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February 2005 - Posts

February 28, 2005 7:08 PM

Stephen Harper's a silly goof

No, it's not me saying this. It's Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hebert, writing about the Conservative Party leader. "The post of Leader of the Official Opposition has long been known as the worst political job in Canada," she writes. And Harper's screwed it up with his attack on same-sex marriage. "Forced to prop up the government on major occasions such as the budget -- a move than can only blunt his critique of Liberal policies -- he is then left to paint himself in a social conservative corner on same-sex marriage because it is the highest-profile issue for him to take a run at the ruling party....

"In Canada, the Conservatives have traditionally fared best when they have run on a mix of liberal social views and conservative fiscal policies. Harper, in contrast, is emerging as the leader of a social conservative Liberal party."

Star copy doesn't stay up long: so read it fast.

February 28, 2005 11:03 AM

Shallow book reviewers

One would think that reviewers for Quill and Quire, Canada's book trade industry magazine, would have a grand vision of literature. That they'd understand that the language and the insight found in good books transcend the situations the authors describe.

This is from a review by Toronto freelancer Dory Cerny in the March issue: "Readers might presume that a story told from the point of view of a lesbian about a dead lesbian lover, her crazy lesbian friend, and the beautiful lesbian painter she is falling for will primarily be interesting to, well, lesbians."

Of course. Just as you might presume that lesbians would never bother reading all those dumb hetero stories by Alice Munro.

February 28, 2005 10:59 AM

The marriage hustle

The Hill Times (a tabloid written for political mainliners, civil servants and other Parliamentary denizens) reports that Canada's ruling Liberals have appointed the members of the special committee that will study Bill C-38, the same-sex marriage legislation. It's an interesting move, since the bill would normally go to an already existing standing committee for discussion. There's one more member than usual -- lucky 13 instead of a dozen. They'll take over once (if) C-38 passes second reading, weeks from now.

Committee members are Liberals Don Boudria, Fran├žoise Boivin, Paul Macklin, Anita Neville, and Michael Savage. The Conservatives are Rona Ambrose, Gord Brown, Rob Moore, and Vic Toews. The Bloc has Richard Marceau and Real Menard, who is out. The New Democrats also placed their openly gay MP, British Columbia's Bill Sisksay. The chair is deputy Speaker Marcel Proulx (elected as a Liberal).

I'll post their positions on marriage later today.

ADDENDUM The Liberals, of course, stacked the committee with five supporters. The Bloc added two more (including, as previously noted, the party's lone out gay MP, Real Menard). The New Democrats stuck their gay boy on there, Bill Siksay. That makes eight pros.

On the antis, we have four Conservatives, including Vic Toews, a particularly crabby guy with a long record of anti-gay votes. (Don't confuse gay marriage no-voter Rob Moore with his colleague James Moore, one of the handful of courageous Conservatives who will support queer matrimony.) Canadians for Equal Marriage has Rona Ambrose listed as "unclear on equal marriage," but she's gotta be against, or the Tories wouldn't have put her there.

According to Canadians for Equal Marriage, chair Proulx is still a fence sitter. His vote won't be needed, given the way things look now.

BTW, Canadians for Equal Marriage has a useful section which lists how each MP is expected vote on same-sex marriage. It's listed by riding rather than by name; there's also a page where you can type in a postal code or an MP's name.

The Hill Times' story's here, around the middle of the page.

February 27, 2005 10:30 AM

Gaga over Sharon Stone

So good to know the media is interested in bisexual issues. Some variant of this story appeared in every single weekend paper I saw. "Sharon Stone says her character will have a bisexual relationship in the coming film Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction. 'There is lesbian love,' Stone said.... 'We're testing for her now.' When asked if she would mind if life imitated art, the 46-year-old actress said with a smile, 'Why not? Middle age is an open-minded period.'

"Stone said she was surprised at the attention her interrogation scene in the original 1992 Basic Instinct movie -- in which she was famously underdressed. -- received."

Yes, thank you, mainstream editors, for caring about GLBT issues. And I know that millions of straight middle-aged men will support bisexual rights by slapping down 10 bucks to see Sharon Stone making out with a cookie-cutter blonde. Yay for queer awareness.

February 26, 2005 12:01 PM

Speak white

Queer sci fi writer Nalo Hopkinson has me thinking about language. She sometimes has characters speak in Creole -- and has found, to her surprise, that many readers assume a speaker of dialect -- especially black dialect -- is stupid. Readers presume that this person, that their entire race, even, is a colonized one. One reviewer wrote flat out that Hopkinson uses the language of racism, but that her blackness meant he could not call her a racist.

