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Brent Hawkes

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The Rev. Brent Hawkes, CM, D.Min (born in Bath, New Brunswick) is a Canadian clergyman. Since 1977, he has served as senior pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto for LGBT parishioners, and is one of Canada's leading gay rights activists. On June 29, 2007, Governor General Michaëlle Jean appointed Brent Hawkes as a member of the Order of Canada.

Born into a Baptist family, Hawkes has Bachelor of Science (1972) and Bachelor of Education (1973) degrees from Mount Allison University, and Master of Divinity (1986) and Doctor of Ministry (2001) degrees from Trinity College, an Anglican institution at the University of Toronto. His church serves as a faith community for about 575 congregants at regular Sunday worship. Hawkes also presides over the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto Christmas Eve Service, which is held at Roy Thomson Hall and regularly draws an audience of around 4,000 people, making it the largest Christmas Eve service in Canada.

He has served on the advisory committee of PrideVision TV, and is on the board of directors for "EGALE". In addition to his advocacy work on GLBT issues, he has supported anti-racist initiatives, drawn attention to poverty and poor housing, and advocated the ordination of female priests. He received the City of Toronto Award of Merit in 1994, and a Global Citizen Award from the United Nations Toronto Association in 1995. He has also received the Distinguished Service Award from the Metropolitan Community Church represented by the denomination's founder, Rev. Troy Perry. In addition to his pastoral work, Hawkes is a member of the UFMCC Strategic Growth Initiative.

Hawkes briefly entered political life in the mid-1990s. In the Ontario provincial election of 1995, Hawkes ran as a candidate of the social-democratic New Democratic Party of Ontario in the riding of St. George—St. David, which has a large GLBT community. He finished a strong third with 9,672 votes, less than one thousand votes behind the winner, Progressive Conservative Al Leach. Hawkes's strong showing played a major role in defeating incumbent Liberal Tim Murphy.

On January 14, 2001, 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, although Governor-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 Ontario Court of Appeal affirmed this, and striking down all barriers against same-sex marriage in the province, with immediate effect.

Hawkes lives in Toronto with John Sproule, his partner of more than twenty years. They married on March 7, 2006.



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