Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Homophobic U.K. viewers push Heinz into pulling Deli Mayo TV ad

We've heard way too much complaining lately in Canada from conservative and religious activists about alleged censorship.

Many claim their right, for example, to promote hatred against the LGBT community by comparing us to pedophiles or drug dealers and publicly demanding followers "take whatever steps are necessary" to "reverse the wickedness of the homosexual machine" are legitimate expressions of religious faith rather than hate speech designed to dehumanize us and promote violence.

I completely disagree with most of their arguments on this issue. Most of these right-wing and religious types don't truly believe in equality and freedom, as they claim. They only believe in their own freedoms. In their minds, they have a right to dominate mainstream society and control the rest of us.

Compared to the LGBT community, when it comes to censorship, Christians have nothing to complain about. Gays have long been so absent from the mainstream, we don't even bother to complain about it anymore. When we do get a small piece of the mainstream pie, we are completely unsurprised when homophobes lash out and demand we be silenced again.

The latest example: Heinz Co. recently went out on a limb and produced a sweet, charming little commercial posted above showing two men briefly kissing. Hundreds of bigots complained about it, forcing the company to pull it. Read more about the sad story here. Big shame.

Should we expect new columns soon from Ezra Levant, Lorne Gunter and others like them decrying this latest example of anti-gay censorship? Let's just say I won't be holding my breath.

I never heard of 'GreenShift Inc.' before 'The Green' made the news

Just a quick note about the ongoing trademark controversy between GreenShift Inc. and Stéphane Dion's Liberal Green Shift policy announcement. This Ottawa Citizen article today nicely updates the situation.

In it, Liberal party spokesman Joseph Mayer is quoted saying Liberal lawyers had not received formal notice of legal action, but the threat of it, reported in the media, was unfortunate.

"Based on our legal counsel, there's no reason to change it," Mr. Mayer added. "We've clearly stated on our website that we're not affiliated, and we're not a company that's trying to steal business from them or anything. It's not even a situation where our version of the green shift is somehow in conflict with what they're doing. I think there's a commonality of interests."

The general consensus seems to be there is little to no chance of successful legal action against the Liberals in this case. Yet still, the private company's founder, Jennifer Wright, continues to bad mouth the Liberals in the press. Ms. Wright said the company has been flooded with e-mails over the last week, some "calling us a 'sellout,' thinking we're endorsing this stupid party."

This stupid party? Perhaps Wright is just angry and expressed a bit of over-the-top frustration in public. A statement on the company's website makes it clear the company sees only negative fall-out for it from this issue, which of course is not true.

How many of us heard of Wright's GreenShift company before last week? How many of us have heard of it now?

The best blog post about this issue I've read thus far was from Garth Turner. Here's a snippet:

"So, to recap: The Liberal Green Shift domain name,, was available and was registered. The for-profit Green Shift company was notified in advance. It got a ton of hits. It has received non-stop national publicity. Millions of people who never knew it existed, do now. This traffic, headlines, notoriety and attention cost the company nothing. To achieve this level of brand recognition would have taken a marketing budget bigger than, I suspect, gross sales. And now it wants to sue? Maybe an enterprising journalist should ask the owner, Jennifer Wright, how she votes. I’m betting it ain’t Liberal..."

Enough said...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Queers struggle for Pride around the world

It's Pride Week in Toronto with two parades set for this weekend - the Dyke March on Saturday June 28th and the Pride Parade on Sunday June 29th. Once again, one million visitors are expected to attend at least part of the celebrations. All the info you'd ever need on Toronto's Pride can be found here.

We, in gay-friendly Toronto, often forget the struggles that queers continue to experience in other, less accepting parts of the country and most of the world.

In India, while several dozen activists have marched in Calcutta in recent years, organizers are preparing for their first gay pride parades in New Delhi and Bangalore this year.

A court in Jerusalem ruled yesterday to allow that city's outdoor Pride parade to go ahead this Thursday. During the 2005 gay parade in that city, an Orthodox Jew stabbed three participants. The assailant was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 12 years in prison. A year later the gay community held a closed event in the stadium of the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew University amid pressure from religious elements in the capital.