Hopkinson, speaking at Montreal's Concordia University earlier this month, was flabbergasted.

She's looking ahead, rewriting the past into the future. The colonized of old do not remain so for all time -- they are even the potential oppressors of tomorrow. (Human nature is so much more complex that the simplistic analysis of a speech pattern.)

But the past is not so easily forgotten. Anthologist Virginia Hamilton, in her collection of slave stories, "The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales," writes in the introduction: "In 1880, journalist Joel Chandler Harris collected some of the oral literature of the slaves in 'Uncle Remus: His Songs and his Sayings.'... Harris' Uncle Remus told animal tales in fractured English to the little white boy of the plantation house. But author Harris was not concerned with reproducing exactly the tales or their language. Harris and his contemporaries used phonetic dialect as a literary device. They felt that an exaggerated colloquial language best symbolized what they regarded as the quaint appeal of lowly, rural people. Thus, some of the folktales recorded by early collectors are much more difficult to read than the narratives in the form of letters and petitions that some slaves managed to write themselves." (Slaves were forbidden to learn their letters.)

The children's book "Tom Swift and his Giant Cannon," by Victor Appleton, was published only a few years after Harris' efforts, in 1913. I picked it up at a second hand bookstore. "'Scuse me, Massa Tom," broke in Eradicate ["an aged colored man-of-all-work"], as he put his head through the half-open office door. "'Scuse me, but dere's a express gen'men outside, wif his auto truck, an' he's got some packages fo' yo' all, marked 'dangerous -- explosive -- an' keep away fom de fire.' He want t' know what he all gwine t' do wif 'em, Massa Tom?"

"Yais sah, Massa Tom. Dat's all right,' but he jest can't bring'em in."

The Chinese immigrants in the Charlie Chan detective novels I've read (circa 1929) are cringe-making : "Missie look-see watch, say 12 minutes aftah eight plitty muchee time bootleggah come. I say plitty muchee time dinnah gets on table." And on for far too much paper. Title character Chan doesn't speak like this of course. He, according to author Earl Derr Biggers, is a far better example of the "psychic" and "nocturnal" Chinese race (I kid you not) who has worked hard to tame his accent and speaks only a vaguely stilted (and poetic) English. Just to show how smart Chan is.

All proving Virginia Hamilton's point. But in 2005, we can go too far. Many people learning a new language have accents, patois is a legitimate lingua franca, and speaking skills are not connected to brains. One cannot live one's life afraid of racists, nor pandering to those who claim to fight racism -- but are in fact only replacing one bunch of offensive rules with another galling ordinance.

Here's hoping Nalo Hopkinson continues to inject realism into her imaginary worlds. Not everyone speaks white. Nor should they.

February 25, 2005 5:27 PM

And we mean now, dammit

Well, knock me over with a feather. I just mentioned the Ontario provincial government's bill changing the definition of spouse to include homos two days ago, and it's already passed. Thankfully, there's dirt!

There'd been an agreement among all parties to hold a quickie voice vote -- where pols just yell out yea or nay and the most voices win. We're very scientific here in Canada. Anyway, three right-wingers and one leftie (Peter Kormos, who once posed as a "sunshine boy" for a tabloid paper, ahem) said to heck with that, and demanded a recorded ballot. But they couldn't get enough support for that, and so now we'll never know who voted how.

Politicians are such cowards.

The Globe and Mail's story should remain posted for a couple of days. And Canadian Press is here.

February 25, 2005 12:47 PM

Naughty pictures

The Bible's take on homosexuality, brought to you by lovers of Lego. A reminder: the Good Book's pretty nasty. Read it here.

February 25, 2005 10:07 AM

Free the cartoons!

That damned SpongeBob SquarePants story is still zipping about the 'net and popping up in the old-fashioned media, refusing a dignified death. I'm tired of reading the same denials over and over. Why can't SpongeBob be gay? Why does Sesame Street Inc. always insist that Bert and Ernie are just friends? Tinky Winky's no homo, cry his, er, her, er, its, creators! If Charles Schulz were still alive, we'd soon see a press release denying Peppermint Patty's proposed proclivities.

