Here are all the fantastically amazing entries posted during July, 2009
NDP MP Peter Stoffer has called on the government to formally apologise to all veterans who were dishonourably discharged from the Canadian army for being gay. Until 1992, gay men and women were not allowed to serve in the military, and anyone found to be gay would be “discharged with ignominy.”
If the apology is issued, the government would also change the word “dishonourable” to “honourable” on the official records, which are publicly accessible to anyone.
Even when placed in its historical context, discharging a capable soldier simply for loving someone of the same sex is a strange thing to do—particularly given that Canada had to resort to conscription during World War II, and that these soldiers were willing to sacrifice everything for their country. Canada should absolutely apologise, and do it soon.
While Defence Minister Peter MacKay has said he will look into it, so far nothing has been done since Stoffer suggested the action three months ago.
Orville Nichols, a Saskatchewan civil marriage commissioner, has lost his anti-gay appeal of an earlier ruling by the provincial Human Rights Commission. Nichols was fined $2,500 in 2007 for refusing to perform his public services for a gay couple. He then fought the ruling in court, arguing that his private religious beliefs entitle him to discriminate and refuse public, non-religious services to gay people. A non-religious violation, if you will.
Civil marriage commissioners are licensed by the government to conduct marriage ceremonies for couples that do not wish to have a religious wedding. Since the ceremonies are secular and commissioners aren’t representatives of their private religious beliefs, they are subject to the same anti-discrimination laws as everyone else.
So, consequently, he lost his appeal… Not that he had much of it to begin with. Snap!
Divers/Cité, Montréal’s annual GLBT arts and culture festival has been denied all federal funding, despite meeting the necessary requirements. The news came just days before the festival was to begin, and just weeks after the Conservative cultural minister, Diane Ablonczy, was removed from her duties for allocating $400,000 for Toronto’s Pride Week celebrations.
Like the fallout from Toronto’s Pride Week’s funding decision, the ideological underpinnings of this decision are pretty freakin’ obvious, and perhaps even stronger. While it could be weakly argued that Toronto’s Pride Week was a political event, and not a cultural event eligible for funding, this can not be said of Divers/Cité. There are no parades, no rallies, and no campaigning. (These take place mid-August during Montréal’s separate Gay Pride festival, Célébrations de la Fierté.) Divers/Cité consists, instead, of outdoor concerts, film screenings, photo and art exhibitions, and other select cultural events. Only the most uptight would find any of the events objectionable.
The festival is one of Montréal’s largest, drawing millions of tourism dollars and hundreds of thousands of participants. The festival is also the first applicant meeting all the requirements for funding to be denied. This is particularly relevant as the $155,000 price tag would have been a pittance next to the $2 million spent for Calgary’s Stampede, $6 million spent for the Just for Laughs and Montréal Jazz festivals, and $1.4 million for the French music festival, FrancoFolies. The money comes out of $100 million that has already been allocated for just these sorts of festivals in Canada.
Seems like there’s some new funding requirements in place, and they’re pretty straightforward. Anything supportive of the GLBT population and culture is ineligible. And if funding accidentally gets allocated for gay cultural events, there are consequences and measures to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
(Thanks to Slap readers John and Jim, who alerted me to the story during my birthday hiatus!)
- Denied grant, Montreal gay festival must rethink lineup [Toronto Star]
- Minister defends decision not to fund gay arts festival [The Canadian Press]
Hey kiddos! I’m taking a short vacation this week to celebrate my birthday. Fret not, though! To make up for my absence, there will be a brand-new, exceptionally low-quality comic strip every day this week! It’s the return of Terrible Birthday Comics!
L’édition du mardi
Here’s a neat lesson to start off your Friday: If you want to join a notoriously unwelcoming community, maybe try not to be surprised when you feel unwelcomed.
Jim Corcoran, a gay Catholic in Ontario, was shocked—shocked—to learn that he was removed from his church’s altar service after some of his fellow parishioners complained to the Diocese that a gay man was serving. Jim is now filing a human rights complaint against Bishop Nicola De Angelis for discrimination based on sexual orientation.
While Jim has every right to feel offended, his case will fail—if the Human Rights Tribunal even agrees to hear it at all. Churches, as private religious institutions, are exempt from having to conform to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That means, legally, they can discriminate against whomever they please, so long as it’s within their own private institutions and not within the public sphere.
