Here are all the fantastically amazing entries posted during November, 2008

Anti-Gay Marriage Commissioner Sues Saskatchewan

November 28th, 2008

Orville Nichols, a civil marriage commissioner from Saskatchewan, is suing the provincial government over a requirement to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

Nichols was fined $2,500 last May for refusing to perform a marriage for a couple because they were gay. Nichols now says that the province is violating his religious beliefs and that he should be allowed to deny his services to whomever he pleases, adding that the province’s requirement to serve everyone equally is an icy, icy, all ’round super treacherous slope. His lawer, Philip Fourle, explains:

What is next? Will the government be invading churches with their laws and forcing pastors and ministers and priests in churches to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies?

Ah, yes. Ever since I was a wee lad, I always imagined my special wedding day being held in a church that thinks I’m a horrible, horrible sinner—priest nervously presiding over us at gunpoint… government agents standing cross-armed by the newly kicked-in cathedral door. But that’s not terrifically likely.

See, religious institutions are exempt from Canada’s Charter of Rights, and may deny services to whomever they wish. Many religions refuse to wed inter-faith couples unless one converts, and are well within their legal rights to do so. Likewise, churches are not required to marry same-sex couples.

But here’s the thing: A civil marriage commissioner is acting on behalf of the state. Nichols is not an ambassador of his religion and he may not deny his public service to anyone based on their religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation.

So, basically, if this case succeeds, that means I also get to deny my services to whomever I want. So watch out, Bluetooth headset users! Your day is coming.

African Country Sneakily Outlaws Gay Sex

November 26th, 2008

The African nation of Burundi has snuck a law that criminalizes homosexuality into an omnibus bill that abolishes the death sentence and outlaws torture. The bill, which passed Burundi’s first house unanimously, also included provisions and stiffer sentences against genocide, rape, and war crimes.

International gay rights groups are irritated, to put it lightly, as Burundi’s gay-criminalization law comes immediately on the tails of a UN declaration stating that laws against homosexuality are in violation of human rights to privacy and equality.

Both of Burundi’s uncloseted gays have indicated they will ignore the law.

Malaysia Issues Fatwa On Tomboys, Yoga

November 24th, 2008

Tomboys, lesbians, and yoga have all been forbidden by Muslims in Malaysia after the National Fatwa Council declared them to be against Islam.

Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, a spiritual leader and member of the Malaysian Islamic party PAS, said that no one is allowed to protest the fatwa, including non-Muslims:

Not only non-Muslims but also Muslims cannot protest against any fatwa. All fatwa are based on the Koran and Sunnah and to protest against them is like going against the teachings of Allah. Who are we to go against Allah’s commands, are we that great?

Nevertheless, tomboys, yoga-enthusists, and lesbians across the country have been protesting the fatwa. Moreoever, I, Mark, in solidarity, will continue to wear men’s clothes and act boyish, sign up for Yoga, and—what was that last one again?

Entire Church Suspended For Hiring Gay Pastor

November 21st, 2008

An entire Lutheran congregation in Newmarket, Ontario has been suspended over the hiring of a gay associate pastor.

Lionel Ketola, a gay, legally married man of faith, was ordained last May in a ceremony that drew more than 300 well-wishing parishoners. However, this did not sit well with Bishop Michael Pryse of the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, who officially informed the Holy Cross Lutheran Church this week that they have been suspended over the hiring.

The Synod’s actions are reportedly based on a lesser known biblical passage: And Jesus gathered his followers and spoke to them: “Eeew! A gay! Could someone get him out of here, please? Anyone? Seriously, I’ll turn this church around and there’ll be no heaven for anyone. There we go; thank you, sir.”

Tories Adopt Gay-Hostile Policies

November 19th, 2008

Conservative Party members gathered in fabulous Winnipeg last weekend for a policy convention that steered the party to the right on many social issues.

In accordance with efforts to make the party more mysterious and whimsical, much of the convention was closed to media and non-members. Still, some topics were open to all. Of relevance to gay Canadians, this included the adoption of policies to redundantly entrench already-existing rights of churches to not perform same-sex weddings,  to limit the investigative and adjudication powers of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and to officially declare gay people as “icky.”