There are queer cartoon characters, but only for grown-ups. The obscene Ren and Stimpy. Smithers and Patty Bouvier (doh). And when kids' 'toons do make mention -- that PBS Buster the bunny rabbit kerfuffle -- the homos are grown-up lesbian mommies. No confused kids working out their sexual orientation here.

But... but... they're too young! you say.

In the recent SpongeBob movie, film makers had no problems showing the suddenly hetero Patrick the starfish going gaga over a girl. Why not a same-sex crush? Kiddie cartoon rights are the next great gay challenge.

February 24, 2005 11:29 AM

Where the boys are

I sometimes wonder whether the need to control the behavior of others is programmed right into human DNA. It's a nasty idea, I know, but we just can't seem to let people live their lives in the way they see fit.

When it comes to AIDS, it's hard to fault a bit of moralistic outrage. Gay journo Rex Wockner is very good at it, and his rant about keeping gay men from killing themselves seems like a good cause.

Rex got going because of all this talk of a new, nastier strain of HIV in New York -- a bug whose existence may or may not be true. Wockner writes: "Now, it is quite possible this case may prove to be a fluke -- a matter of genetics combined with a bizarrely unhealthy lifestyle. Or, HIV 2.0 could be on the loose, which is the assumption under which health officials seem to be operating.... If they're wrong this time, it's likely only a matter of time until HIV 2.0 does arrive, given that promiscuous gay barebacking has gotten completely out of control. I could provide paragraphs of evidence but one factoid will suffice: The most popular member-created chat room on very mainstream, day after day, is 'Bareback.'"

Unlike Rex (an American), the AIDS Committee of Toronto is obsessed with niceness and understanding. One of its staffers recently wrote this: "To clarify about the current story about a superstrain: NO NEW HIV STRAIN HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED, DESPITE THE MEDIA CONTINUALLY REPORTING ON THIS AS IF IT WERE A PROVEN FACT. To clarify: what much of the media attention has achieved is to create a sense that gay men are 'irresponsible' or 'stupid.' Such a perception stigmatizes us as gay men, stigmatizes those of us who continue to take risks due to a wide and complex range of reasons that many times go beyond meth use, stigmatizes those of us who are substance users. IT DOESN'T HELP US FURTHER PREVENT THE SPREAD OF HIV; IT ACTUALLY MAKES IT MORE DIFFICULT."

This is taken from a really interesting experiment by the folks at Gay Guide Toronto, an online entertainment digest that proves that barflies are not the shallow morons many activists think they are. It's a message board called InterACTion, and the current question is, "Does the act of riding raw turn you on? Is poz a fetish? We hit the hot button hard this month, talking openly and honestly on our hot anonymous online forum." Okay, the "hot" part is a bit shallow... but serious talk can still be sexy. (Past topics include "Tina and You" and "OnlineSex." Go here and click on the InterACTion logo in the column at the far left of the page.)

American AIDS educators have traditionally used fear to stop the spread of AIDS; Canadians prefer education and talk of managed risk and choices and all sorts of other really good and smart-sounding things.

The problem is, if you use the same tactics for 20 years, the message eventually gets tuned out. And the Canadian refusal to change tactics every so often, to reject just coming out and telling gay men that yeah, they should use condoms for anal sex (unless they've got HIV test results in their back pockets), reminds me of the original communications disaster we queer Canucks suffered circa 1981. The gay media stories I've read from back then, when the disease was first identified, were all about denial: The panic was homophobia masked as medical knowledge. There was no "gay disease," the pundits sniffed.

Coverage changed as thousands of gay men died.

I don't want to encourage hysteria about AIDS. I don't blame people with AIDS for having this horrible disease. I understand why some don't care about their health or seek danger or believe themselves invincible. Et cetera, et cetera -- you all know the drill. But I will speak out about self-hatred and stupidity when I see it. After all, is it more important to save lives, or to manage media profiles?

ADDENDUM A teeny tiny paragraph in my morning paper announces that "Health officials have found no evidence that the drug-resistant strain of HIV recently discovered in New York City has been spreading in this country, a spokesperson for the Public Health Agency of Canada said yesterday. A check of the genetic code of the virus against those logged in the database of HIV viruses isolated in most provinces and territories turned up no matches. Quebec and British Columbia maintain their own HIV databases and have not yet been able to run checks."