Even in lovely Dublin, Ireland, this year's recent Pride celebrations were marred when a bomb alert occurred at the city's most popular gay pub. The bomb hoax at the George Pub - a grand establishment I had the pleasure to visit in 2004 - caused a major evacuation and the sealing off of a Dublin street.

Queers in the Czech Republic have also fought for their first chance to march. The so-called "Rainbow Parade" event, planned for this Saturday in Brno, has already caused controversies among far-right and Christian groups.

Beyond these and many other cities around the world, there are also many other countries where Pride celebrations remain a distant dream. Let's not forget that as we safely and responsibly party and celebrate our communities this weekend.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Superb ad: The Green

One of the best political ads I've ever seen...not as good as that 'Daisy' one from 1964, but still pretty sweet. Beautiful use of the caucus, showcasing the "team" to great effect. Genius!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Study confirms my theory of homosexuality...

I'm a philosopher and a writer, not a scientist. But my beliefs and theories surrounding homosexuality (plus heterosexuality and bisexuality for that matter) have been largely informed by personal observations and experience, not by ideology or faith. I've read every article I can get my hands on dealing with the origins of queerness and why it seems that a relatively constant percentage of all human populations - crossing all demographics, religions, races, classes, etc. - continue to be primarily sexually attracted to their own gender.

Like many, I've found contradictory or inconclusive evidence. A recent theory - that the more older brothers a man has, the more likely he'll be gay - is intriguing but I suspect probably false. Why? Because of my own personal experience. I have an older brother who is straight and married. I'm the middle boy who turned out gay. My younger brother is as straight as they come. Another study says that most gay men's index fingers are even length or longer than their ring finger (just like those of women). Not so for me: my index finger is much shorter than my ring finger, just like most straight men. So much for those theories. This article nicely dissects the various theories and studies circulating out there.

I'm beginning to suspect the roots of our sexuality are ingrained so intangibly within our human make-up that pinpointing the exact gene or exact biological or environmental condition that creates homosexuality in a person may be impossible, at least in terms of today's science. But just because we can't seem to pinpoint how a person's sexuality gets determined, of course doesn't mean such causes don't exist.

This study came to light this week showing that gay male brains have more in common with female straight brains than they do with straight male brains. The study also showed that lesbian brains have more in common with straight male brains than they do with straight female brains.

I've long given great credence to the notion espoused by some Aboriginal communities about 'Two-Spirited Peoples' or others about the so-called "Third Sex" or "Third (gay male) and Fourth (lesbians) Sex."

For me there are two primary forces that manifest themselves in the physical world: Female and Male. Both are equal, yet interchangeably linked, sometimes in conflict. On one end, we have the ultra masculine; on the other end of the spectrum, we have the ultra-feminine. All of humanity finds itself born somewhere along this spectrum. I know many heterosexual women with many masculine qualities. I know many heterosexual men who have many decidedly feminine qualities. At the same time, I know many lesbians whom I would never describe as "butch" and I also know many gay men who are decidedly "straight acting".

We all have varying degrees of masculinity and femininity. Yet when it comes to gender, the world is still pretty clear cut. All humans are either born female or male (with the exception of hermaphrodites). But of course, we don't all fit neatly into the social constructions of male and female, never have and never will.

Human beings don't choose where on the spectrum they'll be born. These innate characteristics are chosen for us, perhaps by fate, or by God, or what have you; our only choice is whether or not we'll accept who we are.

In my mind, homosexuals are those humans who are born near the very cusp between Male and Female. It does make sense to me that among the entirety of the human race, that a certain percentage of people would always be born with a good mix of both feminine and masculine. We don't choose this, it's just the way we turn out. Once born, we are locked in for life, at least in terms of sexual orientation, and why shouldn't we be? Yes, I am saying that gay men are men with strong female sides and lesbians are women with strong male sides. In a way, queer people blur the lines between the genders. I choose to see queers as bridging the divide between the genders, in a way saying that both are valid, equal and worthy of dignity, respect and love. I even ascribe a likely divine design to this reality.