So, while firing Jim just for being gay wasn’t a moral thing to do, churches are allowed to act that way—and happily seize the opportunity.
It’s what Jesus would do, after all, I guess.
And a courtly tip o’ the hat to the always amazing Matt Guerin at Queer Liberal for the story.
- Gay altar server contests firing [National Post]
I’m über stoked about today’s special guest author. Matthew David is a talented singer/songwriter whose strong message of acceptance in traditionally unaccommodating communities has already crossed borders, earning airtime in both Canada and the United States. In today’s Guest Slap, Matthew shares his personal insights and experiences on what it means to be gay and Christian, challenging the widely-held perception that the two are mutually exclusive.
A lot of people blame the slow-relenting cultural phobia of homosexuality on the effect of our roots in a long-lasting Judeo-Christian tradition, and I tend to agree. After all, homosexuality certainly wasn’t feared or hated on a cultural level prior to the rise of Christianity—in fact, it seems secular culture now is catching up, as it were, to the thoughts of Greeks and Romans on the matter. Odd, eh? When you think about it, modern society is adopting more traditional values than those we currently label traditional (i.e. the religious folk).
As we observe the gradual movement of Western society away from Christianity and any form of institutional dogma, we also see secular culture slowly warming up to the former fringers, further polarizing the communities of faith. I say warming up about Western secular society, but generally it is quite warm, excepting the odd news item of discrimination and violence. In general, it is religiously-motivated groups taking political action against equality and protesting anything helping the gays.
This brings me to the struggle between homosexuality and the culture of faith. A growing group of modern Christians has been surprised to discover that the Good Book doesn’t actually condemn GLBTQ people to hell. And this group includes me, with a foot in both the gay and the Christian worlds. I grew up in an entirely Christian world-slash-bubble, and with the early-teen realization that I was gay, I went into impenetrable denial, dark depression, stark seclusion, and a twitching toward taking my own life. I finally came to the same understanding that God not only “loves the sinner,” but he also doesn’t “hate the sin,” contrary to the doctrine of many of his people. Why did I waste so many years in turmoil? Was all that pain over a silly misread of holy writ?
From age 13 to age 26 I wrestled with the straight-jacket and gag I so lovingly cherished—my faith. I did everything I could to be rid of my “demons,” to cure the supposed psychology that had perverted me, and to pray away the gay, but nothing came of it. Finally, I was told by some brave soul that God loved me, and he didn’t love me “anyway” as many Christians had told me. He loves me fully and completely as I am—gay. He loves me gay, and the only abomination I could be guilty of would be to try to live straight. Doing so would desecrate his holy temple.
However, the struggle continues, as it is transferred from one with the faith to one with the faithful. I am now separated as disingenuous, or worse, fallen. On top of the many questions from the happily-naive like, “did somebody touch you?”, or “have you tried eHarmony?”, there are sucker-punching questions like, “but aren’t you supposed to be a Christian?”
One of the principles I live my daily life by is found in the Book that, on other pages, is used to condemn me and justify my persecution. It tells me “in all things God works for the good of those who love him,” and in the next breath that I am “more than a conqueror” just being his child. I trust it fully. It gives purpose to the struggle, and strength to withstand all the judgement and even the attacks.
What an odd Book. One man reads it with hate in his eyes and sets up a pile of wood to burn the witch; and the witch reads it in her time of desperate need only to find the strength and courage she needs to endure the injustice. One day, I have faith that injustice will be inconceivable in every culture and sub-culture, and the Book won’t be needed for purposes like this at all.
Thanks again to today’s guest author! If you’d like to hear more from Matthew, including his latest single, Masquerade, head on over to the official Matthew David MySpace page.
I guess someone in Amherst, Nova Scotia isn’t too fond of rainbows.
A Pride flag that was being flown in front of Amherst’s city hall to celebrate the Cumberland Gay Pride week was removed and slashed by vandals on Thursday. The Mayor, Robert Angel, said he’s disappointed about the vandalism, and quickly had the flag replaced.