February 23, 2005 2:07 PM


A quick Canuck news note: "Dozens of Ontario laws are being amended to change the definition of spouse to include homosexual couples, Attorney General Michael Bryant announced." Details here. Ontario provincial courts okayed same-sex marriage in 2003, of course, so this is a bit of legal -- but important -- housekeeping. Religious folk are protected from being forced to conduct same-sex marriages. The wording of the actual bill appears here. (For legal junkies only.)

February 23, 2005 10:33 AM

Marcia Cross is a big ole dyke

The Advocate slaps a publicity shot of the redhead "Desperate Housewives" star on its new cover and looks at how an absolute lie posted on some website somewhere in the world -- that Marcia Cross was about to come out in its pages -- became the gospel truth. Marcia Cross a lesbian? Nope, but it sure makes for an embarrassing look at journalism. I'll post an URL once The Advocate does.

ADDENDUM Finally! Here's the link.

February 23, 2005 10:30 AM

Douglas Coupland is a big ole 'mo

If he hasn't already, Douglas Coupland is soon to hit middle age. He's not allowed to be the precocious young literary genius anymore. Coupland, of course, hit the big time with his first book, "Generation X," which defined an age. More tomes followed ("Hey Nostradamus" and "Eleanor Rigby," to name only two), and an additional career as an artist and designer. He comes out in the Feb. 1 Advocate (er, it had some "The L Word" actors on the cover -- the gals are a bit overexposed these last couple of weeks -- and so I left it lying around for ages before finally reading it last night).

I wonder whether the Vancouver-based Coupland ignored Canadian gay media on purpose, or if he was just never asked.
Advocate reporter: Doug, are you gay?
Coupland: Well, only if you'll be my date at the Tonys.
Reporter: It's a date.
Coupland: [Laughs] There was a funny... do you ever watch "Will and Grace"? The minstrel show?
Reporter: Occasionally.
Coupland: Karen says to Jack, "You're gayer than a clutch purse at the Tonys." [Laughs] I thought that was one of the best lines. How come The Advocate has never called up before?
Reporter: Well, frankly, it's because you've never gone there in interviews before. But I heard you had a new book coming out, and I thought, 'Damn it, I want to ask.'

As for same-sex marriage, Coupland isn't gonna get hitched, and he's also a bit squeamish about discussing it: "You go into this and you get all these e-mails. I don't like to get political that way. I don't know anyone who is getting married. God makes you different in some way; why would you want to ape the conventions of people who are different from you?" (He doesn't seem to be against marriage, however.) Interview outtakes can be found here.

February 22, 2005 1:39 PM

Buildings will crumble, newborns will die in their mothers' arms

"A Canadian pro-family activist says if the homosexual movement succeeds in redefining marriage in his country, the destruction to society there will be unimaginable to most people." The horrible truth continues here.

February 22, 2005 1:31 PM

Could you respond to these 400 e-mails on your break?

More on this idea of how people can be overwhelmed by the response to same-sex marriage: The Feb. 21 newsletter of Canadians for Equal Marriage states: "Over 1.5 million e-mails in support of equal marriage have been sent to Members of Parliament within the last five days, as second-reading debate on the Civil Marriage Act began in Parliament."

Holy smokes, how can recipients dig themselves out of that sort of avalanche?

Back to the CEM: "The spike in e-mails continued with this weekend's news that Famous Players Theatres has pulled pro-equal marriage advertising as result of threats - including death threats - which it received." See also here, for my original comments.

"Supporters of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms have been using the Canadians For Equal Marriage (CEM) website -- -- to make their voices heard on this important issue. The site allows people to e-mail MPs with the click of a button.

"There was a dramatic upswing of e-mails following Conservative leader Stephen Harper's speech last week, which called equal treatment of lesbian and gay people simply the 'latest fad.'"

February 22, 2005 9:50 AM

That's why the lady is a tramp

Why am I so often mistaken for a prostitute? A drunken male pedestrian two-stepping home after a night out once tried to hire me for an hour. He jingled the change in his front pocket as he responded to my simple no with: "Oh... rats."

I had no idea there was a market for portly butch gals in red plaid shirts and army boots. More here.

February 21, 2005 7:09 AM

You go, fat head

The latest in the queer wedding bla bla: "The federal Liberal Party's youth wing is mounting a massive campaign in support of same-sex marriage for fear the legislation will be defeated in the Commons.... They're also launching a button campaign bearing the slogan 'It's the Charter, stupid.'" More here.

Oh yeah. Insulting people is definitely the way to win this fight.

