'You can be both': Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo reflects on a life of faith and LGBTQ2S+ activism
TORONTO -- Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo has spent nearly her entire adult life fighting for LGBTQ2S+ rights.
Having been an activist, a church minister and a provincial politician, DiNovo has fought for LGBTQ2S+ rights in every step of her career. She joined CTV's Your Morning on Tuesday to reflect on the last five decades of LGBTQ2S+ activism.
Her activism began in the early 1970s, when she signed on to the We Demand manifesto, a 13-page document calling on the federal government to repeal discriminatory laws that targeted gay and lesbian Canadians. She was the only woman to sign it.
"You could be fired if you came out. You didn't have to have a place rented to you if the landlord found out who you really were. You could be, of course, fired from the military or any first responders function," said DiNovo. "So, that was the reality for LGBTQ+ people back then."
She also attended Toronto's very first Pride event in 1971, which she calls "an exciting time."
"That was a celebration," said DiNovo. "That was not so much a demonstration as it was a celebration of just being queer."
In 2006, DiNovo was elected as an NDP member of provincial parliament. During her 11-year tenure in the Ontario Legislature, she passed more LGBTQ2S+ bills than any other politician in Canadian history.
Landmark pieces of legislation she introduced include Cy and Ruby’s Act in 2015, which established equal rights for same-sex parents, as well as Toby's Law in 2012, which added transgender rights into the Ontario Human Rights Code
"I fought for it, year after year after year, before finally getting all-party support and others to sign on to the bill so that we could get a passed. So, that was a huge fight," said DiNovo, adding that Toby's Law was the first of its kind in North America.
In 2015, she also got the legislature to pass a bill banning conversion therapy for LGBTQ2S+ minors in another North American first.
"That was my bill alone and again inspired by trans activists," said DiNovo. "(Conversion therapy) still is going on in Canada, but that (bill) at least banned it for minors all across Ontario."
DiNovo retired from politics in 2017 and went back to her old job as a United Church of Canada minister.
Despite having been raised as an atheist, she first entered the United Church ministry after getting her masters of divinity in 1995. In 2001, she officiated Canada's first legally-recognized same-sex marriage as a minister.
"God is central in my life like God is in the lives of many people of faith, not just Christians," said DiNovo. "But what I want folks to take away… is that personally, you can be both. You can be queer and be a person of faith."