Sometimes debates about marriage equality position the debate as though marriage equality opposed religious freedom. In Canada, however, some churches exercised their religious freedom in order to help usher in equal marriage. The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto (MCC Toronto) was one of the first to marry same-sex couples in Ontario. As Wikipedia reports:
On January 14, 2001, [Reverend Brent] Hawkes gained national attention by performing a wedding ceremony for two same-sex couples at the Metropolitan Community Church. Although city clerks would not issue marriage licenses for same-sex marriages at this time, Hawkes employed the alternative provided in Ontario law for regular church attendees to publish official banns for three consecutive weeks, and thereby conducted a legal marriage without requiring prior government permission. In the spirit of the banns as a public opportunity for interested parties to raise legal objections, the church also issued a press release in late 2000 announcing its intentions. The government of Jean Chrétien did not endorse the marriages, althoughGovernor-General Adrienne Clarkson sent a personal letter of support. The city clerk refused to register the record of marriage, leading to a court battle. On July 12, 2002, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that the marriages performed by Hawkes in January 2001 were legal, but stayed its decision pending a possible appeal, and on June 10, 2003, the Court of Appeal for Ontario affirmed this, and striking down all barriers againstsame-sex marriage in the province, with immediate effect. (From Wikipedia, most links broken by Bakka)
So, religious freedom and marriage equality are not always at odds with one another. Indeed, religious freedom sometimes works in ways that support marriage equality even when the government has not yet moved to support it.
The MCC Toronto also has (a somewhat more humble) description of their involvement in Ontario’s first same-sex marriage at this link (a pdf). The MCC Toronto also has an FAQ about same-sex marriage in Canada that includes a description of their involvement at this link (a pdf). Here is an excerpt:
Is it true that the two marriages at MCCT were the first legal same sex marriages in the world? Wasn’t the Netherlands first?
The marriages of Elaine and Anne Vautour and of Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell are the first legal same sex marriages in the world. They took place on January 14, 2001. We knew that they were legal then, and the Court has now confirmed that we were right. The Netherlands can boast the first Government to legally recognize same sex marriage. However, their first weddings did not take place until April, 2001. (From the MCC Toronto FAQ)