February 20, 2005 11:57 AM

AIDS is fun

Am still agog over a talking two-page insert in the February Out magazine that promotes the AIDS drug Reyataz. Wow.

Open up the ad's cardboard cover and you'll hear a couple of cell phone rings, followed by the words, "Hey, we're at the beach. Catch you later."

I wonder how pharmaceutical companies' AIDS lifestyle ads will change -- if at all-- now that a new and even faster-killing variant of the virus has been discovered.

February 20, 2005 10:49 AM


As if you could miss it -- cuz it's everywhere -- someone comes out on tonight's animated Simpsons episode (check yer local listings). The odds on favorite (literally) is Marge's sister, Patty Bouvier. Finally, I look forward to some gentle teasing about that gay rights thing. Kinda like Dilbert did.

SPOILER: Yep, Patty came out. But she didn't end up marrying her sweetie, who turned out to be... a heterosexual man masquerading as a chick. Quite a funny episode, natch.

February 20, 2005 10:45 AM

High dudgeon

Media folk can track the latest on the Stevie Cameron affair here and here. [ADDENDUM 16:08pm: And the same reporter has just posted another interesting blurb here.] Cameron is the investigative journo accused of being a police informant, who was denounced by the Canadian Association of Journalists back in March when the allegation was made public. See also here.

Once members began to talk again about Cameron, I rejoined the Canadian Association of Journalists so that I could gripe. Am not impressed by the latest CAJ press release. Would like to see new blood on the board (but have no interest in dragging my own bones out to the Winnipeg annual conference -- few starving freelancers have that sort of time). Unlike some, however, I don't care how Stevie Cameron is reacting to all this. I don't intend to be mean when I say this -- but we must separate the personal from the professional. I'm sure bad people feel terrible when they get caught -- so what? Doesn't stop us reporters from wanting to expose the truth. (And no, I don't know "the truth" with Stevie Cameron.) But the CAJ issue is being reinforced for me as more and more one of unconscionably horrid process (and problematic vision, leadership, and communications policy). It's not a debate that should focus on Stevie's "feelings."

February 20, 2005 10:06 AM

The perils of promotion

The weekend paper reports that Famous Players won't renew the deal signed with one of its own executives for the pro same-sex marriage ads that ran in theatres. (The background's here.) Why? The company is gay-positive in terms of leadership, of that there's no doubt.Amity and good intentions undoubtedly played a role in the ad contract (which cost close to $15,000). Presume also a belief in the importance of speech, even ad-related speech. Or perhaps not: executives have not sold screen time to the other side, and they've announced they'll no longer run "issue-driven advertising" of any kind. Customer don't like "issues" mixed in with their entertainment, apparently. (Yes, moviegoers believe there's no moral to the story on the screen! All that's left of Aesop's ages old bones is rolling about in a long-lost grave.)

Famous Players has seen some audience numbers dip, certainly. May have even expected it in some theatres. Though I think most of their customers don't care one whit.

There are perils to free speech. Many of those who do care about gay marriage, care obsessively. The antis send out thousands upon thousands of protests and cajoleries. The pros respond with their own endless stream of e-mailed pleas and telephoned prayers. It's overwhelming.

You'd need to hire an extra boatload of staff to cope. I recently read an appeal to gay activists to slow down, that politicians are deluged with communications that they can't possibly cope with -- much of it from people who aren't even constituents. The political system's set up so that each member of Parliament represents a chunk of local people; of course pols need to keep the health of the whole in mind, but their own backyard is theirs to coddle, bully, and personify. (I admit, it's hard not to reply to bigotry which sweeps the country just because the one who said it is 1,000 clicks away.)

The Globe and Mail has the spokesperson for Famous Players saying that "the phone calls were starting to get abusive, so we thought it's not fair for our staff to have to go through that sort of thing.... We were starting to get e-mails that were threatening our staff." And philanthropist Salah Bachir, who bought the ads, says he's received death threats.

Shame. Who's shutting down free speech now?

February 19, 2005 9:55 AM

On Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

With the help and support (and censoring power?) of the family of the deceased, the mystery writer John Dickson Carr wrote an effusive biography of the late (straight) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective. "The Life of Sir Arthur etc." was published in 1949, 19 years after the beloved geezer's death. It's well paced and touches on the basics. Doyle opposed women's suffrage his whole life, but did eventually change his mind in favour of home rule for Ireland. He was a best selling author of historical novels and essays in his time, and warned of the British army's lapses in preparing for World War I -- and was proven right when German submarines blew up the U.K.'s ships on the sly (huh? where'd that torpedo come from?), and tens of thousands of soldiers died because generals ordered them to run right up to the enemy, who were safely ensconced in deep trenches and aiming machine guns at the approaching targets. It's astonishing that the Brits won the war at all.