This line of thinking is, of course, in great conflict with the current mainstream world views espoused in Christianity, Islam and Judaism. For a typical extremist Christian response to this week's study, check out this post. The Abrahamic religions have always been about one thing: male supremacy and female denigration. These religious traditions are inherently unhealthy and violate the spirit and dignity of humanity - and this is why these traditions will slowly, over the next few centuries, continue to decline.

Stéphane Dion's Excellent Green Plan For Canada

"When it comes to clarity, what can be clearer than this: we need to make polluters pay and put every single penny back in the hands of Canadians through progressive tax cuts:" Stéphane Dion, June 19, 2008.

This is why many of us chose to support Stéphane Dion during the 2006 leadership race. This is bold, well-thought out and balanced, it shows he has guts. The plan released today looks like a good chunk of the entire Liberal campaign platform in many ways. The over-arching theme of uniting our concerns for the environment and social equity along with a growing, sustainable economy - Stéphane Dion's mantra - is clear throughout.

I think only the most slimy, partisan opponents will have mostly negative things to say about this (as I type this, I'm listening to Stephen "I won't tax income trusts" Harper's "crazy" attack on Mr. Dion's proposals). For a leader who has struggled to define himself, this plan should go a long way to improving Stéphane Dion's image as a tough and bold leader in the minds of thoughtful Canadians. This is a good day. I'd even say that today's release marks a major turning point in Mr. Dion's leadership for the better.

I'm proud to be a Liberal today.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Congrats to Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin

As same-sex marriage goes into effect across California at 5 p.m. today, longtime lesbian partners Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin (pictured in an AP Photo by Eric Risberg) will be the first lucky couple to get legally hitched.

Martin, 87, and Lyon, 84, longtime lesbian activists who have been together for more than five decades, have become symbols for the movement to grant same-sex couples the right to marry in the United States. The pair also were plaintiffs in the California Supreme Court case that led to the legalization of gay marriage last month.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom plans to officiate at the couple's wedding tonight, just as he did for them in 2004 (their ceremony as well as many others sadly were deemed illegal by court ruling shortly thereafter.)

Most cities and counties across California are waiting until tomorrow (June 17) to issue same sex marriage licenses. My sincere congratulations to this longtime couple.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mike Myers' man-crush on Justin Timberlake?: "I will confirm that, yes!"

On a day when others are worried more about Maxime Bernier's bad memory, or Howard Hampton's pending departure as Ontario NDP leader, or even Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, yes I'm more concerned with Justin Timberlake's apparently stunning package (not that those other issues aren't important, of course.)

Blatant and refreshing homoeroticism in mainstream P.R. to promote a Hollywood movie doesn't get any better than this! Canadian comedian Mike Myers, promoting his upcoming The Love Guru, spilled the beans to reporters recently about his co-star's Speedo-clad endowments. Apparently, the 'SexyBack' singer left cast and crew stunned when he stepped on to set in a pair of tight Speedo swimming trunks which left nothing to the imagination.

Myers said: "What is amazing about the Speedo is that they have to do a lot of special effects to reduce the size. Oh, yeah - you heard it here first, folks!" Mike also admitted he developed a man crush on Justin while they shot the film, which also stars new mom Jessica Alba. When asked if he was harbouring feelings for the 27-year-old star, Mike replied: "I will confirm that, yes!"

Justin recently revealed he felt confident in the tight trunks in the hilarious scene but found it tough when they became wedged between his buttocks.

Timberlake said: "This may be too much information but I was constantly digging out those wedgies. "I work out pretty diligently. At the time I was on tour, I worked on this film for 10 days. I was on tour so I was in shape."

True or not, with this kind of funny talk, I'll have to see Guru in the theatres rather than waiting for DVD (which was my original plan until yesterday.) Brilliant!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Shia LaBeouf's latest transgression shows how far we haven't come...

Ouch! Apparently in 2008 or 2007 or 2006 or whenever this video featuring Hollywood actor Shia LaBeouf (pictured) was shot, it's still okay to casually use the word "faggot" between friends, especially when you're at a house party and drunkenly goading a friend into bitch-slapping you.

Now LaBeouf, 22, has apologized profusely for this latest transgression.

“The videotape that is currently being circulated is several years old and captures Shia playing a game among friends in which he uses a derogatory word toward a friend,” LaBeouf’s rep has said. “He regrets having used the word in any capacity and is very embarrassed that this footage is being seen by anyone.”

