Here are all the fantastically amazing entries posted during January, 2012

New airport screening rules introduced by the Harper Conservatives appears to have the side-effect of banning trans Canadians from flying entirely. Section 5.2(1)C of the Aeronautics Act now states that anyone who “does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents” is barred from flying. While I doubt this was a deliberate action against trans Canadians, it certainly demonstrates that they aren’t in the government’s consciousness. (Well, either that, or they really, really like trans Canadians and never want them leave.)

While legislators in New Hampshire consider a bill that would make it legal for business owners in the public sector to deny services to any gay person getting married, an owner of an upscale bistro in Tennessee is doing almost the opposite—refusing service to homophobic lawmakers. (Ah, the sting of their own discrimination… Think it’ll change any minds?)

Parents Flip Out Over Teachers’ Safe Space Card

January 30th, 2012

A hypnotist waves a pendulum before an entranced man.

Two fifth grade teachers at West Park School in Altona, Manitoba are being demanded by parents to remove cards from their classrooms indicating that they have completed training on how to support GLBT youth.

Stephanie Fortier and Peter Wohlgemut had voluntarily taken training sessions from the Rainbow Resource Center in Winnipeg and received display cards that will let GLBT students know they have an adult to confide in, should they ever need their support. The cards, which feature a rainbow flag with the word “Ally” printed over it, include the following pledge:

As an Ally, I envision a society that embraces, values and celebrates diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.

As an Ally, I support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, intersex, queer, and questioning individuals, families, and communities.

As an Ally, I work towards a more aware, affirming, safe and open work environment in both policy and practice.

As an Ally, I acknowledge that creating a safe space is an unwavering process that requires productive commitment, re-assessment, and dedication.

As an Ally, I am committed to the elimination of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and heterosexism as well as other forms of oppression.

I participated [in] a Rainbow Resource Centre LGBTT Ally Training session and completed ___ hours of training in the year.

A number of parents subsequently freaked out.

“We have to sign hundreds of petitions to allow religious exercises in school,” Kim Peters Sawatzky, a parent at the school, told the media. “We should treat this situation in the same way, as it seems to be just as controversial.”

School officials say they’ve had a “steady stream” of requests to remove the cards. So, in an attempt to diffuse the parental panic, they decided to take some scissors to the cards so that only the rainbow flag with the word “Ally” remains, excluding the text of the pledge entirely. Not good enough for several of the parents, though, who are still adamant that the cards be removed entirely.

“I would like to have the choice of how I choose to teach my children about these words and what they mean,” MS. Peters Sawatzky continued.

What? “Ally?” That’s the only word left on the card to explain.

Not that the card did anything to prevent anyone from inserting whichever wacky definitions one wishes for these terms. In fact, I offer this challenge to any parent upset by these cards: Take your child aside, sit him or her on your lap, and define the following word: Ally (n.): An edible alien garment, used exclusively by members of the Zerphblangipod society of emu-wranglers on the planet Earth 2, located, by coincidence, precisely 3.14159265 light years from the home of Ms. Peters Sawatzky of Altona, Manitoba.

If, after reading this definition, an Ally card flies off the wall of Ms. Fortier’s fifth grade classroom and shoots gamma radiation into your eyes, then I will bake you a cookie. Otherwise, kindly chill the heck out and let the teachers tell gay students they’ve got some support.

Canada’s famous (well, internally famous) Heritage Minutes got a new addition recently. The succinctly titled Canada Gay Marriage may not be an It’s Time in terms of quality, but hey, at least we’re lucky enough to have it depict the past instead of the future!

Like The New Coke, But Slappier

January 29th, 2012

Slap’s got a new format and schedule! Due to persistent interference from Real Life™, regular illustrated posts now happen on everyone’s favourite day of the week: Monday! There’ll also be a bunch of brand new mini Slaps throughout the week featuring smaller stories that may not otherwise get much attention. And Terrible Friday Comics may rear its unpopular head, if you’re extra unlucky. So check out the new site, and feel free to send me two cents. (I need some pennies to complete my last roll, you see.)

Looks like Ontario may need to go to Newfoundland for some schooling on schooling. Clyde Jackman, Newfoundland’s education minister, just announced MyGSA, a $90,000 fund to help support the establishment of Gay-Straight Alliances. And it’s available to all schools offering grades 7 to 12. Cool stuff! It’s about time tha—Hey, McGuinty! Pay attention! Is that gum?

School Trustees Censured For Online Video Controvery

January 23rd, 2012

Denike and Woo appear in an It Shouldn't Get Better Project video.

Ken Denike and Sophia Woo, two trustees at the Vancouver School Board, were publicly reprimanded last week after misrepresenting the school board’s anti-homophobia policy.

The trustees were already the focus of some controversy when a video surfaced online showing them talking to supporters before last November’s elections. In the video, Denike and Woo claimed that the Vancouver School Board was about to amend their anti-bullying policies with controversial new measures regarding sexual orientation, bringing it in line with a “much worse” one in Burnaby. The best way to stop this contentious policy, they said, was to vote for them.

There was a little problem with this claim, mind you: Anti-homophobia measures had been added to the Vancouver School Board’s policies on bullying seven years earlier, in 2004.

This video couldn’t have surfaced at a worse time for Denike and Woo, who were already in a bit of hot water for appearing in a separate video for the National Organization for Marriage, one of the United State’s largest and most powerful anti-gay lobby groups. In a documentary-style spot posted on the NOM website, the two trustees spoke to cameras on school board property, implying that same-sex marriage had resulted in gay pornography being shown to schoolchildren.

Uh… Same-sex marriage caused gay porn to be shown to schoolchildren? Let’s reflect a moment on the likelihood of that being true.

