Friday, May 14, 2004

Married, With Leather

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #234, May 14, 2004)

David Kloss, International Mr. Leather 1979, is the first man to hold the International Mr. Leather (IML) title. Remi Collette, Mr. Leatherman Toronto 2004, will be competing in IML this year, 25 years after his husband competed.

When they first got together Kloss lived in San Francisco and Collette in Toronto. They divided their time between the two cities until Collette admitted to U.S. Immigration officials that he had a gay lover in San Francisco. Thereafter it became so troublesome for Collette to get into the United States that they decided it made more sense for Kloss to relocate to Toronto, where they were married on July 11, 2003.

Did either of you ever think that you would actually be married?

Remi Collette: Legally? No!

David Kloss: No!

Collette: We were as shocked as the rest of the world when it looked like marriage might become a possibility. And that’s why we didn’t have a big fancy wedding with all our friends. We knew that at any moment the opportunity might vanish because there was so much opposition.

This was not something we just ran and jumped into. We had been aware for some time that marriage for same-gender couples was being discussed in Ontario. We had already been registered as domestic partners in San Francisco, we had been living together for two years, we knew we were soulmates. When the opportunity was there, it just seemed like the perfect timing for the two of us, and we went for it.

Kloss: Same-gender couples can only be legally married in three Canadian provinces: Ontario first, British Columbia second, and now Quebec. There are other provinces that don’t want to legalize those marriages, just like there are states that don’t want to.

Collette: However, even in [dissenting] provinces the marriage is still recognized. For example, David and I are married in Ontario. When I go to New Brunswick, they still recognize our marriage—whereas in the States, if I get married in San Francisco and I go to Texas, they say, “Sorry, you ain’t married.”

Kloss: Now the federal government is working on making marriage for same-gender couples legal everywhere in Canada. Also, Canada passed a law on June 28, 2002, that basically said any relationship proven viable for over a year will be recognized, and the non-Canadian partner will be allowed to move to Canada.

In the United States the Permanent Partners Immigration Act (PPIA) has been in Congress for two years. This year it has approximately 121 co-sponsors in the House and about 11 in the Senate. What the PPIA would do is the same thing as the Canadian law—it would have allowed me to bring my partner, unmarried, into the United States by proving a viable relationship for a certain period of time.

Unfortunately, it’s not going far—even though it has the co-sponsors, it has not gotten out of committee.  To put it very bluntly, for most gay relationships between an American and a foreign national, the choice generally comes down to: you stay in your country and leave your love, or you follow your love and leave your country.

We know that in the United States there are 1,138 specific rights associated with the word marriage. One of those rights is the ability to bring a non-national partner into the country. Because same-gender couples can’t be married, we are denied that right.

Collette: And that’s pretty significant, when you think about it. You know, a lot of gay people are thinking, “Well, we’ve never had marriage, it’s never been important to us, we don’t buy into it, it’s a heterosexual institution.”

But what they don’t realize is that when we are denied a right that everyone else has, that makes two classes: them who have all the rights, and we who are not eligible for the rights. And that, as taxpayers, is unacceptable—or just as citizens, period. It’s not acceptable.

Kloss: As you can tell, we’ve become very politically motivated.

What are your lives like now, day to day? What does married life look like?

Collette: People may not realize it, but when you get married it does change things. When it is legal, when you’ve got it sanctioned by the rest of the world, it feels different. It sounds silly, I didn’t expect it, and it kind of threw me for a loop when I felt it. But it’s true.

David Kloss: Married life is wonderful! What we do, we do together—we do have other little parts of our lives that are separate, but for the most part we are a team. We also happen to be monogamous—monogamous in the leather world! And it works, and we’re happy with it.

What do you either of you see for the future? Now that you’re married, where do you go from here?

Collette: I see us growing old together—one of us a little bit faster than the other. (Kloss laughs) But it’s been three years now and I love him more and more every day, so I don’t see that ever being a problem.

We’ve faced a lot of hard times. He’s lost a relative. My mom has been very sick. We’ve dealt with health issues with David, we’ve dealt with the immigration issue.

When you think you can’t take any more, we hold each other, we support each other, and we get stronger.

I see our future very much continuing on that path of staying together, taking life one day at a time with each other, hand in hand.

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