While I think the church debate was just a silly wink to the party’s grumpy, gay-obsessed base (it has no relevance beyond being another opportunity to take a verbal jab at gay people) the Tories ought to tread carefully on making reforms to the Human Rights Commission. The Commission, which was created to ensure employment and equal treatment with respect to lodging and services, is still very much necessary for these purposes, especially for gay people.

The policy convention concluded with Stephen Harper dimming the lights, donning a top hat and cane, and waving the Conservative Power Orb into mesmerizing, interpretive light patterns to great applause.

(Well, it was closed doors; we can make some assumptions.)

Meanwhile, In The United States…

November 14th, 2008

Gay couples in the United States are in bitter-sweet celebration this week after a court victory won the right of same-sex marriage in Connecticut, a week after California lost it due to Proposition 8’s passage. Emboldened by what happened in California, anti-gay lobby groups are already working hard to reverse Connecticut’s court ruling, which they call “undemocratic.”

Undemocratic: That’s a word we’ll be hearing a lot of from anti-gay groups down South for a while, at least if Canada’s history on the matter is any indication.

When Stephen Harper announced that Canada’s Conservative party would vote to re-open the “marriage debate” in late 2006, I felt completely heartsick. Gay couples had already won the right to marry from multiple consecutive court rulings, and a bill to legalize it nationally had narrowly passed the year prior. That the Conservative Party was motioning to vote to take away rights from a minority group that fought so hard for them was confusing and mean-spirited, but they insisted it was necessary because the previous vote apparently wasn’t “free” enough. Liberal cabinet ministers, a handful of seats in the 308-seat parliament, were required to vote for equal marriage rights. That, they said, was undemocratic.

Ignoring, for a moment, that the “party whip,” a requirement by the party leader to vote for or against legislation, is part of our democratic process and something every party has employed, I couldn’t believe how quickly lessons from history had been forgotten. The fundamentally flawed concept that the rights of minorities should be decided by the majority had been used before in Canada, and it resulted in one of our greatest shames.

In 1885, Canada’s history was forever marred by the Chinese Immigration Act, brought into law through a democratic vote. Having already settled in North America, the people decided that legal barriers were necessary to keep out Chinese immigrants; they introduced a fifty dollar head tax for each Chinese immigrant, a small fortune at the time. This lasted 15 years until, in 1900, a second democratic vote increased that fee to five hundred dollars. Not long after, a third democratic vote severely restricted the number of Chinese immigrants that could be on any given boat to Canada, depending on the weight of the boat. Finally, in 1923, Canada banned Chinese immigrations entirely. The law wasn’t repealed for 24 years.

While the controversy was different, the concept was the same. The majority could tyrannize an unpopular minority, and protests or protections from this were dismissed as undemocratic.

This is precisely what’s happening in the States, and I’m deeply saddened that California is a part of it. It brought back memories from 2000, when I was living in Alberta and the provincial Tories utilized an obscure clause to override Canada’s Charter of Rights and ban same-sex marriage in the province. Thankfully, despite both successful and unsuccessful votes to ban it, Canada kept fighting and was eventually able to win equal marriage rights. The United States will too.

Protests against Proposition 8 are happening all over the world tomorrow, November 15th, and Canadians are invited to join in! Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Sault Ste. Marie, and Calgary all have protests planned, and organizers in other cities are mobilizing too. Find out where it’s happening in your city and take part!

CRTC Rules Against Shaw For Hiding Gay Channel

November 12th, 2008

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has ruled against Shaw Communications, a Calgary-based cable provider, for subjecting OUTtv, a GLBT channel, to “undue disadvantage.”

