Many visitors to Toronto's World Pride will head to Casa Loma on Thursday for what's being billed a mass wedding — as about 110 lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer couples getting legally married at once.
Among the couples are two men who are already married. Henry Pabian and Jason Rawls came to Toronto from Canton, Ohio, to World Pride to renew their vows. But it isn't their first time at Toronto's LGBTQ celebration.
The couple came to Pride in 2003, shortly after Canadian courts started opening up marriage to same-sex couples.
Same-sex marriage was not recognized in Ohio — and still isn't — so the two got married in Toronto.
"When we were in Toronto City Hall getting married that day, it was such a range of emotion," Pabian said. "I mean, people cry at weddings anyhow. But this was a validation: I'm a real person, I have a real life, and I have a real marriage."
After they were married, the couple went down to watch the Pride parade. They carried a sign from the wedding that read: "THANK YOU CANADA! JUST MARRIED!"
"We were walking along on Church Street, enjoying the day. We had our sign and were holding hands. And this lady walked up and said, 'Did you just get married?' "
They were told they were what was believed to be the first out-of-province same-sex marriage after Ontario's laws were changed. So the woman invited them to walk in the parade.
It turned out they would be marching at the front of the Pride parade, directly behind the Grand Marshall.
Rawls, at the time, had not yet told all of his family or friends that he was gay. But when they were photographed hundreds of times — and a photo ended up on the AOL homepage — the news was out.
"My brother called — he's from Louisiana and is very much a Southern gentleman — and said, 'The next time you make history, could you please call and let me know first?' "
The couple said they are back in Canada to renew their vows for three reasons: They are still in love, Casa Loma is a beautiful place and they have a sense of appreciation for what Canada enabled them to do.
"Thank you to your country for allowing it in the first place!" Pabian said.