By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 28, 2011 - 10 Comments
A week ago, Conservative party staff and MPs put together a contribution to the “It Gets Better” video series originally inspired by Dan Savage. In short order it was duly noted that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews opposed same-sex marriage and that Senator Don Meredith once said homosexuality is a choice, while the opposition subsequently pushed for the Harper government to defend gay rights within the Commonwealth and fund Gay Pride events in Canada.
Yesterday brought two new points of conflict: news that Conservatives MP David Sweet, who appears in the video, once said homosexuality is a sin and an odd disagreement during Question Period over whether or not Peter MacKay was willing to say the word “gay” out loud. Continue…
By Erica Alini - Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 7:30 AM - 3 Comments
A gay-rights activist and a former IRA leader figure among those generating unusual excitement
Presidential elections in Ireland never mattered much. The job at stake consists, by and large, of greeting foreign heads of state, kissing babies and attending ceremonies. To some, it is even bizarre that voters should go to the polls to elect such a powerless president, a public office that most other European countries with similar figureheads fill through nomination, usually by parliament. This time, though, it’s different. The list of presidential hopefuls, in fact, includes a gay rights activist, a former leader of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, a Donald Trump-style businessman and a pro-life pop singer, in a topsy-turvy campaign that’s dominating Irish headlines and turning heads around the world.
The unusual set of candidates, says Paul Bew, a professor of politics at Queen’s University Belfast, reflects the Republic of Ireland’s anti-establishment mood. Faced with a $29-billion austerity program meant to pave the way for a $119-billion bailout package from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, voters are largely disillusioned with those who led them to more than a decade of record economic growth, but also, eventually, a disastrous financial crisis. “The Irish bourgeoisie, the heros of the Celtic Tiger, are now in disgrace,” he says.
Michael Higgins, who was until recently the front-runner, makes up for his long record in politics, which would effectively cast him as a member of the political establishment, by being “well to the left of the Irish mainstream,” says Bew. The 70-year-old former Labour cabinet minister, a university lecturer with snow-white hair, a taste for seizure-inducing ties and a famous dislike for Ronald Reagan and free-rein capitalism, sounds like he would be right at home among the protesters of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
By Emma Teitel - Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 3:50 PM - 207 Comments
Why gay rights aren’t endangered by Toronto’s mayor
I’m gay, which is inconvenient—not for the obvious reasons—but for the sobering reality that many people who know my sexual orientation automatically assume I identify with everyone who shares it. Take the Toronto Pride Parade for example. So Mayor Rob Ford doesn’t want to march in the parade. So what? Call me old fashioned, but since when did our mayor’s civic duties include being hosed down with super soakers by men in diamond-studded cod pieces? Tolerance is a two-way street. If you want the socially conservative mayor to shake your hand, put on some pants.
But Toronto’s left has spoken: gay pride—assless chaps and all—is forever bound to gay rights, and Ford’s pending absence at the annual parade is a direct admission that he considers such rights revocable. In other words, if Ford is not for gay pride, he is definitely not for gay rights—or at the very least, as Pride co-chair Francisco Alvarez suggests, his actions jeopardize them. “There have been a lot of hard-won and incremental gains over the years, for lesbians and gays in this country,” Alvarez told the Toronto Star last week, “but they are all easily reversible.”
Rob Ford is not going to reverse my gains. He is going to the cottage. Apparently, though, this makes him an unapologetic homophobe, whose acquiescence to family tradition is nothing more than a convenient way to snub the gay community. Or is it? Let’s examine the possibilities: Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 3:53 PM - 120 Comments
I am out of Ottawa for a few days and mostly without proper Internet access so I missed the Contretemps Trudeau and don’t now have time now to sufficiently sort through the ensuing panic and scorn. Here though is Justin Trudeau’s Twitter feed. Make of it what you will.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 5:27 PM - 6 Comments
David Kato campaigned against anti-gay laws, discrimination
A prominent Ugandan gay activist was found murdered on Thursday. David Kato was one of several people outed by the Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone, which published their pictures under the headline “hang them.” Witnesses told the BBC Kato was beaten to death in his home in Kampala. Police, who have a suspect in custody, have said there is no connection between the beating and Kato’s work with his gay rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda (Smug). However, several people have complained of being attacked after their photos appeared in Rolling Stone. The paper’s editor, Giles Muhame, told Reuters news agency he wasn’t promoting violence agains gays. “We want the government to hang people who promote homosexuality,” he said, “not for the public to attack them.”
