The minister who performed Canada’s first gay marriage had his own application for a ceremony granted yesterday with his partner of 25 years.

The Rev Brent Hawkes applied for a same sex union with John Sproule on Valentines Day morning at Toronto City Hall.

The couple will wed on March 7, their 25th anniversary.

The union comes as Canada faces a public battle over same-sex marriage. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised a free vote if the issue comes up in Parliament and gay activists fear the worst.

“If Canada undoes gay marriage, it will become the first country in the world to roll back equal rights for gays and lesbians,” Mr Hawkes said. “What rights will be voted down next?” Mr Sproule said.

Mr Hawkes performed his first gay marriage using a controversial legal loophole on Jan. 14, 2001, wearing a bulletproof vest and under threat of death. He has performed hundreds since and came to city hall yesterday as many other gay couples tied the knot, attracting little notice.

“It wasn’t that long ago people were holding rallies here around this issue,” said Mayor David Miller, after congratulating the couple.

We’re mindful so many gay and lesbian people around the world can’t do this” Mr Hawkes added.

Canada legalised gay marriage in July 2005. It was already legal in eight of 10 provinces and one of Canada’s three territories.