Jun. 14, 2006 - Issue #556: Hot Summer Guide 2006
A year of government homophobia won’t rain on Pride’s parade
Since Bill C-38, also known as the Civil Marriage Act, was passed last July, Conservatives at both the federal and provincial level have taken steps in opposition to the legislation.
Legally speaking, opponents have little, if any, recourse to overturn or modify the federal same-sex marriage law, but that hasn’t stopped the Tories from making it clear that they’re not satisfied with the the act, which many feel was unduly rushed through Parliament by the Liberals.
As was widely expected, Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally came out publicly with his intention to revisit the controversial legislation, which made Canada just the fourth country in the world to allow gays and lesbians to marry.
Harper told reporters on Jun 2 that a motion will be introduced in the House of Commons sometime in the fall, asking MPs whether or not the debate over same-sex marriage should be reopened for discussion.
Without going into further detail, Harper explained that he is simply making good on a campaign promise he made during last February’s federal election campaign to re-examine Bill C-38 if his party was elected.
“I am disappointed that Harper is bringing the matter forward again,” local lawyer and gay rights activist Julie Lloyd said. “We shouldn’t be revisiting this, and we certainly shouldn’t be revisiting it in such a non-straightforward manner. It’s inappropriate”
Early speculation is that the proposed free vote in the House of Commons will be defeated by a small margin, but Lloyd said that even if it is passed the Conservatives will have a difficult time taking their agenda any further.
“We don’t know what will happen, but we do know that the vote will be close,” Lloyd said. “But it’s very clear that we can’t make any changes to the law unless the notwithstanding clause of the Charter is implemented, and there has been no indication that will be used.”
Harper’s announcement comes less than a month after he slapped a gag order on Conservative MPs, warning them not to comment on the upcoming marriage of two male RCMP officers from Nova Scotia.
The memo was issued, according to an unidentified member of the Tory caucus, to prevent the small minority of MPs who “might say something stupid” about the nuptials, despite the fact that officials from the RCMP have stated that they couldn’t be happier or more proud of the two gay Mounties, Jason Tree and David Connors, whose wedding is planned for Jun 30.
It’s yet another disconcerting sign that Harper’s Conservative government is not only carefully screening and manipulating its messages to the public, but is still determined to undermine the institution of same-sex marriage.
That same mentality is also still very much present in Alberta. Earlier
this year, both the province and the city of Edmonton lost a major advocate
for gay rights in Ottawa when Anne McLellan—who has been marshal at
Edmonton’s Gay Pride Parade and was even seen campaigning at the Roost
during the last federal election campaign—forfeited her Edmonton-Centre
seat to Conservative Laurie Hawn.
“Having a member of the cabinet—the Deputy Prime Minister—coming from Edmonton was something extremely positive for the gay and lesbian community,” Edmonton City Councillor Michael Phair said. “Over the last couple of years, the Liberal party has been much more supportive of rights for gays and lesbians than the current party in power, and, unfortunately, I think that’s also reflected in the representation Edmonton currently has in Ottawa.”
Things have also come to a stall in the provincial government. During the spring sitting of the legislature, Ted Morton, the Conservative MLA for Foothills-Rocky View, introduced Bill 208, a private member’s bill that would have allowed marriage commissioners to refuse to perform same-sex marriages if they were morally or religiously opposed to it. The bill also went a step further by proposing that teachers and students could opt out of teaching and studying same-sex marriage in the classroom.
Bill 208 didn’t make it past second reading, but Morton, one of the contenders for Ralph Klein’s job as leader of the Progressive Conservatives, has stated that he wishes to reintroduce the bill with amendments next spring.
Phair said that despite the opposition the gay and lesbian community continues to face over same-sex marriage, there is still much to commemorate as Edmonton’s Gay Pride Week kicks off on Jun 16.
Phair is optimistic, because, he says, no matter what tactics the national and provincial governments decide to take, he believes they will never be able to devalue the significance of something like the passing of Bill C-38.
“There are so many things the gay and lesbian community has to celebrate. Gay marriages are taking place, and I think many of us weren’t even sure that was ever going to happen. In Edmonton, we have a mayor that’s extremely supportive of the community and is even going to be the marshal of this year’s Pride parade. I think that’s a real achievement,” he said.
“Now I think it’s time to reflect on what’s happened over the past year and take a look at the work that’s ahead of us,” he added. “Because on so many levels, we still have a lot to do.” V
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