Doyle's Holmes was logical and grouchy, and seemed to reflect Doyle's agnostic side (he renounced Catholicism as a young man). In his last decade of life, Doyle embraced spriritualism, proclaiming a belief in the eternal as proven by many experiences with mediums who communicated with the dead. (Left unmentioned in this biography is Doyle's 1922 authorship of "The Coming of the Fairies," a recitation of the "facts" around two young children who took "the Cottingley photographs," of the fairies living near their home. The two brats eventually confessed their prank: I hope Doyle never knew of their perfidy. I own a 1997 reprint of this lovely fairy tome, where Doyle pretends not to take sides in the story's veracity, but his need for belief is clear.)

Sherlock Holmes was also the chivalrous side of Doyle, and the real deal would take up the occasional injustice (his "clients" were generally too poor to pay for first class legal help). Doyle's first case involved a non-white man railroaded by a bigoted white police force into years of jail time for a crime not committed. Shockingly, England had no court of appeal, and so the imprisoned George Edalji had no recourse.

But Doyle was white, and so was listened to. Years of angry publicity and public shock forced the government of the day to create a Court of Criminal Appeal in 1907, though it was too late for Edalji, released early from jail out of shame, but still screwed around by a hierarchy that could not bring itself to do the right thing and absolve him.

February 18, 2005 7:03 PM

We made the bed...

Now that the community has made same-sex marriage the most important issue for the entire friggin' movement, every moment from here on in will bring more and more exhausting news. "Legislation to extend same-sex marriage across Canada could be doomed next week when the minority Liberal government of Prime Minister Paul Martin brings in its budget." Whatever.

February 18, 2005 9:00 AM

Hope, yes -- but prepare for the worst

It is a tenet of faith within our community that coming out -- one person at a time -- will change the world. Certainly refusing to live a lie is good for the soul. But we also believe that our honesty will convert those around us, encourage them to rethink their fear, bigotry, ignorance. Or at the very least, embarrass our opponents into silence. (What a charming rationale.)

So we go out of our way to find gay connections to those we consider public homophobes. I've heard tell of a Canadian journalist who spent large chunks of time (unsuccessfully) seeking the rumoured gay prostitute son of Toronto police chief Julian Fantino, who was accused of orchestrating a "gay witch-hunt" back in the early 1990s when he ran the cop shops of London, Ontario.

American Vice President Dick Cheney was and is asked about his out daughter (and she's hounded by queer media who demand she denounce her dad because his very presence supports a nasty administration). Now there's Maya Keyes, who's come out in The Advocate. Father Alan Keyes is a loudmouth far right Republican who, according to his daughter, believes that "family values" means cutting the dyke out from the family.

Maya's courageous coming out has clearly not changed her father. The formula doesn't always work.

February 18, 2005 8:33 AM

Activists with too much time on their hands

Some catch-up to play this week, now that marriage news has slowed down a bit. Of note: "A zoo has scrapped a plan to break up homosexual penguin couples following protests from gay rights groups. Bremerhaven Zoo in Germany flew in four female Humboldt penguins in a bid to encourage three male couples to reproduce." And here, also.

Thank gawd some activists have their priorities straight. Because gay penguin rights are vital.

February 17, 2005 9:41 AM

Small mercies

Am gobsmacked. Some of the media coverage of same-sex marriage is more mature than Big Gay Issues have received in the past -- more subdued. 'Twould seem some reporters and editors have realized that hysterical presentation encourages some people to spew the nastiest garbage imaginable. And so they're letting the canny brains over in the Liberal Party win the day: marriage is important, but not the be-all and end-all.

The same-sex marriage bill, C-38, was tabled on the same day that graft investigator Justice John Gomery released a particularly controversial ruling in which he refused to recuse himself from the inquiry he's heading. (After publicizing his own opinions by calling ex prime minister Jean Chretien "small town cheap," Gomery then demanded that the old skinflint testify -- who naturally wanted a more obviously unbiased judge.)

