Friday, November 28, 2008

Harper's sadistic tendencies blow up in his face...

Just when you thought things were getting tranquil in Ottawa, Stephen Harper reminds us how hyper-partisan and devious he can be in the face of an economic crisis, even sadistic in his attacks on his opponents.

Now the government has capitulated this morning, withdrawing its proposal to bankrupt the opposition parties and undermine Canadian democracy from its economic statement.

What a blunder! This party-financing announcement yesterday was a smokescreen to divert focus away from the government's bad math and weak projections. As a strategy, it blew up in Harper's face as the opposition suddenly united and began serious talks about ousting the government outright and forming a coalition. At best, this incident reminds the 62% of Canadians who don't support Harper why their disdain for him remains justified. This bully is a creep and he ain't changing anytime soon.

Now what? After so much bad blood and the opposition still incensed, will they turn around and allow this economic statement sans opposition bankruptcy to pass? We'll see.


The Grits, NDP and Bloc still seem intent on bringing the government down and negotiations continue. Meanwhile, Harper is pushing off any non-confidence votes as far away into the future as possible.

You reap what you sow, Stevie. You've failed to win a majority government on two occasions, yet you refuse to accept the fact that parties representing over 60% of Canadian voters have any say in the government's program or who governs Canada? You've signalled zero interest in listening to those parties (and to the Canadians who voted for them) on how to react to the ongoing economic recession. Furthermore, you've declared that your main priority at this time is to undermine Canadian democracy by trying to bankrupt your competition.

Leaders in minority governments are supposed to find common ground and win the confidence of the House. Harper has shown zero interest in doing so, in fact quite the opposite. Furthermore, his tricky fiscal update betrays a government intent on hiding the truth of the country's finances from the public. He is the wrong leader for the times. It's time for him to go.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Public officials should respect the law...

Regular readers of this site won't be surprised to learn where I stand on this issue. Public officials have a duty to abide by the laws of the land. My tax dollars as a gay man go to finance their salaries and therefore marriage commissioners must be willing to abide by our country's equal marriage laws.

I do think, where possible, such commissioners with strong religious beliefs should be able to pass along duties re: same-sex nuptials to other commissioners who don't share their feelings. Such a compromise wouldn't even need to be declared as long as the same-sex couple receives the public service they are seeking. But in remote areas where marriage commissioners are hard to come by and no alternatives are available, it's clear that those employed by the government to carry out these duties must live within the law. If they are unwilling, they should resign their posts. Period.

Orville Nichols's lawsuit will form an interesting test case on this issue. If previous rulings on the issue are any indication, he doesn't have much hope of succeeding.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Grits ought not give up reputation for fiscal competence for Rae's sake...

It's now clear that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has blown the huge budgetary surplus they inherited in 2006 with their ill-considered cuts to the GST and other spending decisions. The result is in leaner times like today whatever buffers we had under the Liberals against slipping into deficit are now gone. Furthermore, the Tories are now struggling to explain to Canadians how this economic downturn could've escaped their estimations.

Conservatives have gained a reputation in government, both in Canada and the U.S., as bad fiscal managers, while Liberals and Democrats have earned a reputation for fiscal competence. This is quite the reversal from two decades ago when lefties used to be associated with deficit spending. But history is clear: Mulroney ran huge deficits, while Chretien balanced the budget. Mike Harris and Ernie Eves cut taxes too low, created structural deficits during booming times and undermined basic public services, a situation Dalton McGuinty had to fix with the imposition of the health premium and other value-for-money budgetary choices. The $13 billion surplus Harper inherited from Paul Martin just under three years ago is now gone.

Do Liberals today want to give up this reputation for fiscal competence by electing a man with a record of deficit spending even worse than the current Prime Minister? Already, Bob Rae's comments on the John Oakley Show last week downplaying the responsibilities of governments that choose to run deficits are coming back to haunt us.

To abandon the strategic advantage Liberals have earned through many years of fiscal prudence seems absolutely foolhardy. With all due respect, Bob, I don't care about the reputation you're trying to salvage or your leadership bid. Giving our opposition ammunition to attack Liberals (like you did last weekend in Mississauga and again with your comments on deficits) is hurting the party. This is not how you're going to win the leadership, I can assure you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Moon Report: CHRC consultant stirs up debate over hate speech in Canada...