This follows a couple other incidents that got LaBeouf some unwanted attention - he was arrested last year for refusing requests to leave a drugstore in Chicago and an arrest warrant was issued for him in March after he was accused of failing to turn up in court to face a charge of smoking in a prohibited area in California. The trespassing charges were dropped and LaBeouf pleaded guilty to the illegal smoking charges and was ordered to pay a fine. Perhaps LaBeouf won't end up being the next Hollywood It Boy after all.

The similarities with Saskatchewan MP Tom Lukiwski's anti-gay 1991 video rant are remarkable. Whether it be in 1991 or 2006 or so, just serve your average straight guy a little alcohol, turn on a video camera and wait - the homophobic bigotries will spew out in good time. I guess we, as a culture, still have a ways to go before such casual bigotries disappear. I'd be curious to find out when widespread usage of the word "nigg*r" disappeared from casual, drunken conversations in mainstream society.

I had been under the impression that today's younger generation of men might be less homophobic and unwilling to use such bigoted language so easily. I'm sorry to discover I'm wrong.

Gutless U.S. courts should follow California's example

Wow! It's sad when your political leaders fail to protect you and your community from discrimination. But when gutless courts defer to those politicians who instituted discrimination in the first place, what recourse do we have? This is the reality in which many LGBT citizens in the United States (and in most countries) continue to live.

"A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit filed by 12 gay and lesbian veterans who had challenged the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The plaintiffs had all been discharged under the policy, instituted by Congress.

1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jeffrey Howard said in the decision issued Monday that while some people may question the wisdom of the policy, the court had to defer to congressional decision making. The policy prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members, but requires discharge of those who acknowledge being gay or engaging in homosexual activity. The plaintiffs argued in their lawsuit that the policy violates their Constitutional rights to privacy, free speech and equal protection."

This U.S. policy is odious and completely unjustified! The gay military ban was lifted in Canada in the early 1990s without much fuss or fanfare.

This deference to legislative authority is simply a license to tolerate discrimination and injustice indefinitely. As we know, the politicians are usually the last to act to remove discrimination against minorities. The rights of minorities always play second fiddle to the urges and inclinations of the majority. It's shameful.

This ruling echoes similar cases in the U.S. where courts have been too gutless to enforce constitutional guarantees of equality (like the recent New York gay marriage case). Thank God the Supreme Court in California is willing to challenge politicians who do the wrong thing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Today marks five years of equality for gays and lesbians in Ontario

I'd be remiss not to mention today's five year anniversary of equal marriage in Ontario, when the last legal form of discrimination against gays and lesbians was struck down.

Five years ago today, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that same sex couples had the right to marry and the court made that right immediate. Later that afternoon, the first legal same sex marriage in Canada took place between Torontonians Michael Leshner and Mike Stark.

Since then, it's estimated that 15,000 gay and lesbian couples have wed throughout Canada.

Thanks to lawyer Martha McCarthy, who was lead counsel in the historic case, for reminding me of this milestone with this great column in today's Globe & Mail. It's definitely worth a read.

Brokeback Opera

One of my favourite flicks - Brokeback Mountain - is headed to the opera stage. The New York City Opera has commissioned an opera based on the 2005 Oscar-wrangling flick about closeted cowboys that starred Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger (both pictured). The opera's set to open in 2013.

My response: Why not? I'm sure it'll be entertaining and beautiful to watch and hear. This also further confirms the long-term cultural significance of Ang Lee's landmark film. Remind me - what was that other film that beat out Brokeback for the Best Pic Oscar in 2005 again? Something pretty forgettable, if I recall

Stats Canada: Anti-gay hate crimes the most violent in Canada

Stats Canada came out Monday with 2006 stats on hate crimes in Canada. The results confirm that hate crimes made up less than one per cent of all criminal incidents reported by police in 2006. Here are highlights from the report:

Police services covering 87 per cent of Canada's population reported 892 hate-motivated crimes in 2006, of which six in 10 were motivated by race or ethnicity.

Another quarter of hate crimes were motivated by religion, and one in 10 by sexual orientation.

