Senior Pastor
BornJune 2, 1950
BirthplaceBath, New Brunswick, Canada
DegreeBachelor of Science, Bachelor of Education (Mount Allison University)
Master of Divinity, Doctor of Ministry (University of Trinity College)
SpouseJohn Sproule

Brent Hawkes (Order of Canada) born June 2, 1950, is a Canadian clergyman and gay rights activist.

Early life and education

Hawkes was born in Bath, New Brunswick to a Baptist family.[1] Hawkes earned 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.[2]

Religious career and activism

Since 1977, Hawkes has served as Senior Pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, a church openly affirming for LGBT parishioners.[2]

Hawkes has served on the advisory committee of PrideVision TV, and served on the board of directors for advocacy group Egale Canada. In addition to his advocacy work on LGBT issues, he has supported anti-racist initiatives, drawn attention to poverty and poor housing, and advocated the ordination of female priests.

On January 14, 2001, Hawkes gained national attention by performing a wedding ceremony for two same-sex couples at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto.[3] 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 (public announcements) for three consecutive weeks, and thereby conducted a legal marriage without requiring prior government permission.[4] 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. The church sued the city, the province and the federal government. 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 Court of Appeal for Ontario declared the common law definition of marriage as "invalid to the extent that it refers to “one man and one woman” in the ruling of Halpern v. Canada, immediately striking down all barriers against same-sex marriage in the province.[5]

Hawkes was the officiant at the state funeral of Jack Layton, Leader of Canada's Official Opposition and head of the NDP, on August 27, 2011 at Roy Thomson Hall.[6] A fellow New Democrat, he spoke highly of Layton who had touched millions of Canadians with his sudden death. In the end, he thanked Jack Layton for his work with the gay community and HIV/AIDS, issues the NDP leader had championed when they were not popular.[2]

Political career

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 LGBT community. Running in protest against the Bob Rae government's handling of the failed Equality Rights Statute Amendment Act of 1994, 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.

Personal life

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

Honours and Awards

In 2009, Hawkes received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree for his continuing work in activism and human rights in Canada from York University.[7] In 2010, Hawkes was presented with an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Mount Allison University,[8] and in 2011 received an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the University of Trinity College.[9]

Hawkes was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada by Governor General Michaëlle Jean in 2007 for his achievements as "a champion of human rights and social justice for decades" and was formally invested into the Order in a ceremony on February 22, 2008.[10]

In 2012, Hawkes was named one of the "500 most influential gay men in the world" by the European gay magazine Mate; and in 2013 he was inducted into the Q Hall of Fame, as an individual who made significant contributions to LGBT human rights.[11]

Hawkes has been the recipient of the following awards:

  • 1994 - City of Toronto Award of Merit
  • 1995 - United Nations Association in Canada Global Citizen Award
  • 2002 - Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal[12]
  • 2003 - City of Toronto Pride Award for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Two-Spirited Issues[13]
  • 2009 - New Brunswick Human Rights Commission Pioneer of Human Rights Award[14]
  • 2009 - American Psychological Association Clarity Award[15]
  • 2012 - Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal[16]
  • 2014 - 2014 Inspire Lifetime Achievement Award, for his life’s work on LGBT rights.
  • 2014 - Grand Marshal of the 2014 World Pride Parade[1]
  • 2014 - Achievement Award from Toronto City Hall for his contributions to World Pride.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Gay rights leader cherishes his New Brunswick roots". The Telegraph-Journal, June 28, 2014.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Brent Hawkes biography from the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto.
  3. Template:Cite video
  4. Record of marriage, signed by Hawkes, for one of the couples married. Note the preprinted "Banns No."
  5. Court of Appeal for Ontario
  6. Bradshaw, James. "A month in the works, Layton’s funeral meant to inspire", 24 August 2011. Retrieved on 25 August 2011. 
  7. "Rev. Brent Hawkes receives honorary degree for LGBT social activism". File: York's Daily Bulletin online at 22 October 2009. Accessed 30 October 2009.
  8. Honorary degree recipients (2013-11-05).
  9. Community leaders awarded honorary degrees. Anglican Journal (2011-05-09).
  10. Order of Canada: Brent Hawkes, C.M.,LL.D., D.Min.. Office of the Secretary of the Governor General. Retrieved on 8 June 2014.
  11. Inductees. Retrieved on 8 June 2014.
  12. The Golden Jubilee Medal: Hawkes, Rev. Dr. Brent. Office of the Secretary of the Governor General. Retrieved on 8 June 2014.
  13. Access, Equity and Human Rights Awards: 2003 recipients. Archived from the original on 4 May 2004. Retrieved on 8 June 2014.
  14. Pioneer of Human Rights Award to be presented to Rev. Brent Hawkes. New Brunswick Human Rights Commission (11 September 2009). Retrieved on 8 June 2014.
  15. Clarity Award. American Psychological Association. Retrieved on 8 June 2014.
  16. Media Advisory - Lieutenant Governor Presents Diamond Jubilee Medals (3 February 2012). Retrieved on 8 June 2014.

External links

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