I'm not sure yet how to react to today's report by Professor Richard Moon, who conducted a review of the Canadian Human Rights Commission's (CHRC) procedures regarding hate speech.

In his report, Prof. Moon calls for the repeal of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which allows the CHRC to investigate and prosecute hate speech within the federal government's jurisdiction. If Section 13 is not repealed, which would require an act of Parliament, Prof. Moon recommends that Section 13 be changed to more closely resemble criminal prohibitions on hate speech.

"The use of censorship by the government should be confined to a narrow category of extreme expression - that which threatens, advocates or justifies violence against the members of an identifiable group, even if the violence that is supported or threatened is not imminent," Dr. Moon writes in his report.

The rightwing media and blogosphere have already had a field day today. And rightly so, as this report is a sort of victory for them.

I find myself mostly in agreement with Warren and the Canadian Jewish Congress that full removal of Section 13 is probably unwise. I'm wary of Prof. Moon's primary recommendation that Canada abandon the civil approach to combating Internet hate. If this were done, citizens abused by bigots would have to rely on police and Attorneys General to initiate prosecutions of hate speech. As we have seen, they are frequently reluctant to do so. Even less frequently do we get criminal convictions.

More realistic is Dr. Moon's recommendations for tightening up the procedures around Section 13, if outright removal isn't done. I do agree with his suggestion that only "extreme expression - that which threatens, advocates or justifies violence against the members of an identifiable group, even if the violence that is supported or threatened is not imminent" be targeted by our country's hate laws.

So while I see the wisdom in Dr. Moon's primary recommendation, I am worried that it constitutes a major retreat in the ongoing battle against hate speech in our society. Is it enough to simply have a criminal law on the books that outlaws hateful speech that promotes violence against an identifiable group, when that law is rarely if ever prosecuted? When people like David Popescu can advocate the genocide of gay people and walk away (thus far) free from prosecution?

The debate over this issue continues. For more on this, check out these two great posts.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's that time of year again: Canadian Blog Awards

Okay please forgive me for some shameless plugging. The Canadian Blog Awards are on again this year and once again this site is one of many sites vying for a possible finalist position in the Best GLBT blog category. Round One voting takes place from today until Nov 29, after which five lucky sites become finalists in Round Two (which ends Dec 7th.)

I was thrilled to make the top five last year and would be thrilled again to make it this year. So if you're feeling supportive, feel free to scoot on over to the Blog Awards site and give me a vote. Thanks to everyone for reading!

Can't wait to see Van Sant's 'Milk'...

Holiday movie season is upon us. For a cinephile like myself, the onslaught of great (or at least the best the Hollywood studios can pump out every year-end) movie releases makes the earlier sundowns and colder temperatures easier to bear.

I can't wait to see director Gus Van Sant's 'Milk,' with Sean Penn, James Franco and Josh Brolin, chronicling the life of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. Milk, along with then-San Francisco mayor George Moscone, were assassinated by fellow politician Dan White a year later, in a case that coined the phrase, 'The Twinkie defense'.

Opening this week,initial reviews have been strong. Already, there is talk that Penn's achievement playing Harvey Milk will land him another Oscar nomination and perhaps his second Best Actor award. But it's early yet and movie awards season is just taking shape.

Milk's arrival on big screens coincides with the aftermath of California's recent passage of Proposition 8. The film, itself, delves into a similar California referendum in 1978 that would've banned gay and lesbian teachers and Milk's efforts to defeat it.

If you don't know much about Harvey Milk, I'd recommend a viewing of the extraordinary 1984 feature documentary, 'The Times of Harvey Milk', which won the Academy Award for best documentary feature.

Please expect a review from me of 'Milk' very soon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

If we ain't buying it, why are you still selling it?

If only Bob Rae would live by his own words today: "If they ain't buying it, you gotta stop selling it"...

Rae's comment appears in this Canwest story about how all three Liberal leadership candidates are pledging not to pursue a policy similar to Stephane Dion's Green Shift if elected leader. I, for one, am disappointed. The Green Shift was the right policy to fight climate change and evolve our economy for the future in a wise and measured way. It's unfortunate that Dion wasn't able to sell it properly and it was folly to think he could in a few short months, up against the Conservative propaganda machine. The Green Shift was good policy, but bad politics.