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
A banner year for gay rights
It’s hard to believe that a year marked by the heartbreaking suicides of a number of gay U.S. teens, including 13-year-old Asher Brown and Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, could also be a banner year for gay rights. But their tragic deaths spurred an outpouring of public sympathy, hope and help for gay youth, including It Gets Better—a popular project featuring gay adults talking about overcoming bullies and hurt.
By Colby Cosh - Friday, August 13, 2010 at 4:23 AM - 0 Comments
Don’t look now, but a twist has materialized in the legal epic of same-sex marriage in California. When U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker struck down the statute implementing the anti-SSM Proposition 8, even sophisticated observers began imagining the familiar capillary process whereby a quarrel migrates upward through increasingly mighty appellate courts.
But wait! Remember what the style of cause was in this lawsuit? That’s right: Perry v. Schwarzenegger.
The plaintiffs were two gays and two lesbians seeking California marriage licenses. The defendants were state officials obeying the dictates of Prop 8, as unwilling legislative automata, from the Governator on down. Those officials have no intention of appealing Walker’s ruling. Indeed, they barely presented a defence of “themselves” in the first place. The advocates of Proposition 8, whose clumsy evidence Judge Walker treated like a speed-bag in his decision, weren’t parties to the suit and didn’t ask to be. They were mere intervenors. So how can they obtain standing to appeal?
This wrinkle didn’t come to the attention of the general-interest press (or to me) until yesterday, when Walker addressed it in his handling of a request for a stay of his decision. The rule is that federal appeal courts, under Article III of the Constitution, can only hear legitimate, non-hypothetical “cases” and “controversies”. This means that intervenors and other observers have to meet a high standard in order to take a decision to U.S. Circuit Court without the aid of one of the original parties—aid that will certainly not be forthcoming in this instance.
Traditionally, in order to gain standing, non-parties have to show that they have suffered a concrete, specific injury as a result of the decision being appealed. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in 1997 that “An intervenor cannot step into the shoes of the original party unless the intervenor independently fulfills the requirements of Article III.” In no case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court has this happened.
The strangest quirk of all is this: the issue that will decide the feasibility of an appeal by private citizens advocating Prop 8 seems like the same one that came before Judge Walker in the first place. Namely, does the existence of same-sex marriage cause meaningful harm to anybody? Judge Walker, having found that it does not, is naturally skeptical of the intervenors’ ability to proceed. But what’s going to happen if the 9th Circuit turns those intervenors away? Is it quite fair for the judiciary as a class, having thwarted California’s voters, to say “Judge Walker’s ruling that gay marriage doesn’t hurt anybody is impervious to appeal on technical grounds, because gay marriage doesn’t hurt anybody”?
Me, I’m no bleeding-heart small-D democrat. But to the opponents of gay marriage, and perhaps even to unpersuaded moderates, this might seem like sharp dealing. It is one thing for the judiciary to block the will of the majority: hey, welcome to the U.S.A., tenderfoot. This, however, is a case where the judiciary may not only end up obstructing the volonté générale, but elbowing it good and hard in the vitals. Somehow, in California, a majority vote against same-sex marriage will have led directly to the near-permanent entrenchment of same-sex marriage.
This sort of counterintuitive outcome could surely lead to a backlash outside California. Who knows?—it might even create the impetus for an anti-SSM affort at constitutional amendment. The Democratic character of the Congress is a poor assurance of safety for the five (shortly to be six) states which have full, legal gay marriage. That institution still has never won a referendum in the U.S.; its win-loss record stands at 0-31. And the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies nationwide constitutional “full faith and credit” to same-sex marriages, was opposed by just 14 Senators and 67 Representatives not so long ago (1996).
