Monday, May 22, 2006

Canada new Land of the FREE!!!! PS... Up Yours FUNDIES I hope this makes your heads spin

METEGHAN — On a Friday night in Yarmouth this June, Const. Jason Tree and Const. David Connors will don their scarlet dress uniforms, stand before family, friends and co-workers and wed in the first same-sex marriage in the RCMP’s storied history.

In an interview in their Meteghan home Wednesday afternoon, the men said they’ve had great support from the national police force, the community and their families.

"I’ve never had a single problem," said Const. Tree, 27, a native of Fredericton, who has worked in southwestern Nova Scotia for six years and is posted in Meteghan.

The pair, who’ve dated since meeting at the University of New Brunswick more than eight years ago, will be married by a justice of the peace at the Rodd Grand Hotel on June 30. Each will write his own vows, and each will have a best man. They expect plenty of fellow officers to attend and have yet to decide if they’ll have their colleagues form an honour guard for them. They plan to honeymoon in France and England.

Provincial RCMP spokesman Sgt. Frank Skidmore said the force was happy to hear about the union, adding that they’re proud RCMP officers reflect all aspects of the community.

"This is a first for us," Sgt. Skidmore said Wednesday. "Certainly, the RCMP welcomes a workforce that is representative of Canadian society, and that is the case here."

Const. Connors, 28, who grew up in Nackawick, near Fredericton, and Const. Tree had met before university because their high school clubs met each other occasionally. However, once they got to university, they discovered their mutual attraction.

"He kind of stood out from the rest," Const. Connors said.

After three years at UNB, Const. Tree left his partner for RCMP training in Regina and was posted to Yarmouth.

Const. Connors earned a computer engineering degree and took a job in Halifax. However, the industry took a downturn and he was laid off, so he moved to Yarmouth. After a year there, he took RCMP training and at the graduation ceremony had Const. Tree present him with his badge as his partner in front of the entire class.

He was posted to the Yarmouth town detachment.

"I love it more than any job I’ve ever done," he said.

Const. Tree said being a Mountie was always his goal.

The two moved in together several years ago and registered as domestic partners around the same time, which gives them the same basic legal rights as married couples.

But Const. Tree wanted to make the strongest possible commitment and popped the question while the pair were driving home from Halifax in January.

The pair had talked about it before, and Const. Connors said yes and kept on driving.

It was "no big romantic thing," Const. Tree said.

"It seemed like a good time (to ask)," he said, noting that laws had recently changed, the pair were living in the same area and had great support.

Asked if the publicity about their marriage will bring derision on them, Const. Tree said Mounties have thick skin.

"That’s nothing new. People insult you all the time.

"Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and I don’t have a problem if people have that opinion as long as they keep it within the proper realm."

He said their decision to marry is entirely for themselves, but they do hope it helps change public perceptions about homosexuality.

"I think it really just shows that we’re representative of the community we live in."

Const. Connors said people in Yarmouth know he’s gay but haven’t tried to use it against him in any way, not that it would get them anywhere.

Although they have a lot of support from fellow officers, they aren’t immune to teasing and have heard joking remarks about being Brokeback Mounties.

"I’ve heard that, and it’s funny," Const. Connors said.

Both men have the support of their families, but Const. Connors admits to some challenges.

"My mother is the one who’s most concerned about it because she worries about her parents and what they’re going to think."

Const. Tree said his mother had trouble when he told her at age 19 he was homosexual but is now very supportive.

When asked how he thought other officers and members of the community might respond, Sgt. Skidmore said he doesn’t foresee any problems.

"It hasn’t been an issue. We’ve had gay officers for some time."

He said there shouldn’t be any problems when it comes to the officers working together. The RCMP’s policy regarding married couples, regardless of gender, is that one spouse cannot hold a position of power over the other in the same detachment.

"They can be nearby but not in the same exact environment," Sgt. Skidmore said.

Herm Wills, president of the Nova Scotia branch of the Campaign Life Coalition, isn’t eager to celebrate the force’s latest first.

Although he’s "not opposed to them doing what they want to do," he said the traditional definition of marriage should be respected.

There were differing opinions on the streets of Meteghan on Wednesday.

Two women who did not give their names said they oppose same-sex marriage.

A regular churchgoer, Gerald Deveau, 59, said the men can do as they please.

"It’s their business. What you do in your home is up to you."

Dwayne Beck, 23, also isn’t bothered and is comfortable with gay, married cops.

"It’s just their choice as men," he said.

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