Civil marriages will be offered at Kingston City Hall early next year, after Council unanimously approved City staff’s Civil Marriage Solemnization report at the Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023 council meeting.
As previously reported, the staff report recommends that the City begin offering civil marriage solemnization services by City staff to ensure that all community members have equal access to marriage services.
The Civil Marriage Ceremony Policy outlined in the report suggests that ceremonies will be offered one day a month during regular business hours. Applicants will be required to book their ceremony on the website, or they can do so in person at City Hall.
According to the report, ceremonies will take approximately 15 minutes, with 15 minutes provided before and after the ceremony for photographs, completion of the Statement of Marriage, etc. A maximum of 20 persons — which includes the two applicants, the officiant, and the two witnesses — will be permitted to attend a civil marriage ceremony. Ceremonies will be held in City Hall’s Memorial Hall or in the Springer Market Square amphitheatre.
“I think that by adopting this change to the laws so that people can be married in a civil ceremony in this beautiful building, [which] is a symbol of all that we value and hold dear, Kingston will be sending a strong message that it truly does value diversity, that it truly does recognize people’s rights, and that [it] is a welcoming community for all,” stated delegate Ben Schnitzer, who used his time to tell his personal story of getting married in his hometown of Winnipeg because Kingston didn’t offer civil marriages.
“I think with this small change, and with a small reallocation of resources, you’re going to make a big difference in making people feel welcome and accepted in this community we all call home,” Schnitzer said.
After the moving delegation by Schnitzer, many councillors spoke about Kingston being a forward-thinking and supportive community, and that this service is overdue.
“I firmly believe that it’s time to embrace change and allow civil marriages to take place right here in our city hall,” said Kingscourt-Rideau Councillor Brandon Tozzo. “A marriage is a sacred union, a celebration of love, commitment, and unity… It is a fundamental right that should be accessible to everybody regardless of their gender, sexuality, religion, or beliefs. Allowing civil marriages at City Hall is a step towards promoting inclusivity and equity, ensuring that no one is denied the opportunity to legally and officially formalize their love.”
Tozzo continued, “Our city aims to be a beacon of progress and acceptance by supporting this motion. We can reinforce this identity and inspire other communities to follow suit. Let’s take this opportunity to lead by example, demonstrating that inclusivity and diversity are the cornerstones of the City of Kingston. Together we can build a city that celebrates love in all of its forms and become a symbol of equality for generations to come.”
“I think it’s about time,” added Sydenham Councillor Conny Glenn. “The more options that are available to people to exercise their rights, the better.”
Now that Council has approved the implementation of civil marriage solemnization services, City staff will, in accordance with the report, undertake the necessary training and develop administrative support to book ceremonies starting in January 2024.