Time and history are on the side of gay marriage. (This is especially true if it represents some sort of fatal Spenglerian decadence.) But it is unclear just how much of each will be needed.
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 5:21 AM - 0 Comments
Yesterday afternoon a federal court struck down California Proposition 8, the successful ballot initiative that had banned same-sex marriages in the state. U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker’s Perry v. Schwarzenegger decision offers a fascinating overview of the American SSM fight. Subjecting Prop 8 to the strict and searching scrutiny that any overt act of state discrimination invites, Walker found the evidence of social harm resulting from gay marriage to be wretchedly meagre, and the evidence of any additional administrative burden on the state to be worse than nonexistent. (In a display of perversity surely more nauseating to many of us than mere sodomy, debt-addled California has been foregoing revenue from marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples and has been maintaining a distinct bureaucracy for the creation and oversight of “domestic partnerships”—a species invented in order to endow gays and lesbians with all the legal difficulties of civil marriage without entitling them to drink from the dregs of its social dignity.)
Walker, having entertained and weighed the evidence of a rational basis for Proposition 8, could find none—none beyond discrimination against gays and lesbians for its own sake, which he characterizes as a “private moral view” that, in the absence of a legitimate government interest, cannot be an appropriate subject of legislation under the due process and equal-protection provisions of the Constitution. So runs the argument. (I’m not a lawyer, but it feels to me like a rather Canadian, Oakes-y one, structurally.)
How airtight is the ruling? One objection that someone like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia would make—for he has made it—is that all laws implement some “moral view”, and could be struck down by a judge the minute some protectable class were found to object to it. Laws against homicide discriminate against murderphiles, and so on. Of course, this isn’t very convincing. Even if you can show that there is such an inherent characteristic as “being a murderphile” and that people in no way choose membership in this class—which, in fact, is an argument you could probably win!—the compelling state interest in preventing murderphiles from murdering is a million times easier to show than anybody’s interest, anybody’s at all, in fretting over the nebulous effects of gay marriage.
This debate is over in Canada, except as a convenient way for kooks to define themselves, because how the heck could you possibly show that absolutely anybody’s life was affected irreversibly for the worse on the exact date of July 20, 2005? I’ve given pro-lifers generous helpings of hassle over the years, but they’ve at least got the “Abortion Stops A Beating Heart” thing to fall back on. If you were picking a similar slogan for the anti-SSM movement, where would you even start? Gay Marriage…Makes A Gorge Rise? Gets A Dander Up? Sticks In A Craw?
The punchline to all this is that Justice Scalia is so forthright, confident, and frankly plain ornery in his views that he inadvertently supplied Judge Walker with a grace note for his magnum opus. Back in 2003, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh pointed out that the then-fresh Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision annulling that state’s sodomy law featured a little sideshow he thought relevant to the future of the gay-marriage struggle.
In today’s Lawrence decision, Justice O’Connor refuses a general right to sexual autonomy, but concludes that banning only homosexual sodomy violates the Equal Protection Clause—there’s just no rational basis for such discrimination besides “a…desire to harm a politically unpopular group,” she says. What about gay marriage, one might ask her? She anticipates this, by suggesting that “preserving the traditional institution of marriage” is a “legitimate state interest.” “Unlike the moral disapproval of same-sex relations—the asserted state interest in this case—other reasons exist to promote the institution of marriage beyond mere moral disapproval of an excluded group.”
Justice Scalia derides this—”[Justice O'Connor's reasoning] leaves on pretty shaky grounds state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples,” because “‘preserving the traditional institution of marriage’ is just a kinder way of describing the State’s moral disapproval of same-sex couples” [emphasis in original]. But wait: Isn’t that the usual argument of those who criticize the heterosexual-only marriage rule?
