'Love is love': Alberta cabinet minister makes history with same-sex marriage

Ricardo Miranda is looking for the perfect shoes for his wedding, a ceremony that will make history in Alberta later this month.

Ricardo Miranda will be the province's first gay cabinet minister to be married

Ricardo Miranda and Christopher Brown in front of Calgary's Saddledome. (Fernando Vargas)

Ricardo Miranda is looking for the perfect shoes for his wedding.

It's a wedding that will make history in Alberta.

Later this month, the Calgary-Cross MLA, who is also minister of culture and tourism, will become the first Alberta cabinet minister to be married in a same-sex ceremony.

In another first, Premier Rachel Notley will officiate at the wedding.

Miranda, 42, and his fiance, Christopher Brown, are excited about their love story, which brought together a Nicaraguan refugee and a small town Ontario boy.

Miranda and Brown at the Grey Cup in Edmonton. (Supplied)

From Nicaragua to Alberta

Miranda's family fled war-torn Nicaragua when he was 10 years old. Two years later, the family moved to Calgary, to the riding he now represents in the legislature.

It's a diverse neighbourhood, and Miranda said he and his family were welcomed.

It was harder being a young gay man, he said.

"It was a very isolated sense of existence. You didn't see role models."

Miranda came out when he was 18; he said that wasn't a big deal to his family.

His mother was more concerned about the fact he wouldn't give her any grandchildren.

When he told her he still wanted to have kids, "she came along nicely," he said.

The rest of the family didn't have a problem with his sexuality.

"I guess they realized that I wasn't any different than I was before they knew," he said.

Premier Rachel Notley will conduct the wedding ceremony for Miranda and Brown. (Supplied)

He graduated from high school in Calgary and worked for Canadian Airlines and Air Canada before he was elected as a union representative. That was the springboard he needed to get into politics and join the NDP.

In 2015, he became the first openly gay, Jewish, Hispanic person elected to the Alberta legislature.

A match made in Slave Lake

Three years later, he went to a constituency event in the Lesser Slave Lake riding of his cabinet colleague, Danielle Larivee, the minister of children's services.

Brown works for Larivee and was taking pictures at the event on July 4, 2018.

Larivee had mentioned Brown to Miranda, thinking the two might hit it off.

"She kind of played matchmaker," Miranda said.

After the event, Brown and Miranda went out for coffee.

"I thought he was more interested to talk about politics," said Miranda. "Then it turned out he was more interested in talking about personal stuff."

The relationship blossomed. Miranda realized early on that Brown was a keeper.

Both wanted to propose

Miranda said he was thinking of proposing in October but got a definite "no" vibe from Brown.

It turned out the reason was, Brown wanted to be the one to propose.
Miranda's ring has four diamonds, representing July 4, the day the couple first met. (Nola Keeler/CBC)

"Little did I know ... it turned out he wanted to ask me but he hadn't bought the ring yet ," said Miranda.

After the NDP convention at the end of October, Brown popped the question.

He gave Miranda a gold ring with four small diamonds to signify the day they met.

"He wanted to give me something that meant something to him about me," said Miranda.

It was a whirlwind courtship but Miranda said he was ready for the commitment.

They've invited about 100 people to the wedding.

His 18-year-old nephew will be best man, and his 23-year-old niece will be the flower girl.

Brown's family will travel from Ontario for the ceremony. A second reception will be held in Ontario in the new year.

Going public with the news

The two decided to share their news publicly, though Miranda said he wasn't initially keen on the idea.

"Visibility is very important to the community," he said. "We've seen, unfortunately, even here in the province, a rise in hate crimes. And it takes us back to a time I don't want to go back to."

Miranda said it's important for other LGBTQ people to see him sharing the news about his engagement and wedding.

"You can't forget where you're from, and you have to make strides to advance the rights of everyone," he said.

"We could have ... easily done this without anybody finding out. But I've always been open and forthcoming and honest about my life, and this didn't seem like the time to actually hide."

Miranda said he and Brown are prepared for any negative reaction. He has experienced discrimination before but said having Brown by his side will make all the difference.

"I have someone I can rely on and have the support from," he said. "That's very soothing."

The couple is house shopping in Calgary. (Fernando Vargas)

He's not worried about reaction from his constituents because he has been open about being gay.

"When they get to meet me, they realize I have just as many concerns as they do about the energy sector and the environment, and all these other things that are important," he said. "All these other things just kind of fade into the background and we can connect on the most basic of levels."

Miranda admits he finds the prospect of marriage intimidating.

"We want to make it work and it's going to be hard and we're willing to do the work," he said. "Love is really love, at the end of the day."

About the Author

Nola Keeler

Nola Keeler is an award-winning journalist who has worked with CBC in Whitehorse, Yukon and Edmonton since 2000. She has worked as a host, reporter, news reader and producer for CBC. Send story ideas to nola.keeler@cbc.ca.