I did find some comfort in Ignatieff's spokesperson's comments stressing the need to find another way to balance environmental sustainability and economic growth. But Rae's words seemed overly harsh, saying the Green Shift was, according to the story, pursued without applying common sense, good judgment or the daily experience of ordinary people. Perhaps the reporter put words in Rae's mouth (as those words weren't directly quoted), so we'll see if he corrects the record. Otherwise, he's severely dissing Mr. Dion.

The Green Shift suffers one defeat under Stephane Dion and it's game over for shifting taxes from income and productivity to pollution, according to Mr. Rae. By that standard, one defeat is good enough to kill any option, I suppose. If Rae set that same standard against his own candidacy for the Liberal Party leadership, he wouldn't be running again this time. Many Liberals didn't want a former NDP leader as Liberal leader in 2006 and they still feel the same way today. So, Bob, if we ain't buying it, why are you still selling it?

But alas, one defeat doesn't mean an option is forever dead. The Green Shift wasn't the only reason the Liberals lost the last election. Much of it simply had to do with Dion's bad image and his inability to overcome it.

Tomorrow, Rae will launch his second bid for the Liberal leadership. I do wish him well, but I do hope he cuts down on the mudslinging soon. His new tough guy approach is making me nervous. Remember, Bob, Stephen Harper is the bad guy, not Stephane Dion or Michael Ignatieff.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Much debate about Gay and hate speech...

I caught Kinsella and others on Michael Coren tonight debating hate speech laws in Canada. It was a very good discussion. Coren has mellowed in recent years, at least on his TV show.

I've written on the subject of hate propaganda or hate speech on a couple occasions. I still believe it's important that our laws discourage the promotion of hatred against any identifiable groups, especially vulnerable minorities.

I might agree with some of my conservative colleagues that some processes used by various human rights commissions could use some tightening up. But Conservative party members voted 99.9% on the weekend in favour of removing the rights of such commissions to prosecute hate speech. If this were to come to pass, we'd have less protection against hate propaganda.

Hate is a weapon used by bigots to inflict pain on their victims. I've always believed the primary purpose of hate speech is to provide the bigot with a special thrill knowing he or she is inflicting pain on those they hate. They don't have the guts to throw a rock, or actually strangle somebody.

So they throw little darts of hate instead. And they do inflict real pain. If I were a closeted teenager sitting in that Sudbury high school earlier this fall and heard an older, political candidate state that all gays should be executed , I would be devastated. The message David Popescu sent to that group of young people was, "it's okay to kill everyone who's gay." What Popescu did was evil and our laws should reflect that. We cannot live in a society that tolerates this type of willful, brazen promotion of hatred in front of teenagers.

The authorities have not yet charged Popescu with breaking Canada's hate laws. It's sad that our friends over at Gay don't agree with me on the importance of prosecuting hate propaganda. Conservative activists led by GayandRight launched the website at the party's Winnipeg convention. There has been much discussion about whether or not the term queer conservative is an oxymoron. I wrote about the issue of gay conservatives for Xtra Magazine in 2005.

I do want to congratulate the founders for launching this movement. I'm not one of those liberals who thinks queers can't be conservative. I've always seen great value in having queers inside the palace gates, so to speak. Once queer equality gains acceptance among the country's conservatives, that's it the battle is won (on a national scale) for queers and their allies. I know that gay conservatives, through their personal connections with fellow party members and other conservatives, do have a major influence.

So I wish gay conservatives well. We can agree to disagree on prosecuting hate speech, but I still respect them.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

This won't be an Ignatieff coronation, signals Rae...

It's sad to see this kind of pointless dust-up so early in the race for the Liberal leadership. So much for all that talk of civility between the two leading candidates.

I have no insider information on this as I'm about as far removed (by choice) as a partisan Liberal can get from the internal machinations of leadership campaigns. But it does seem odd that the three main candidates would've agreed to participate in the forum two weeks ago without knowing how the forum was going to be run. Bob Rae claims he had no idea that the media was going to be barred from the discussion. So you agree to participate in events without fully knowing what those events entail, Bob?