OUTtv filed a complaint with the CRTC last April over unfair treatment. As a Category 1 channel, Shaw was obligated to carry and promote OUTtv alongside other Category 1 stations, but somehow didn’t quite give it equal attention. It was excluded from every free preview week, had its station number changed twice without notification, was placed alongside Hustler, Playboy, and Red Light District even though there it had no adult content, and was excluded from Shaw’s “All In” package, making it the only Category 1 station to have a by-request-only subscription (and therefore requiring viewers to, essentially, out themselves to subscribe). As a result, viewership of OUTtv was a full 21 times lower on Shaw than other providers.

As punishment, Shaw will have to write an essay on what they did wrong and how they’ll fix it.

No, seriously.

Lesbian Couple Violently Assaulted In Front Of Children

November 10th, 2008

A court date has been set for a violent attacker who assaulted a lesbian couple as they were picking up their children from elementary school in Oshawa. The attack, which bloodied one of the mothers, was witnessed by numerous children, including the assailant’s own son.

Jane Currie and Anji Dimitriou, the victims, described the attack to Capital Xtra and the Durham Region:

[The attacker] said to Anji, “Which of you two men spoke to my kid? Fucking dyke lesbians.” I jumped out and just as I came around he spit right in her face. She wiped the spit off and he punched her in the face and hit her again in the back of the head.

I said to him, “you asshole what are you doing? You just beat a woman” then bang I got it.

Mark Scott’s violent assault left both parents with black eyes, and one with four stitches. Eyewitnesses confirmed that the attack was unprovoked, and likely a hate crime. Currie now says her three children are terrified:

We went to Zellers and they didn’t want to get out of the truck. “What if he’s in Zellers?” they asked. “What if he comes back to the school and comes after us?”

What a disgusting assault. The brazenness of it—in front of multiple children—is very hard for me to understand, but I take it as strong evidence for how deep homophobia continues to run.

These assaults aren’t common, but the behaviour the attacker learned comes from multiple, definite sources. There are lobby groups, legislators, editorialists, churches, and individuals that continue to portray gay people, through unfounded misinformation, phony research, and scaremongering, as some sort of threat to the very foundations of society. It’s in this extreme atmosphere that homophobia, including violent homophobia, can thrive.

This has to be stopped. Challenge verbal homophobia wherever it is encountered. Challenge it. Only when it is unchallenged can it escalate to this madness.

Lesbian Couple Denied Basement Suite

November 7th, 2008

A lesbian couple in British Columbia have filed a human rights complaint after being denied a basement suite.

College students Kathleen Webb and Liana LeBlanc say that Brenda and Marc Rovner, owners of a basement suite for rental, had assured them they were the first choice of tenants and that the suite was theirs until it was revealed they were lesbians. If that’s true, it will be a violation of the Human Rights Code, and possibly even Canadian law.

In a request to have the case dismissed, the Rovners provided a sworn affidavit claiming that their suite was only big enough for one tenant, contradicting the existence of their previous pair of tenants. But, who knows? It might be shown that the last couple was really just one person who could astroproject and felt like pretending to be a pair in a grand scheme to pay more rent.

Either way, I’ll report on the actual findings when they are released, likely in 2019.

To My American Friends…

November 5th, 2008

I had to prepare this before the polls closed yesterday, but I really wanted to send my greetings after your historic election, so I prepared a special message. Just close the appropriate eye to reveal the hidden greeting.

Finally, whatever the outcome happened to be, congratulations on replacing George W. Bush. Here’s to a new era!

Proposition 8 Is Discriminatory Nonsense

November 3rd, 2008

On Tuesday, California will vote on Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and repeal the marriage licenses from same-sex couples who are already married. As a constitutional amendment, it would not only impose and enforce this single belief on everyone, it would be entirely immune to legal challanges.

The state consitution was created to ensure that everyone was entitled to equal treatment under the law and that everyone could pursue their own happiness. Writing in provisions that deny existing rights to a minority group while keeping those rights for the rest of the majority is a terrible abuse of the constitution and its spirit. There is no argument against same-sex marriage that justifies a law forbidding it, and one can look to countries (like, saaaaay, Canada) and states that enjoy equal marriage rights to see that no harm has come of it.

Californians, vote NO on Proposition 8.