The report said 56% of all hate crimes against homosexuals were violent, higher than the proportion of violent incidents motivated by race or ethnicity (38 per cent), or religion (26 per cent). Common assault was the most frequent type of violent offence.

As a result, incidents motivated by sexual orientation were more likely than other types of hate crime incidents to result in physical injury to victims.

Half of all hate-motivated crimes reported by police were property-related offences, usually mischief, while a third were violent offences such as assault, the study says.

Among the 502 incidents motivated by race or ethnicity in 2006, half were targeted at blacks, 13 per cent at South Asians and 12 per cent at Arabs or West Asians.

Among the 220 hate crimes reported by police to be motivated by religion, offences against Jews were the most common, accounting for 63 per cent of religion-based incidents.

Another 21 per cent were against Muslims and 6 per cent against Roman Catholics.

Young people aged 12 to 17 were more likely than older age groups to be accused of hate crimes. The 120 youth accused in 2006 accounted for 38 per cent of all persons accused of committing a hate crime – more than double the proportion of youth accused of committing non-hate crimes (18 per cent).

I remain contented that the police continue to report these kinds of unique crimes and relieved that these stats show that hate crimes remain a small percentage of overall crime in Canada. Of course, it's likely true that many hate crimes continue to go unreported by victims across the country.

I've often heard some criticize police stats like this, arguing we ought not to differentiate between hate crimes and other crimes. I agree that all crimes are serious, but when one is motivated to commit a criminal act against someone simply because of the victim's perceived membership in a group, we should treat such crimes differently. They are in a different category from the rest.

Furthermore, releasing stats like this helps remind Canadians that such acts take place at all. We have a tendency, as a culture, to sweep such hateful crimes under the rug and pretend they don't exist, perhaps because acknowledging is too disturbing.

I have never been the victim of a violent hate crime, thankfully. I've been verbally harassed and have felt threatened before based on my sexual orientation.

It's interesting that these stats reveal that anti-gay hate crimes remain the most violent, while those hate crimes committed based on race, ethnicity or religion were more property-related offences, usually mischief.

I suspect that LGBT citizens are less likely to report non-violent hate crimes. If someone scratched 'faggot' on my car or home, would I call the police? It's hard to say.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Stephen Harper is Big Oil's Bitch...

...or is it the other way around: Big Oil is now Stephen Harper's Bitch?

One thing is certain: Stephen Harper's Conservative Party has decided to make Big Oil's gouging, polluting pockets deeper and richer with their latest round of attack ads, now featured on gas pumps in parts of Ontario. From the masters of misinformation and manipulation, we can hardly be surprised by this latest preemptive attack.

I hope the Liberal Party brass in Ottawa react better to this latest attack and don't let the Harper-crites succeed in defining Stephane Dion's proposal as they did Dion's leadership last year.

I agree with Far and Wide about Lorrie Goldstein's column in today's Sun.

Goldstein writes: "The campaign, designed to reach ordinary voters directly while bypassing media and academic elites, reveals Conservative thinking. Clearly, they're worried Dion's carbon tax, whenever he releases it, could appeal to voters concerned about global warming, particularly if the Liberal announcement is backed by environmentalists, economists and business groups stressing it will be effective and "revenue neutral," a claim the Tories mock. You don't put this much effort into attacking someone you don't think is a threat. Finally, the Conservatives haven't been good at explaining their own plans to combat global warming. Simply mocking Dion without credibly explaining what they'd do instead, could be their Achilles heel."

The Tories' campaign against Dion's leadership last year worked because they had an alternative to offer Canadians: their own leadership. But as we know, the Tories are offering nothing but bigger profits for Big Oil and a deteriorating environment for future generations. That's hardly an alternative that Canadians will embrace in the long-term.

Dion's on the side of the angels on this one. He and his team need to be as aggressive as possible in pushing and framing their climate change plan as soon as possible.

A Gracious and Beautiful Exit by Clinton

After a grueling campaign in which Hillary Clinton showed she was willing to say and do anything to win, it was very refreshing to see this gracious and beautiful speech at her campaign's finale.