Warren implies that this whole kerfuffle (my word, not his) is merely part of Bob Rae's strategy to attempt to paint emerging frontrunner Michael Ignatieff as somehow Stephen Harper-lite and to go negative first out of the gate. Rae's comparisons to this weekend's Tory policy convention in Winnipeg, where most party discussions took place behind closed doors, and pointing the finger squarely at Ignatieff for shutting out the "public" from today's forum, make Rae's strategy obvious.

If a consensus is emerging this early in the race that the next leader should be Ignatieff over Rae, then it's clear that the only way Rae can win this thing is by demonizing his former roommate. That's a shame. Ignatieff will have to be careful not to be seen as wanting to protect a substantial lead at all costs and avoiding public scrutiny to do it. If Ignatieff's goal is to prevent Rae from getting any traction in this race, shutting down public exposure to himself and his message isn't probably the best way to do it.

Ignatieff now enjoys enormous advantages. It seems most of the Kennedy and Dion people are heading over to him. Grassroots party members like myself remain as hesitant as ever to anoint a former NDP premier the leadership of the federal Liberal Party. For many Liberals, Bob Rae remains a non-starter, an eloquent, likeable, capable, endearing candidate, but a non-starter all the same.

How many Liberals will be swayed by these kinds of attacks today? If it's a strategy by Iggy to keep the dialogue as brief as possible so as to maintain as strong a lead as possible, I think it may backfire. Rae may find himself getting the traction he so desperately needs if he keeps this up. Hopefully, the Ignatieff team will re-adjust its plans and show greater willingness to be flexible in future. Opening up what could be the only leadership forum before the end of the year wouldn't have been such a bad move. But now Iggy's opened himself up to Rae's attacks.

Ignatieff should remember this isn't going to be a coronation and all Liberals still want to be reassured that the guy they rejected in 2006 has learned a lot and is now a better politician. It's obvious that the more chances Rae has to share the stage with Ignatieff, the better it is for Rae. If Ignatieff wants to solidify his emerging huge lead, the best way to do that would be to debate Rae and Dominic LeBlanc as much as possible and show Liberals like myself that their pro-Ignatieff inclinations are correct.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I support Iggy

Michael Ignatieff is set to join the Liberal leadership race this morning. So let me be one among many to announce my support for him.

I supported Stephane Dion with all my heart in 2006. I was one of the original 18% of the party that did so (although I didn't make it to the Montreal convention, I merely voted for Dion during Super-duper weekend.) At that time, both Ignatieff and Bob Rae had failed to convince me either of them were right for the party leadership. My main stumbing blocks against Iggy were his support for the Iraq war plus his relative absence from the country in his adult life. Against Rae, it was his terrible NDP past, as well as his non-existent roots in the Liberal Party.

Today, I'm glad that Ignatieff has recanted on his earlier support for the Iraq fiasco. Two years later, Ignatieff's stints abroad seem less of a liability. We will have to defend them, if he wins. We'd do well to remind Canadians that most of his time abroad was spent in Great Britain (not America), as if that might make a difference (it just might). Surely Canadians can admire a fellow countryman who achieves great things outside of the country.

But surely Ignatieff's strengths will overpower these attacks. Ignatieff is a brilliant man, he's grown into a top notch political leader since first being elected almost three years ago. He is nuanced, sophisticated, but tough. Between he, Rae and Dominic LeBlanc, there is no question in my mind that Ignatieff is the best candidate. He's as progressive as Rae on the social issues, yet can credibly speak to the majority of Canadians in the centre of the political spectrum (unlike his former university roommate.)

I was surprised to see Gerard Kennedy pull out of the race yesterday. As he failed to maintain a national team after the 2006 race, his decision yesterday seems to make sense. Although if my straw poll on the right is any indication, it seems Kennedy still had much support out there. Regardless, the race is now very focussed between three main candidates.

In 2006, many Liberals including myself thought we'd embrace something very different in Stephane Dion to send a message to the public and to the party establishment. Sadly, our error gave us the worst election result in modern Liberal history. We can't let that happen again.

Iggy seems more than ready to take on the reins of leadership. I'm deeply curious to find out where Ignatieff will take the party and, if given the chance to govern, take the country. He's been a good soldier, now it's his turn to be the leader.


On an entirely different subject, let me say what a bizarre post this is. Don't worry, I won't be inviting you to my wedding...

