Rev. Brent Hawkes, Pride parade grand marshal, on Metro Morning

Longtime gay rights advocate Rev. Brent Hawkes tells Metro Morning things have come a long way since he presided over Canada's first legal same-sex marriage back in 2001.

'Most of the opposition to gay rights around the world is religion-based'

Pastor who conducted Canada's first legal same-sex wedding, will be the Pride parade's grand marshal. 6:51

For years Rev. Brent Hawkes has been at the forefront of gay rights in Canada. When the pastor performed Canada's first legal same-sex marriage at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto back in 2001, he had to have a police escort and wear a bullet-proof vest.

This year Hawkes will serve as grand marshal of Sunday's Pride Parade.

Hawkes — who is also famous for officiating at Jack Layton's funeral and who received the Order of Canada in 2007 — sat down for an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning with Gill Deacon.

Here's a selection of his comments. We will add an audio file of the complete interview to this story shortly.

Hawkes also appeared on CBC News Network on Friday morning. You can watch that interview by clicking on the image at the top of this story.

On his devotion to gay rights  "I'm a stubborn Maritimer. That's the short answer. In the Maritimes, most people protect their families and friends. I've always had a passion for the underdog and to stand up against people who are discriminated against or who are oppressed."

On how the fight for gay rights meshes with Christianity  "The spirituality is matched with social justice. Jesus said when you do it to the least of these, you do it to me. In the early days, being gay, you weren't welcomed in the Christian community … and being Christian, you weren't welcomed in the gay community. The gay community was very angry at the church and I understand why, because of the oppression and discrimination that the church has shown. Most of the opposition to gay rights around the world is religion-based.  A religious attack definitely requires a religious response. Just because the church has attacked you … doesn't mean you should give up on God or spirituality."

On the ongoing and global fight for gay rights "The extreme religious right in Canada has blood on their hands for what they're doing in Jamaica and Uganda. Canada is exporting hate to those countries … we have a lot of work to do."

On his favourite same-sex wedding He recalls marrying a young lesbian couple. One of the two women arrived at the church teary-eyed. She said her mum and Dad wouldn't come because they are fundamentalist Christians and they wouldn't come to the ceremony and how sad that was for her," said Hawkes.

"Just before the ceremony, this elderly man and woman came in from the back and sat in the back pew and had their arms folded. I could tell they were not exactly happy to be here. I said 'Is that your mom and dad? and she started crying. It was. After the ceremony, their mom and dad said to her 'We love you very much and you're our daughter and we couldn't stay away.

"Every wedding is special. Every wedding is an amazing celebration of love."