In his tirade against “a Court…that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda”, Scalia gave the game away. Allergic to O’Connor’s cop-out, he argued that there was no need for hetero-only marriage to stand on any basis but “moral disapproval”—and took the extra step, regarded as dangerous by many in his camp, of denying that it could possibly have any other basis. It was an admission, a rather gay-friendly admission really, that any search for objective harms or administrative excuses with which to bash same-sex marriage would be nonsensical and futile.
And lo and behold, in the year of our Lord 2010, the Volokh prophecy has come to pass; Scalia’s grenade has landed right smack in paragraph 21 of Perry v. Schwarzenegger.
Lawrence v. Texas, 539 US 558, 604-05 (2003) (Scalia, J, dissenting): “If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is ‘no legitimate state interest’ for purposes of proscribing that conduct…what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising “the liberty protected by the Constitution”? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry.”
By Mark Steyn - Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 10:01 AM - 355 Comments
MARK STEYN: The niqab deserves no more respect than a Vader mask
The other day, a reader wrote to say that, while en vacances au Québec, he had espied me in a restaurant. With a couple of obvious francophones. And, from the snatches of conversation he caught, I appeared to be speaking French. “Appeared” is right, if you’ve ever heard my French. Nevertheless: “You’re a fraud, Steyn!” he thundered. The cut of his jib was that I was merely pretending to be a pro-Yank right-wing bastard while in reality living la vie en rose lounging on chaises longues snorting poutine with louche Frenchie socialists all day long.
I haven’t felt such a hypocrite since I was caught singing The Man That Got Away in a San Francisco bathhouse two days after my column opposing gay marriage. But yes, you’re right. I cannot tell a lie. I have a soft spot for Quebec. Not because of its risible separatist movement, for which the only rational explanation is that it was never anything but one almighty bluff for shakedown purposes. Yet, putting that aside, I’m not unsympathetic to the province’s broader cultural disposition. I regard neither Trudeaupian Canada nor Quietly Revolutionary Quebec as good long-term bets, or even medium-term bets. But, if I had to pick, I’d give marginally better odds to the latter. And the reasons why can be found in the coverage of Ms. Naema Ahmed and her “illegal” niqab, the head-to-toe Islamic covering that only has eyes for you.
The facts—or, at any rate, fact—of the case is well-known: a niqab-garbed immigrant from Egypt has been twice expelled from her French-language classes at the Saint-Laurent CEGEP and the Centre d’appui aux communautés immigrantes by order of the Quebec government. That much is agreed. Thereafter, the English and French press diverge signiﬁcantly. The ROC reacted reﬂexively, deploring this assault on Canada’s cherished “values” of “multiculturalism.” In the Calgary Herald, Naomi Lakritz compared Quebec’s government to the Taliban. So did the Globe and Mail, in an editorial titled “Intolerant Intrusion.” In La Presse, Patrick Lagacé responded with a column called “The Globe, Reporting From Mars!”
By Nancy Macdonald - Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 12:00 PM - 13 Comments
Why are Republicans so often caught in gay sex scandals?
For his entire career, California’s Bible belt state Sen. Roy Ashburn was best known for sound bites like this one, dating to 2005. At a rally he organized to drum up support for a ban on same-sex marriage, the powerful Republican from Bakersfield stood beside the founder of the Traditional Values Coalition, Lou Sheldon, proclaiming heterosexual marriage “fundamental to civilization,” as Sheldon made vile claims about the lives of gay men and women—in all, “one of the most disturbing hours of my life,” said one reporter present. Ashburn, said to be “right of Rush Limbaugh,” has opposed every gay rights initiative that’s crossed his Senate desk, including measures aiming at fairness in jobs and housing, and one to protect gay youth.
Fast-forward to March 3 of this year, when a drunk-driving arrest near the Sacramento gay club Faces led him to announce, days later, to Kern County radio listeners: “I am gay.” Even north of the border you could practically hear the collective slap! as Republican hands met foreheads.
