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Book Reviews

Just Married: Gay Marriage and the Expansion of Human Rights

by Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell

It would seem that a new definition of “family” is needed in the 21st century, and the contribution of the gay community here would be welcome. The topic of legal gay marriage raises some interesting questions. Why, for example, do gay couples even want the constraints and formalities of legal marriage, especially given the soaring divorce rate in the straight world? Isn’t the adoption of traditional conventions, as many gay activists aver, just a capitulation to the straight world? And why is the legalization of same-sex matrimony perceived so often as a threat to the viability of heterosexual marriage?

Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, who were wed in January 2001, have co-written about their experience as Canada’s first married same-sex couple in Just Married. Unfortunately, they are not very interested in any of the above questions. Just Married concentrates on Bourassa and Varnell’s initial decision to become the country’s first gay married couple (they realized they would be at the centre of a heated, emotional controversy), their many media appearances, their pre-wedding “jitters,” and their fears that with all the “crazies” around someone would get hurt (the presiding reverend actually wore a bulletproof vest for the ceremony).

The authors come across as likeable, earnest, intelligent, and kind. But the book, written in serviceable prose, wavers between the banal and the didactic. There are long passages tracking the comments made in Parliament, and even longer ones on the history of the Catholic Church’s opposition to homosexuality. Some personal stuff is included, but in the end Kevin and Joe are not so different from millions of other engaged and married couples, and surely this is the central and important point of the book. Unfortunately, it is also the reason Just Married fails – such sentiments are not very interesting to read.