Wednesday, July 13, 2005

R Vacations comes to Halifax Nova Scotia

Rosie O'Donnell's Canadian Gay Marriage Express
by Derwin Parsons Atlantic Canada Bureau Chief

Posted: July 12, 2005 11:00 am ET

(Halifax, Nova Scotia) The cruise ship Norwegian Dawn sailed into Halifax harbor early this morning - on board 2,200 gays, lesbians and their families - to take part in what is being described as a gay wedding blitz.

Ten couples began walking down the gangplank to the wedding march shortly after 7:30 ET. On Pier 21, one by one, each of the couples was married.

Leading the guests were Rosie O'Donnell and her wife Kelli. The O'Donnells and their partner Gregg Kaminsky, own R Family Vacations which organized the cruise. Rosie and Kelli O'Donnell were married last year in San Francisco. (story) Their marriage and those of thousands of other same-sex couples were later invalidated by the California Supreme Court. The issue of gay marriage is currently being waged in the courts and the California legislature.

Also on board were celebrities Cyndi Lauper, Sharon Gless, Esera Tuaolo, and Lynn Warren and Alex Ali from The Amazing Race.

Warren and Ali were married earlier this year in Ottawa - part of a promotion for a local radio station. (story)

Nova Scotia is one of 8 provinces and one arctic territory where same-sex marriage is legal. A ninth province, Prince Edward Island, has indicated it is preparing for gay marriage - leaving only the Prairie province of Alberta and two territories where same-sex couples cannot wed.

The ship was met at the dock by representatives of the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project. The group helped organize the weddings - getting a officiate, arranging the paperwork, and ordering the flowers and photographer.

"We heard that the trip was coming, and one of our members said we should offer to facilitate some marriages while they're here," said Rainbow Action Bob Fougere.

Fougere and a dozen helpers set up a wedding chapel inside Pier 21.

The marriages will not be recognized in the couples' home states but the newlyweds hope that will someday change.

Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly will host a private reception for the O'Donnell's and their guests.

Kelly is hoping today's weddings are the beginning of a new tourism surge for the city.

Halifax, one of Canada's oldest cities, is already a major tourist destination but the gay wedding business could further enrich the community.

"A lot of our families wanted to come Canada because it is a place where their relationships are legally recognized and honored unlike the United States,'' Rosie O'Donnell said.

"In a culture where the president is nationally shaming homosexuals on a weekly basis from the White House, I mean it's kind of unbelievable.''

The Canadian Tourism Commission is spending $250,000 this year to entice gays and lesbians from New York, California and south Florida to Canada.

Nova Scotia Tourism Minister Rodney MacDonald says the province is already beginning to see an increase in LGBT tourism as a result of legalized gay marriage.

"We've gotten many, many phone calls from people who've wanted to get married here in Nova Scotia," Fougere told the Halifax Herald newspaper, adding that some same-sex couples are even considering moving to the area.

"We've been getting many calls from people - more than we'd expected - who are saying (they) can no longer live in the U.S. given the current milieu and that they're moving to Nova Scotia."

The next stop for the gay cruise is Provincetown, Mass.

© 2005


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