The gay Republican outed by scandal is, by now, a familiar event on the American political calendar. As Out magazine describes modern, gay Washington, Democrats live openly on the Hill and in K Street lobbying firms while their Republican counterparts “still cower in the closet until they trip themselves up with off-colour instant messages to teenage pages or conduct unbecoming to a United States senator in an airport bathroom.” Why demonize gay people in the first place? “Beats me,” says Wellesley College political theorist, Laura Grattan. Surely, she adds, there’s self-hatred or overcompensation going on—“they could take a stand against gay rights without being so publicly vitriolic about it.” Whether railing loudly against gay rights is a shield, a political ruse to win votes or an attempt to scare it out of their systems, the result is clear: ritual outings and public embarrassment—though on that score, Ashburn’s glassy-eyed mug shot barely registers.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 5, 2010 at 8:30 AM - 33 Comments
“As proud as I am to be recognized as a gay and lesbian advocate (I believe under the sport section), I am hardly representative of the vast diversity of the LGBT community, or the decades of brave work that has led to the advancement of our human rights. A reference to a sporting champion who is gay does nothing to honour the enormous work that has been done to make Canada a global leader in the advancement of equality for LGBT people, or the milestones that led us here over the past several decades.
“With dozens of countries in the world still punishing gays and lesbians with life in prison or execution, the fact that Canada recognizes same sex marriages and protects against sexual orientation is a reason why many gays and lesbians would apply for citizenship to this country. Why would the government withdraw information in the citizenship guide that would directly benefit new Canadians who are gay or lesbian? For me, it smacks of revisionist history. The Government of Canada is representative of Canadian people, and the minister in question (or his office) is not acting in accordance. Individuals in power deciding to eliminate a targeted group, whomever that group may be, has dangerous precedence. Being cut out of the story, literally, reminds me just how easy it is to have advances stripped away.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 9:43 PM - 22 Comments
A day after the Jason Kenney’s press secretary said “the minister’s signature isn’t on any decision note or anywhere else,” Mr. Kenney rose during Question Period and said, “I take full responsibility for Discover Canada.”
That was in response to Olivia Chow’s first question. With her follow-up, she suggested “newcomers need to know that gay-bashing is illegal” and that “they need to know that gay marriage is to be celebrated.” Mr. Kenney responded that perhaps he has “a higher estimation than the member does about new Canadians” and that he does not believe “that new Canadians are potential gay-bashers.”
This particular point is perhaps interesting because the new citizenship guide does specifically warn that Canada does not tolerate “spousal abuse, ‘honour killings,’ female genital mutilation or other gender-based violence.”
The full exchanges between Marlene Jennings and Kenney and Chow and Kenney after the jump. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 7:11 PM - 27 Comments
Jason Kenney denies involvement in removing references to same-sex marriage and gay rights from the citizenship guide.
Canada’s immigration minister is apparently denying any role in the removal of references to gay rights from a citizenship study guide released last fall. Asked Wednesday why he blocked any information about same-sex marriage and charter rights protecting sexual orientation, Jason Kenney said: “I did not do such a thing. No, no, you are wrong.” The minister then disappeared into the Conservative caucus room in the Centre Block of Parliament Hill…
Asked about Kenny’s apparent denial, spokesman Alykhan Velshi said Wednesday that “the minister’s signature isn’t on any decision note or anywhere else” in the released documents, suggesting someone else in the minister’s office made the gay-rights decision on his behalf. Velshi was asked last week to explain Kenney’s decision to remove the gay-rights material. He responded that the guide could not be “encyclopedic” — without any indication the minister might not have been responsible for the removal. On Wednesday, Velshi did not respond to further requests for clarification.
By Katie Engelhart - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 1:30 PM - 3 Comments
The film ‘Dunno Y…Na Jaane Kyun’ features a gay kiss
Its promotional posters, placed throughout India, show two bare-chested men, eyes closed and necks strained, locked in a sexual embrace. And though the film does not come out until May, it is already being hailed as an iconoclastic cinematic break—or, more commonly, “Bollywood’s answer to Brokeback Mountain.”
