Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gay Marriage - There's an Act for that!

July 20th, 2010 marks the 5th anniversary of the the Civil Marriage Act, Bill C-38 which allowed LGBT couples the right to legally marry in this country and to receive the same rights and benefits as straight couples.

Signing marriage certificate
Nine months later (no shotguns were present), G.C. and I made the trip to the Palais de Justice, signed the papers and celebrated our love in front of friends and family. This is something that I would have never dreamed possible even a decade before.

In July 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world after the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain to legalize same-sex marriages nationwide.  Now, with the recent addition of Argentina, there are ten. While there are some American States that allow same sex marriage, they are not recognized nationally and therefore suffer federal taxation and other fiscal discrimination.

PM Trudeau with rose
Thanks to the vision and tenacity of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, all Canadians enjoy equal rights under the law.  Without the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which was signed on Parliament Hill by the Queen on April 17th, 1982, I wouldn't be writing this blog today.

Without this Charter, LGBT people wouldn't be protected against hate discrimination, wouldn't be allowed in the military, wouldn't have been allowed the same rights and benefits as common-law couples and wouldn't be protected against hate propaganda (with the exception of clergyman, who are apparently allowed to spread hate to their hearts content).

As it is summer and "Pride" season is here, it is important to take a moment and realize the remarkable gains we have made.  Not that long ago, gay rights were off the radar.  Associating us with human rights wouldn't have been thinkable.  Being gay was a perversion at best and criminal at worst.

In 1965, ( I was fourteen and the Beatles released Help and Rubber Soul) George Klippert was charged and convicted of being a dangerous offender for admitting that he had homosexual relations with several men over a two year period. The Supreme court narrowly dismissed his appeal in 1967 (Beatles: All You Need is Love). 

This caused Tommy Douglas to stand up in Parliament and state that homosexuality should not be a criminal offence. Soon after, Trudeau introduced the Amendment Act, 1968-69 (Bill C-150), an omnibus bill which, among other things, decriminalized homosexual acts between consenting adults. The bill was passed in 1969 the same year Trudeau uttered the memorable phrase:
"...I think the view we take here is that there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation."
Mr. Klippert remained in prison until 1971.

Other milestones for gay rights in Canada:     

1977 -  Québec becomes the first province to include sexual orientation in its human rights legislation

1978 - federal government removes ban on homosexuals as immigrants

1992 - federal government lifts ban on homosexuals in the military

1995 - Supreme Court ruled in Egan v. Canada that the Charter would be interpreted to prohibit   discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

1999 - Supreme Court rules LGBT couples should enjoy same rights as common-law couples with regard to pensions, income taxes etc.. The federal government recognizes such rights in 2000.

2003 - Ontario Court of Appeal rules that the exclusion of same-sex couples from the definition of marriage violated equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Parliamentary Standing committee recommends that the federal government accept the ruling which is what the Chrétien government does and introduces new legislation to change definition of marriage.

2004 - federal government extends protection against hate propaganda to gays and lesbians (Clergyman were excluded from the new offence)

2005 - In February, Prime Minister, Paul Martin introduces Bill C-38, The Civil Marriage Act which passes then becomes law on July 20, 2005.

The Civil Marriage Act allows us the option to marry should we wish.  Statistics show that many gays, like their hetero counterparts choose to live common-law. And, other than in Québec, they enjoy the same property and succession rights so why not? 

So whether we chose to or not, it feels awfully good to have the choice.

1 comment:

  1. Here's a fun fact: Ironically, I started my career in a building named after the NWT Supreme Court judge who dismissed the appeal.


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