Yesterday's second C-38 reading, really the launch of the debate, occurred on the day the Kyoto environment accord came into effect. And more importantly for the public, it was the day the National Hockey League season got canned.

ADDENDUM I will give patient readers a break from the Canadian marriage debate very soon. Just a few more notes: All political party leaders support gay marriage except for Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservatives (and of the official opposition). Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe actually said the L and G words during his speech. New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton was hospitalized for appendicitis earlier and won't be in the House of Commons for a few days yet: Out member of Parliament Bill Siksay (of British Columbia) spoke in his leader's stead. And of course, the prime minister launched the debate for the ruling Liberals -- an anomaly, since it's a justice department issue and normally the justice minister would start everything off. The PM's move is generally seen as an "or else" signal to a very divided caucus to fall in line. (Martin promised a free vote to everyone except cabinet ministers, who've been ordered to back up the boss.)

February 16, 2005 4:34 PM

Blah bla blah -- but vital blah

The prime minster's gay marriage speech is here. He mentioned the Charter of Rights and Freedoms 23 times in the first half or so (when I stopped counting). Hansard will have the complete debate posted soon.

ADDENDUM: Opposition leader Stephen Harper responded that same-sex marriage is not a fundamental right (and I agree with him there -- I don't believe that marriage of any kind is a fundamental right, though the right to consensual relationships for all should be). Continuing to play on the idea that racial and religious minorities are opposed to queer rights, Harper said that gay marriage is "an assault on muticulturalism."

ADDENDUM The Hansard official record of the debate is here. The Civil Marriage Act presentation began at 15:20pm -- but there was at least one petition presented and a couple of questions asked earlier in the day. Hansard is edited: politicians are given a chance to clean up their talk -- I mean, to correct any transciption errors prior to publication (for a plodding but information-filled look at Hansard, check out the 1980 tome "The Hansard Chronicles," by John Ward, at one time the associate editor of debates for the House of Commons).

February 16, 2005 2:23 PM

Meow, hiss, scratch

A Conservative MP has been accused of getting personal over the same-sex marriage debate after referring to a gay NDP MP's personal life. More here.

February 16, 2005 9:42 AM

Today's same-sex marriage debate

"In the absence of any mass popular movement committed to radical transformation of sexual values, the reforming efforts of the more advanced feminists and socialists were concentrated in the single issue campaigns that emerged at the turn of the century [circa 1800]. They were, inevitably, constrained by their limited nature, and by the conservatism of their constituency. Socialists, of course, were in a difficult, almost contradictory position. As socialists they believed that sexual change could only truly come in the process of social transformation. But without work now, there would be no guarantee that social transformation would bring the sexual revolution. Later generations... were to attempt to argue that sexual repression was a key to general social reaction. None of the early sex radicals held to this position... and in its absence, as good, humanistic reformers, they naturally concentrated their efforts on what could be attained.

"The nineteenth century, the great age of single-issue pressure groups, saw the development of a number of organizations committed to moral reformation, but until the latter years of the century none saw it as their task to advocate radical sex reform in any manner which would be recognizably modern....

"The Legitimation League, founded in 1897 to campaign for changing the bastardy laws and for reform of marriage and divorce legislation, was therefore an organization of a new sort. It published 'The Adult,' as a monthly journal for 'The Advancement of Freedom in Sexual Relationships,' and in its first editorial offered to provide a forum for the discussion of sex questions ignored elsewhere: 'We recognize the paramount right of the individual to self-realization in all non-invasive directions. The Adult advocates the absolute freedom of two individuals of full age, to enter into and conclude at will, any mutual relationships whatever, where no third person's interests are concerned.'

"George Bernard Shaw was typically scathing, complaining that they were 'extremely conventional, working for the legitimation of the illegitimate instead of the illegitimation of the legitimate, which is the true line of progress.'"

SOURCE: Jeffrey Weeks, "Sex, Politics and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality Since 1800" (published 1981).

February 15, 2005 5:32 PM

Begin yelling at the sound of the bell

Posted just a bit earlier today: Notice
Prime Minister Paul Martin will lead debate during second reading debate on Bill C-38 (The Civil Marriage Act).
Date: Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Time: Approximately 3:15 pm
Place: House of Commons

February 15, 2005 10:04 AM

Hubba hubba, Mr. President

Some old but entertaining gossip recycled: Is U.S. President George Bush gay? Is his press secretary gay? (These items are lower down on the page -- and yeah, there's a Canadian angle!)
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