Many, myself included, were prepared to accept Hillary's nomination before we got to see what Barack Obama had to offer. He was completely inspiring and continues to be. His momentous surge in popularity and message of change threatened to completely derail Clinton's campaign after the Iowa caucus vote on Jan 3rd. I remember drinking with friends at a pub between the Iowa and New Hampshire votes, toasting the then-uninspiring Clinton's likely electoral demise. Of course, we had underestimated Hillary as she bounced back in New Hampshire and held on for the next five months. I had no idea how Clinton would counteract the emerging Obama phenomenon, and ultimately the desire for change did her in.

But not before Clinton transformed into the candidate she needed to be. I'm sure most on her team will acknowledge if she had started as strongly as she ended her campaign, she'd be the nominee today (and would likely be asking Obama to be her running mate.) One has to admire her tenacity, her strength and her determination.

There's no doubt that Senator Clinton's rep has gone up overall as a result of this race, which is incredible considering how much of a known quantity she was at the beginning of the primaries.

Clinton's a class act. As a Canadian Liberal, I of course had no say in this race. However, all citizens of the world have an interest in who leads the most powerful country in the world and the world needs a Democrat in the White House this year (as we also know, we needed one in 2000 but instead got the cancerous plague of George W Bush.)

I chose to endorse Obama back in February, after much back and forth. I'm happy that Democrats have chosen to turn the page and embrace new, inspiring leadership. It seems they have read the pulse of America quite well in that regard as Obama's candidacy now provides a clear, inspiring and deeply symbolic alternative to John McCain's flawed candidacy. Obama is the perfect antidote to the last 7 years.

Like most progressives, we'll be watching this race closely and cheering for Obama over McCain the entire way!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Equal marriage starts in California June 17

The California Supreme Court rejected challenges yesterday to its historic decision permitting same-sex couples to wed, clearing the way for same-sex wedding ceremonies starting June 17.

This means when Californians vote this November whether to reinstate a ban on same-sex nuptials, they will be clearly voting whether or not to take away rights already granted, which provides a very meaningful and important dynamic to such a vote.

This is a deeply emotional human story. Canadian queers have enjoyed the ability to marry since 2003 with few meaningful threats to take those rights away (except for Stephen Harper's half-hearted attempt to revisit the issue in December 2006.) For more insight on the actual people affected by this ruling and upcoming referendum, check out this article.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Lesbian was dissenting judge in California marriage ruling

I came across this very interesting story today. Apparently, one of the dissenting three judges in last month's historic same sex marriage ruling in California (which struck down that state's ban by a vote of 4 to 3) was none other than lesbian Judge Carol Corrigan, a Republican appointee.

This columnist, Ann Bradley, chastises Corrigan for her dissenting opinion, while this article merely chronicles Corrigan's reasoning. Both are good reads. Corrigan says she's in favour of gay marriage, but wasn't willing to use the power of the court to make it happen.

I find I agree with Bradley about Corrigan. To simply defer to majority opinion on the question of equality for long misunderstood and/or hated minorities is a bizarre position.

Here's an excerpt from Bradley's column:

"In her dissent in re Marriage Cases, self-proclaimed centrist Corrigan writes, "Californians should allow our gay and lesbian neighbors to call their unions marriages. But I, and this court, must acknowledge that a majority of Californians hold a different view, and have explicitly said so by their vote. This court can overrule a vote of the people only if the Constitution compels us to do so. Here, the Constitution does not. Therefore, I must dissent."

But Corrigan has it wrong. Justices are not activist when they elevate constitutional freedoms based on historic wisdom and current understanding. That's their job.

Corrigan's argument eerily tracks Justice Henry Billings Brown's 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson opinion affirming segregation: "We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff's argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it."

Echoing Brown, Corrigan writes, "Requiring the same substantive legal rights is, in my view, a matter of equal protection. But this does not mean the traditional definition of marriage is unconstitutional." And further, "The people are entitled to preserve this traditional understanding in the terminology of the law, recognizing that same-sex and opposite-sex unions are different. What they are not entitled to do is treat them differently under the law."

In his majority opinion, Chief Justice Ronald George accurately points out that language influences treatment.

"(T)he state's assignment of a different name to the couple's relationship poses a risk that the different name itself will have the effect of denying such couple's relationship the equal respect and dignity to which the couple is constitutionally entitled."