Sanjay Sharma’s film Dunno Y…Na Jaane Kyun will, for the first time in Bollywood history, feature a gay kiss. The plot centres on a struggling model who moves to Mumbai in search of fame, and then begins a relationship with another man. In a country that only decriminalized homosexuality last year, it’s no surprise that the premise has some ﬁlmgoers squirming. (In fact, until recently, even heterosexual kisses—or “lip-locks”—were taboo, although that is changing.)
To be fair, Dunno Y will not show Bollywood’s ﬁrst man-to-man kiss, per se. In 2008, the ﬁlm Dostana portrayed two men pretending to be gay, in an effort to fool a young woman into living with them. At the end of the ﬁlm, the two men kiss…as a punishment. And Bollywood has occasionally featured gay characters. But they are effeminate men whose roles are limited to comic relief.
And they are never cast in a sexual light. In contrast, Sharma insists that his ﬁlm depicts a “normal relationship” between two unambiguously gay men. “The only thing I was particular about was that this character should not come across as a caricature or just as an object of mockery,” he told the Times of India.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 2:27 PM - 143 Comments
Canadian Press discovers that Jason Kenney ordered the removal of references to gay rights and same-sex marriage from the new citizenship guide.
When the new guide was released Nov. 12, Mr. Kenney brushed off a reporter’s question about why it lacked any reference to same-sex marriage. ”We can’t mention every legal decision, every policy of the government of Canada,” he said. ”We try to be inclusive and include a summary. I can tell you that if you were to read the old book, you wouldn’t even know that there are gay and lesbian Canadians.” He then noted the caption under Mr. Tewksbury’s photo.
That caption, appearing on page 26 of the guide, reads, “Mark Tewksbury, Olympic gold medallist and prominent activist for gay and lesbian Canadians.”
By Colby Cosh - Friday, December 4, 2009 at 7:53 AM - 41 Comments
So how stands freedom of the press in Alberta after Thursday’s Queen’s Bench decision tossing out the Boissoin human-rights panel ruling [PDF]? Justice E.C. Wilson’s reasons establish two big things, pending some higher-level judicial review of Alberta’s human-rights regime:
- The Charter of Rights can’t be used willy-nilly by content creators in magazines and newspapers as a shield against tribunal oversight, but
- The tribunals have to confine themselves strictly to the powers granted them by statute, defer to Charter values, respect the presumption of innocence, and in general act a lot less like a cross between a military junta and a three-ring circus.
In 2002 Red Deer preacher Stephen Boissoin had written a sweaty, sulfurous letter about the Great Gay Conspiracy to the local daily paper (pause for ironic smirk: it’s called the Advocate). Among other things, Boissoin denounced the spectacle of “men kissing men”, which suggests he may not know his way around the synoptic Gospels too well. In any event, a panel of the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission found him guilty of discrimination-by-the-word, and he was subjected to a fine, prior restraint on his future speech, and a demand for a written apology.
Justice Wilson found that while the speech provisions in the Alberta human rights statute pass Charter muster under the principles of the Supreme Court’s Taylor decision, he put a lot of practical problems in the path of future complainants. A province, Wilson observed, isn’t allowed to duplicate the Criminal Code provisions against hate speech. It’s only allowed to suppress hateful speech that can also be shown to encourage discrimination in the specific areas that lie within provincial powers and are enumerated in the statute—i.e., housing, employment, access to goods and services.
Wilson thus ended up throwing several witnesses who testified against Boissoin overboard: the ex-cop who thought Boissoin’s anti-gay babblings might make teens “act out”, for example, and the shrink who warned that the Reverend’s letter might provoke a second Columbine. (Untold thousands have read the letter who wouldn’t otherwise have seen it, precisely as a consequence of the proceeding against Boissoin, but it doesn’t yet appear to have played a role in any school shootings.) Wilson has thus made expert evidence in future tribunal proceedings a lot harder to come by: the logic of his decision suggests that complainants will no longer be able to round up every bleeding-heart social scientist or self-styled hate expert they can find, but will have to provide evidence of potential economic impacts from hate speech.