Cumberland Pride’s chair, Gerard Velhoven, expressed his disappointment to the press:
Amherst is a very positive town. We had such a great event here Monday that made everyone feel so good, then a couple of days later you get a call from the town that your flag has been vandalised.
It makes me feel awful, but having said that I’m hoping this is an isolated incident.
The saddest part of all this is that the vandalism totally worked: After hearing about the vandalism, all of Amherst’s gay population reportedly turned straight.
- Gay pride flag slashed [Chronicle Herald]
Here’s some encouraging news! The state of Massachusetts has launched a lawsuit against the United States government over the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The act, which passed in 1996, prevents states from giving gay couples over 1000 benefits that heterosexual couples already enjoy, including everything from spousal health insurance access to having veterans’ spouses share a burial plot. States that do not comply with the act will lose access to millions of dollars in funding for health care, social services, and other benefit causes.
Massachusetts, having finally noticed that DOMA is ridiculous, has launched the lawsuit on the grounds that DOMA infringes upon the state’s right to define marriage for itself, and forces it to discriminate against gay couples.
The text of the filing is very good:
Congress overstepped its authority, undermined states’ efforts to recognize marriages between same-sex couples, and codified an animus toward gay and lesbian people.
The suit adds that over 16,000 same-sex couples have wed in Massachusetts, noting that “the security and stability of families has been strengthened in important ways throughout the state.”
Way to go Massachusetts!
(Huge tip o’ the hat to James over at Gay Persons of Color for the story.)
- Mass. is 1st to fight US marriage law [Boston Globe]
Conservative cabinet minister Diane Ablonczy is being torn a new one by a fellow Tory over a decision to help fund Toronto’s Gay Pride Week. The pummelling, however, appears to be limited to some pretty obscure venues, consisting of mostly extreme, social conservative websites.
Brad Trost, a Conservative MP, was quoted by the ultra right-wing opinion website LifeSite News as saying that “almost the entire Conservative caucus” and “most of the Prime Minister’s Office” was shocked by Diane’s funding announcement, adding that Diane had been “reassigned” for the blunder. “The pro-life and the pro-family community should know,” said Trost, “that the funding money that went to the gay pride parade in Toronoto was not government policy.”
Despite the scathing announcement found on small, targeted venues, mainstream media sources were unable to confirm the government’s policy and Diane’s firing over the issue, receiving only denials about the reassignment.
After repeated requests for information, a Conservative insider has confirmed to Slap that they totally remember mailing out the angry announcement to everyone, but most of it must have just been lost in the mail or something.
Update: Since I wrote this, it looks like a real, mainstream news source has confirmed that Diane has, indeed, been reassigned, but the Conservatives are denying that this has anything to do with the Pride funding. Oh, that’s good! I’m glad it has nothing to do with the reasons that Diane’s colleagues say it is when talking to smaller, targeted sources.
The conservative Saskatchewan Party has decided to introduce legislation that will allow government-licensed civil marriage commissioners to deny their services to same-sex couples in the province.
Civil marriage commissioners perform public, non-religious marriage ceremonies for couples who do not wish to have a denominational wedding. They are also certified to issue marriage licenses themselves.
The legislation is coming as a response to a couple of marriage commissioners who refused to offer their public services to gay couples, claiming that issuing a same-sex civil marriage would violate their religious beliefs. Considering they’re not performing ceremonies on behalf of their personal religion, that may be a wee bit of a stretch.
But, hey, if this legislation takes effect, I can also refuse to serve anti-gay people, right?
Police in Fort Worth, Texas have violently raided a newly-opened gay bar on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, arresting seven people for “public intoxication” (inside a bar?) and sending one to intensive care with brain injuries.
Contrary to eyewitness accounts—which describes terrified bar patrons trying to stay out of the officers’ way—a police press release claimed that extra force was required after several patrons made physical sexual advances on the officers.
You know, because, apparently, when multiple angry policemen barge into your local bar and start arresting people, us gays just can’t resist groping them.
Or, as the bar owner put it:
The groping of the police officer—really? We’re gay, but we’re not dumb!
(Thanks, Bruce, for the story!)
I’m taking the holiday off, kids. If you’re Canadian, enjoy the celebrations and have a great day! If not, just celebrate extra hard for me when it’s your country’s turn. Cheers!