By Christine Michell.
It started off as an idea for a cool "dramatic" youth group social justice project: Making a giant pride rainbow banner in support of same sex marriage in Canada—and maybe getting a world record in the process. Soon there were four of us in the planning group—Erin, Sanford, Cora, and myself, Chris, and we spent the first year planning, tossing ideas around, and advertising, as well as collecting some fabric and making some half-hearted attempts at cutting and sewing.
In the summer of 2004, nearly a year after the idea was first conceived, we made our very first piece—about 6 feet long, in the 6 colours of the pride flag. Our group was finally in place (Em joined us, so we now had a core group of five) and we knew what we wanted: To prove that there was real support for equal marriage everywhere in Canada, even in relatively conservative Alberta. Once we had that first piece in place and the details of how to make the banner, we started holding sewing bees to actually create sections of the banner throughout the school year. My mum (who became our biggest supporter and helper) taught us quilting tricks that made the banner look better and made it more efficient to put together. We even made a set of instructions so that other youth groups could make sections of the banner—and some did!
Throughout the fall and winter, we took a section of the banner to several protests and rallies in support of equal marriage. In February 2005, when we had 196 feet completed, we set ourselves an ambitious but achievable goal — 500 feet by April. We planned a party for April 9, to celebrate reaching this goal. We had a flurry of sewing bees (including several over spring break), but finally, just days before the party, my mum sewed all the individual pieces together into four long sections that could be connected by Velcro and we had met our goal! The party was great, an excellent way to relax and celebrate our success. There were speakers and live music and the walls of the hall were covered in the banner!
The organizers of the Annual Conference and Meeting of the Canadian Unitarian Council (ACM) asked us to bring the banner to the ACM in mid-May—to which I naturally replied "Sure, how long of a piece should we bring?" and they said "All of it!" Once I was sure they recognized that it was now 500 ft long, we agreed to ship the pieces from Calgary to Hamilton, Ontario, by bus in two large plastic bins.
It took 70 youth, junior youth, and adults to carry the banner into the ingathering ceremony, and we had to wind it back and forth quite a bit around all the participants in order to fit. Everyone was on their feet and there were few dry eyes in the room. It was the first time the whole banner had been put together and seen all and once, and it was an amazing experience. At the closing ceremony someone made a motion to take up a spontaneous collection in order to send the five of us to Ottawa to demonstrate on Parliament Hill in support of Bill C-38 (the Equal Marriage bill), and $2,400 was collected from the 600 conference participants—enough to buy our five plane tickets.
In June 2005, the five of us travelled to Ottawa with all 500 feet of the banner, and had a rally on Parliament Hill. The next day we toured the Parliament buildings, got taken for lunch with an NDP Member of Parliament, and watched Question Period. By July 20, 2005 Equal Marriage became law across Canada.
Over the summer pieces of the banner were featured in Pride parades across Canada. We set up "chapters" in each region of Canada, so that the pieces could continue to be used at parades and other events, including rentals for weddings.