On July 17, 2014 Stephen and Rob Dunbar-Edge will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. This event, a milestone for any couple, is especially significant for them: it commemorates a battle, hard won.
Stephen and Rob were the first gay couple to legally marry in the Yukon. And before they tied the knot, they had to win in court.
Their romance began as many do in the 21st century — online.
In January 2002, the two found each other on a dating website. Even though they were wary of the physical distance between them — Rob was living in Calgary at the time — they chatted and visited back and forth. Finally, a Mediterranean cruise convinced them it was time to choose one place to call home.
“We knew we wanted to be together,” says Stephen.
Stephen had two daughters in Whitehorse, so they decided to make their lives here.
“It was such a bonus getting two young children, and a dog,” muses Rob. “I never thought that would be something that I would have.”
On Valentine’s Day, 2003, Rob proposed and the two set a wedding date. The only problem was, gay marriage was not legal yet in the Yukon, or at the federal level.
“B.C. and Ontario had already done it,” says Stephen. “We were the third and last court case in Canada — the nail in the coffin on the issue.”
The court ruled in their favour three days before the wedding; it was hard on them.
“It was stressful suing the government,” Stephen notes. “When your wedding list goes beyond arranging for the florist and photographer, it adds another layer.”
It was also stressful paying $50,000 in legal fees on top of the cost of a wedding for 250 people. Luckily they were awarded court costs as well.
Over the past 10 years, they have seen not only their relationship grow stronger, but their community as well.
“I grew up here,” says Stephen. “The change in Whitehorse since then has been 180 degrees.”
Rob has found it to be a welcoming place where he has felt incredibly supported by Stephen’s family and their friends.
“It’s a wonderful community to live in,” he says. “It became home very quickly.”
That local support and his loving relationship with Stephen were especially important when the vow “in sickness and in health” was tested early on.
“Just before our court announcement, we found out Rob had some pretty severe medical issues,” says Stephen. “It’s now behind us completely, but he lost his spleen and had a little brain tumour. But when you go into a marriage and you commit to a life together, that includes everything — you’re in it to win it.”
“And I’d say we’re winning it,” Rob adds.
Now they are building what they dub their “10th anniversary house”, travelling with their teenage daughters — and maybe raising a toast to the Yukoners who rallied to give them, in Stephen’s words, “both a wedding and a marriage.”