As it stands, it looks like an initiative that would again outlaw gay marriage in California has qualified for the November ballot.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Christians demand "special rights" as Canadians lose faith in God

Can you imagine the uproar from folks like Orville Nichols and other Christians like him if a Muslim man working as a public servant in Canada refused to provide services to women who were not veiled?

Yet Nichols and many other Christians in this country continue to lament their inability to break the law because of their faith.

"I broke the law because of my religious beliefs," said Nichols, a Regina marriage commissioner for 25 years who refused to marry a same-sex couple recently, which led to a human rights complaint.

The arrogance of people like Nichols seems somewhat contagious of late. Witness the uproar over possibly removing the Lord's Prayer from the daily opening of the Ontario legislature.

I have heard the argument that our public institutions shouldn't have to do away with Christian symbols like the Crucifix or Christmas trees. I do agree that Christianity has played a major role in the history of our country and such symbols are important reminders of that history.

I think the solution to issues like this is to make our public institutions more inclusive, to be willing to put symbols of various faiths in public places and to learn to respect each other better. Reading a Christian-only prayer at the start of each legislative day is not the way to do that. I don't agree the solution must be to 'secularize' all public institutions, to remove any sign of religion altogether.

But I'm not sure for many Christians the issue is about respect for faith in general; for many of them, I suspect it's about respect for their faith only. Most are fighting to only keep the Lord's Prayer in the Ontario legislature and not use a more inclusive prayer. For them, it's an issue of loss of power. They want the right to continue to dominate Canadian society. Anything less than the status quo is unacceptable.

Hence, how somebody like Nichols could believe he's entitled to discriminate against same-sex couples despite the fact he's a public servant on the public payroll.

These issues come at a time when a new poll shows belief in God among Canadians at a new low. Now almost one in four Canadians say they don't believe in God. I do find this a bit surprising.

I still believe in some kind of greater power in the universe, which I'm happy to call 'God'. My personal spiritual beliefs continue to evolve, while I choose to label myself officially an 'agnostic.' I do believe that knowing the truth about God and the universe remains impossible for humanity while we are alive. I accept that truth. I also see much evidence of the beauty of God or the universe in much of what we see and experience in life.

If belief in God is waning in Canada, I suspect it's because more and more Canadians see religion promoting images like this in the world:

...rather than promoting love and appreciation for things like this:

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tom Lukiwski is a lying, homophobic bigot!

Based on his actions to date, I think I have every right to make the statement in the headline above.

Tory MP Tom Lukiwski said in a 1991 video: ""There's As and there's Bs. The As are guys like me. The Bs are homosexual faggots with dirt on their fingernails that transmit diseases.''

As I've stated before, his statements were so profoundly hateful, he needed to do more than provide a swift apology to the national media in Ottawa. He needed and still needs to make amends with the LGBT community in Canada, especially in his home town of Regina.

Now we've learned Lukiwski skipped a key moment to show he's changed his bigoted colours this weekend; he was a no-show Saturday at Regina's gay pride parade. Gay groups said they were disappointed that the Regina-Lumsden MP didn't even respond to an invitation to attend the parade.

"Mr. Lukiwski stated in his public apology ... that he would spend the rest of his life making amends,'' said gay pride spokesman Nathan Markwart. "Well, when exactly does that kick in?

"It is clear that his apology is less than sincere and is, in fact, hollow as it has not been followed up with any concerted effort to join our celebrations as an elected official who respresents gays and lesbians in Regina and surrounding area.''

Markwart noted that the disappointment was heightened by their understanding that Lukiwski was in the Regina area this weekend.

As far as I'm concerned, Lukiwski's actions are those of a man who truly believed what he said in the 1991 video and, based on his statements against equal marriage as late as 2005, still harbours considerable bigotry towards the gay community. His apology in April was absolute bullshit. With so many eyes on him still, it's despicable he thinks he can get away with this.

What kind of culture exists within the federal Conservative caucus which allows an individual like Lukiwski to arrogantly behave like this without penalty?

I'm very glad to see many bloggers speaking out against Lukiwski today, with hopefully more to come.