Wilson also reaffirmed that the standard of judicial review for Alberta tribunal rulings is a low one, requiring the appellant to raise questions of mere “correctness” in matters of law; he beat up the panel for some of its one-sided interpretations of the evidence against Boissoin; he emphasized that hate speech isn’t hate speech under Taylor unless it’s “unusually strong” and appeals to “deep-felt” emotions; he notes that tribunals must take note of not only the majority decision in Taylor, but also not-yet-Chief Justice McLachlin’s monumental dissent warning against vagueness and subjectivity; he observes that Taylor also requires hate speech to have been repetitive; he suggests that the law does not generally concern itself with “puny anonymities”, but only with speech that is likely to be influential and dangerous in some way; and he notes that the AHRCC panel had no statutory warrant for any of the punishments it levied on Boissoin.
And believe it or not, I am leaving some criticisms out. The Commission has a Herculean amount of procedural and constitutional cleanup ahead if it hopes to scrutinize speech and press activity in Alberta. Which is good. It would be better still for the legislature to take the “fundamental freedoms” in the Charter as seriously as other provinces do, and eliminate the Commission’s jurisdiction over the press altogether, but it seems that won’t happen while Ed Stelmach is premier.
By Katie Engelhart - Thursday, November 26, 2009 at 9:50 AM - 7 Comments
In France, gay couples are not allowed to adopt children
When the French lesbian known to the public as “Emmanuelle B.” first applied to adopt a child in 1998, she was rejected; the adoption board cited the “lack of a paternal figure in [B.’s] household.” That explanation spurred a legal standoff that pitted French courts against gay rights advocates, who saw the rejection as a statement about their ability—or, more accurately, inability—to be parents. Last week, 11 years after the case began—and one year after the European Court of Human Rights condemned France for sexual discrimination—a French court overruled the 1998 verdict, conceding that it could not “legally justify the decision to reject [B.’s] request.”
B.’s supporters say the case is a flagrant example of high-level prejudice, because, since 1966, France has explicitly allowed unmarried individuals to adopt. And given that the now-48-year-old B. is a nursery school teacher, it would be hard to claim she is an unqualified caregiver. So last week’s reversal is being celebrated as a landmark. “This groundbreaking ruling means governments can’t use sexual orientation to stop someone from adopting a child,” charged Scott Long, director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights division program at Human Rights Watch. L’Est Republicain, a French newspaper, dubbed the decision “the end of hypocrisy.”
For others, the victory is tainted. If B. does apply to adopt again, she will still have to designate herself as a single parent, despite the fact that she is in a 20-year relationship. That’s because French law still bars same-sex couples from adopting. And that view does not look poised to change: “The government and president have on several occasions expressed our position,” said spokesman Luc Chatal, “which is that we are not in favour of the adoption of children by same-sex couples.”
Translation: one gay mother is okay, but not two.
By Mark Steyn - Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 12:50 PM - 105 Comments
What if a blind man with a guide dog had taken on a Muslim bed-and-breakfast owner?
What’s new in the exciting world of Canadian “human rights”?
Well, the other day Kelly Egan of the Ottawa Citizen reported the story of a gay bed-and-breakfast owner allergic to dogs who got hauled in for “mediation” by the “Human Rights” Tribunal of Ontario after he turned away a blind man with a Seeing Eye dog. Douglas McCue, 68, of the CornerStone B & B in Perth, Ont., suffers from acute sinusitis aggravated by exposure to canines. Ian Martin, a blind diabetic, responded with a lawyer’s letter and a demand for compensation that started at two grand and quickly escalated into five figures. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, August 18, 2009 at 11:59 AM - 7 Comments
Dale Smith looks at Liberal courting of the gay community.
Also at Montreal Pride this weekend, I was reliably informed that the Liberals were out in full force with a cheeky slogan that says “69 is a Liberal position” – referencing of course the fact that it was in 1969 that Trudeau’s bill to decriminalise homosexuality was enacted.