Done reflecting?

Well, if you’re of sound mind (NOM supporters clearly excluded), you’ve come to the correct conclusion: No such repulsiveness ever happened (nor could it; it’s absurd). In reality, a third-party website address listed in a printed teacher’s resource booklet had sponsored a provocative and sexually suggestive public service announcement intended to help increase HIV testing in the adult gay community. The web address, which was never provided to students directly, was later removed from the booklet.

To his credit, Denike claims that the National Organization for Marriage had misled him and used his expression of concerns about the teacher’s resource booklet completely out of context. (I’d say!) He later had the video pulled from NOM’s site through legal action.

Now, did Mr. Denike and Madam Woo deserve to be publicly condemned by the board for these videos? Considering they essentially lied about the board’s policy in order to get votes, I’d say that’s an appropriate action.

Denike and Woo, humbled by the censure, have since apologized for misrepresenting the school board’s policies and are now focusing on more important issues…

Nah! I’m totally kidding. Refusing to apologise, Denike actually told the media that the censure has “impacted [his] human rights” and that he’s speaking with his lawyers. Stay tuned, kids! This might be a long one.

(Hat tip to the especially amazing Ryan Clayton for the story.)

Unspinning The Same-Sex Marriage Fiasco

January 16th, 2012

Stephen Harper tapdances with a cane and top hat.

On Thursday, an article in the Globe and Mail declared that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives had annulled over five thousand Canadian same-sex marriages issued to non-residents since 2005. Worldwide panic and probably cannibalism ensued, with the government rapidly trying to diffuse the situation, and the media using a mixture of government-fed information and political spin to make things supremely confusing for anyone hoping to understand exactly what happened in the first place.

So, what did happen?

Depending on which articles you read, the situation has been described as anything from a sneaky reversal of marriage policy followed by intense backpedaling (I’m looking at you, Globe and Mail), to a heroic government announcement granting foreign same-sex couples legal recognition for the first time (That’s you, National Post). The truth is a third option entirely, and is every bit as boring as you’d expect the details of international law to be.

To spare you an unwanted nap, here’s what I understand in the utmost of brevity: A couple from the UK got married in Canada and then later decided they wanted a divorce. When it comes to divorce and other matters of legal consequence, though, it turns out that Canadian law requires that the couple’s marriage be recognized in their country of citizenship. A lawyer with the Department of Justice, arguing on behalf of the government, thus declared that the couple’s same-sex marriage is not legally recognizable in this case, and was therefore never valid in the first place. This, he extended, means that virtually all other same-sex marriages issued to foreigners are likewise invalid.

A poo tempest followed.

Now, I’m not at all fond of being in the position of defending Stephen Harper’s Conservatives (I find most of their policies indefensible and the others generally pretty sucky), but I truly think this whole interpretation caught them off guard. I don’t believe that the Department of Justice lawyer was arguing based on explicit instruction from the PMO, nor do I think Harper is actively seeking to end same-sex marriage in Canada. (He still does his best to prevent other advances in equality and protection; equalizing the age of consent and adding protections for trans Canadians comes to mind, but I sincerely don’t think he wants to take away our right to marry.)

At any rate, despite what you may read, there was no policy change here—just a lawyer making a foolish argument. Rather than side with the lawyer’s interpretation, the government has stated that they will remedy the situation the same way I would: Explicitly clarify the law to recognize marriages in legal matters, no matter what the legality of those marriages are in the couple’s home country.

What I wouldn’t do, though, is then try to score extra political points by blaming this debacle on the previous Liberal government, which is exactly what the Conservative Justice Minister Rob Nicholson did in front of the media: “This is a legislative gap left by the Liberal government of the day when the law was changed in 2005,” he said. “The confusion and pain resulting from this gap is completely unfair to those who are affected.”

This legislative gap—which I doubt can accurately be described as such—existed long before same-sex marriage was even a reality in Canada. If the Tories had been in power in 2005 we simply wouldn’t have noticed because gays would not be able to marry—and since virtually all opposite-sex marriages are recognized abroad, no case to highlight this “gap” would ever have been brought forward. (Once Mr. Nicholson renounces the injustice demonstrated by the Tories in their previous attempts to prevent and then strip away our marriage rights, he may then comment on the unfairness of those affected by the government’s own lawyer’s interpretation.)

So, what should we take away from all this?

Something very encouraging, indeed.

Attempts to strip rights away from gay people will result in a demonstrated public outrage capable of severely threatening the government’s popularity. Despite some very loud voices of bigotry out there, support for equal rights and acceptance of gay people is the mainstream view in Canada. And that’s worth celebrating.

Washington May Be Next State To Get Equal Marriage Rights

January 9th, 2012

How can you ask for equal rights during a time of such economic turmoil?

Chris Gregoire, the governor of Washington, has announced her support of full, equal marriage rights in the state.

Already opponents are mobilizing to prevent the equal recognition of same-sex relationships. State senator Dan Swecker, a Republican, implied that any such legislation would be irresponsible. “It’s too bad we’d try to deal with this issue, that tends to be very divisive, in a year when we have these other major financial issues facing us,” he said.

Gee, Mr. Swecker must be pretty awful at multitasking.

Also, who says this has to be some kind of tiresome debate that needs to be “dealt with” as if it’s any kind of interruption to business as usual? Frankly, from the perspective of a Canadian, it seems outright silly that this still a major, divisive issue in the “land of the free.” The issue has been debated to death multiple times over across the globe. The trend toward equality among developed nations is not only clear and inevitable, but also demonstrably lacking in any undesirable consequences that people like Mr. Swecker insist upon. Just give gay couples their deserved, equal rights and move on already.

So, thank you Madame Gregoire. It’s about time!