Sunday, July 30, 2006

And now for some politics...

I mentioned a couple days ago that I was going to post about something political but needed to do more research. On Friday Dave posted some links to posts that other bloggers had written on gay marriage. I found them both to be very thought provoking and educational. As someone who is only recently coming out to himself (it’s always been there I’m just accepting it now which seems to be a common theme from what I’ve read) and gradually discovering more of what’s going on around me in “gaydom”, these articles made me realize that there’s a lot more going on politically in this area than I’m aware of. The media leads you to believe that the battles have been fought and won and there’s just this one last hurdle of gay marriage. Wow, were my eyes opened. If I lived in the states I could lose my job just because I’m gay? Whoa! I immediately thought “Could this happen to me in Canada?”

Well we have had several laws passed in recent years that are favourable to gay rights but that was under the Liberal government. Now that we have a Conservative government will things change? People are worried because Prime Minister Harper has said he would allow a free vote on same sex-marriage in the House. I think he’s just playing politics because he knows the vote wouldn’t pass with a minority government. The Liberals, the NDP, and the Bloc Quebecois all support same sex-marriage so they would easily defeat the government on this issue. Because it’s not a budgetary issue it is not considered a confidence motion so the government wouldn’t fall and Harper can still tell his far right wing supporters that he tried.

We interrupt this posting for an important news bulletin….

While typing this I noticed an article on Yahoo news about the crowd booing a Conservative minister at the opening of the Out Games in Montreal. Personally I don’t agree with this. I think the old saying “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar” has a lot of truth to it. We should be in dialogue with people and educating them and listening to their concerns and addressing them. I know there are the religious fanatics that will never listen but there are also some that just get caught up in the rhetoric and if we listen to what they have to say after we help them get past the rhetoric I’m sure they would come around. I don’t think we should be pushing them to accept that gay is ok. Let’s start with agreeing to disagree and that our being married won’t affect them and that we’re not trying to tear apart their churches. I really see this as more of a religious issue and separation of church and state.

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming…

Even if the Conservative government were to pass legislation defining marriage as between a man and a woman I don’t think it would be constitutional in Canada. Section 15 of the charter of rights and freedoms states that: Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

The closest I could find in the U.S. constitution was in Amendment XIV Section 1. where it says “nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”.

Section 15 has several factors that I believe have brought about gay rights legislation in Canada. First is the phrase “equal protection and equal benefit”. So even if one could win the argument that gays don’t need to be able to marry to be protected by the law they couldn’t say that we have equal benefit. Secondly the phrase “in particular” has been interpreted by the courts to mean that the list of characteristics protected by section 15 is not exhaustive. Wikipedia describes this better here. So while individuals were unsuccessful in convincing the courts that pot smoking was a personal characteristic, they were successful in having homosexuality ruled a personal characteristic and so now Canada has same-sex marriage. In order to overturn this the government would have to use Section 1 of the charter “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society” and I’m not sure how it would be demonstrably justified to prevent certain citizens from marrying based on their choice of partner.

Anyways, this has turned out to be quite a long post. I’m not sure how disjointed it is but at least I learned some new stuff. I’m also more glad now that I’m Canadian (not that I wasn’t before).


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