By John Parisella - Friday, June 19, 2009 at 1:53 PM - 7 Comments
Six months into his term, Barack Obama’s high approval ratings are holding steady in…
Six months into his term, Barack Obama’s high approval ratings are holding steady in the latest polls. Yet, the WSJ/NBC poll released on June 17 shows slippage from 61% to 56% in terms of voter satisfaction. Individual policy decisions such as the closing of Guantanamo, the use of torture, and deficit budgeting are increasingly contested by voters. The more Obama governs, the more he owns the problems he inherited. With the glowing tributes of the first 100 days behind us, it is reasonable to conclude that the honeymoon is beginning to end. For some pundits, it’s already over.
Most presidential honeymoons have a limited shelf life. In a context of tough economic times and two wars, the Obama honeymoon has lasted a suprisingly long time. The key element to his durability is the gap between his personal popularity numbers and the policies he advocates. When the gap favours personal popularity or reinforces the likability factor—as it does in Obama’s case—it gives the president some leeway and political advantage. In this case, Obama remains highly popular while his opponents, the Republicans, have a very low positive rating of 25 per cent. This means that Obama has an opportunity to exercise some real leadership by leveraging these positive personal numbers to advance his policies against opponents who, while tenacious, don’t have the political capital to block the president’s agenda. When they do try to get in the way, Obama has not hesitated to go over the heads of Congress and deliver his message directly to the people.
By Jen Cutts - Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 2:40 PM - 0 Comments
Pride parades are banned—what will happen during Eurovision?
Russian gay rights activists are planning to bring some extra drama to a popular European pop music competition. Moscow Pride organizers have scheduled a pride parade to coincide with the live TV finale of the 54th Eurovision Song Contest on May 16. Thousands of fans are expected for the show—most famous for launching ABBA’s career in 1974—and activists see Moscow’s hosting of the contest as an opportunity to build support for gays in Russia.
Gay rights marches in Moscow have been repeatedly banned by Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. The city’s first ever, held in 2006 despite being banned, led to violent clashes between activists and anti-gay demonstrators. At a Eurovision press conference in December, Luzhkov advised gay visitors to the city: “Entertain yourself, no problem, but not on the streets, squares, marches and demonstrations. We do not allow gay parades.” Homosexuality has only been legal in Russia since 1993, and the influential Russian Orthodox Church still strongly disapproves.
By John Parisella - Tuesday, April 14, 2009 at 1:32 PM - 5 Comments
When JFK described the battle for civil rights for African Americans as a moral…
When JFK described the battle for civil rights for African Americans as a moral issue back in the 1960s, he set in motion a movement that proved irreversible. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation may have ended slavery, but it did not grant equality between the races. Over the next century, judicial decisions, executive orders and, finally, legislative initiatives gradually provided the framework for true equality. Kennedy’s statement did much to push reform forward. More importantly, it made it the right thing to do.
With the debate over same sex marriage entering a new phase in light of the Iowa State Supreme Court’s ruling favouring gay civil marriage and the Vermont legislature’s move to make same sex marriage legal, we would do well to remember JFK ‘s call for moral leadership. Promoting gay rights, marriage-related or otherwise, is as essential to civil rights in the 21st century as ending segregation was to the epic struggle of the previous two centuries—not so much in its ramifications, but in its inherent appeal to justice and equality. Continue…
By John Parisella - Friday, December 19, 2008 at 11:51 AM - 36 Comments
No, Reverend Wright is not back. Rather, Pastor Rick Warren has been chosen to…
No, Reverend Wright is not back. Rather, Pastor Rick Warren has been chosen to open Barack Obama’s inauguration proceedings. The liberal base and gay rights groups are upset—they should be.
Warren campaigned against Proposition 8 in California and its defeat set gay rights back a quarter century. What was most unfortunate was his incendiary comments comparing a gay union to incest and paedophilia. In itself, that should disqualify him for appearing at the inauguration.