have our relationships recognized by government.

During our many years together we have faced the same problems as other married couples. There have been births in our families but also deaths. Between the both of us we have lost two fathers, one mother, two brothers, and one son. Bob sang at my father’s memorial and I delivered the eulogy at his father’s memorial. We are both fathers and grandfathers.

We married knowing full well that we were gay, but in the sixties it seemed easier to do what all our friends were doing; that was to marry a young woman. But we didn’t understand the heartache that decision would cause.

The first day I met Bob I fell madly in love with him. I want to assure this committee that I feel no different about him today. So whatever government decides in respect to same-sex marriage, our love will remain the same. Also, our determination will not falter. We will continue our fight for justice and continue to run the race until we reach the prize.

Since we gave our lives to the Lord in 1988, we have met so many broken people in our community. They weren’t broken because of their sexuality but because they were Christian and a pastor or church elder had falsely told them that they were an abomination in the eyes of God. They were then recruited into a form of change ministry, otherwise known as ex-gays. I must tell you that I have yet to meet anyone who was once gay but is now heterosexual. However, I have met many who have pretended to be healed or changed, only to find out a short time later that they had fallen from grace. These ministries have taken a toll on gay and lesbian youth. Many have committed suicide, and many others have either poured acid on their genitalia or caused severe damage with a knife or razor. Yet these groups still flourish in society.

A very dear friend of ours was the director of such a group for 10 years. He used to appear on TV and state that any homosexual could change if they really wanted to. Anyone who didn’t was just weak. Well, Frank was one who fell from grace and confessed to a church elder. The elder told the pastor and a week later Frank was forced to stand before the congregation and confess his sin. His wife and two daughters sat in the church and wept. That mistake cost him his ministry and his family.

He recounted the story to us of how he believed that God would kill him, so he went on a sex binge, where he had sex with 27 partners over one weekend. Frank developed AIDS and died a few years later.

Before he died, Hana Gartner interviewed him on national TV. She asked him one question I will always remember. She said, “Frank, is there anything you truly regret?” Frank was only a few weeks from death at that time. He responded weakly that yes, he only wished he hadn’t told all those young people they could change their sexuality.

A few weeks later Bob sang at Frank’s funeral. He was very respected and the church was jammed with people, many from his old church. He worked with mentally challenged people, and there were about six of his clients at the memorial. As I sat in the front pew, I watched the line of people walking past his picture. Near the end of the line these dear people appeared. As they walked by, they reached out to touch his picture. The tears were streaming down their faces, and as I watched, I thought, these poor people didn’t even know Frank was gay. If they had, it would not have mattered. He was someone they loved and cared for. Now Frank is gone. I remember thinking, if everyone in the church showed the same kind of love as these dear people, what a wonderful world it would be.

We have come here today so you, the members of this committee, can see us and listen to a small part of our story. Since the hearing started, you have heard similar stories and you will hear many more. We are part of the fabric of this great country called Canada. We don’t come to you with hat in hand begging for scraps. We come to ask–no, demand–that the government do what is right, what it is elected to do. That is, do what is right, not what is popular.

If equal rights were granted based on polls or popularity, there would be no equal rights. We are calling on government to show leadership on this important issue. Don’t wait for the courts to direct you. Grant us our right to marry now.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Thornhill.

Copyright 2003 Government of Canada