Oshawa attack reminds us of our collective, tragic histories...

Much has already been written by other bloggers on this terrible incident involving a lesbian couple attacked last week in Oshawa in front of their son.

My heart goes out to Jane Currie and Anji Dimitriou. For anyone who doubts that virulent homophobia isn't still a major problem in Canada, please remember this incident. This kind of violent attack is merely the most extreme form of homophobia going on out there. Taunts, homophobic slurs, sneers, rude comments, you name it, are still commonplace in most parts of Canada.

It's truly sad. It makes me angry at writers like Barbara Kay in the National Post who continue to say that the LGBT community has no shared commonalities or history, no common tragedies that bind us together like other "legitimate" minorities. Bruce had a lovely response to Kay's words on the weekend (it was his post that alerted me to Kay's column, as I don't normally read the National Post on a daily basis if I can help it.)

Last week, Kay wrote: "African-Americans, Jews, aboriginals, the Roma people and other historically disadvantaged ethnic or racial groups experience their collective memory through the narratives they inherit from their parents and grandparents and ancestors. Indeed, they are a true identity group because they have a collective history and common memories. The sufferings they endured are directly related to who they are historically, to characteristics and events they cannot change, to their skin colour and bloodlines, to the deeds of their ancestors. Where is their commonality with individuals disconnected from the great chain of human history, whose "identity" isn't a culture, an ethnicity, a race or a civilization - just a mere sexual preference that rules out both a collective past and a collective future, the sine qua nons of a true identity group."

Yes, sadly, LGBT people don't usually learn about historic injustices committed against gays and lesbians from their parents. No, we have to seek out our history on our own, usually in isolation and confusion. In fact, I would argue that it's that sense of youthful isolation from the mainstream (and even our own families), often initially leading to despair, and sometimes eventually followed by the experience of "coming out of the closet" that binds the LGBT community. Most of us share in these experiences and are profoundly changed forever by them. I remember quite fondly the friends I made after I came out, sharing stories of the closet and the joys of finally being true to oneself.

When we hear about a lesbian couple getting bashed in Oshawa, the entire community feels their anguish and anger. We don't need to have children to pass along our history (although it obviously helps), it lives in other ways: through art, through literature, through spoken word and collective memories and culture, through LGBT organizations dedicated to chronicling the LGBT experience for future generations. I'd recommend that Barbara Kay, if she purports to be a fair journalist, make a visit to the Canadian Lesbian Gay Archives and do a little learning before she publishes again on this subject.

What constitutes an identifiable group worthy of protection from discrimination in law and hate-inspired violence? Well, if the group has historically been targeted (because of how they looked or talked or dressed or kissed, etc) for discrimination in law, hatred, harassment and/or violence, that's about it, as far as I'm concerned. Heck if that community is still being targeted today for hatred and violence, we constitute a legitimate group worthy of specific protection. Take that, Barbara Kay!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann weighs in on Prop 8, marriage and love...

The great Keith Olbermann has a new fan in me, I must say. Even if you've long made up your mind on the issue of equal marriage, have a listen to Olbermann's great commentary on the subject. I've never watched Olbermann's show on MSNBC, but that will have to change.

It's truly sad that, based simply on some exit polls in California, that African-Americans are being "blamed" for the passage of Proposition 8. On this point, I have a couple of comments: one, it seems that the pro-equality folks failed to adequately reach out to ethnic minority communities in California during the campaign, as this commentary makes clear. Two, this isn't about race, it's about religion.

On my first point, there's no doubt that the lily white nature of most LGBT organizations and campaigns needs to change if our movement is going to broaden its support. Luckily, in Canada, we don't put minority rights to majority votes (at least yet.) Sadly, as long as America remains drunk on democracy, these kind of referenda will continue to be fought. Thus, the simple intellectual argument in favour of full equality isn't going to cut it.

I read earlier this week about an African-American man who voted for Proposition 8 who was quoted saying that the gay experience is nothing like the African-American experience as blacks are "born that way," while gays "choose" to be gay. This ignorance of the truth of queer life is astonishing. There's no doubt that the lying bigots who make up establishment religion in America and elsewhere have been successful promoting the myth that gays choose to be gay.


What's needed now is a greater effort among all LGBT people, especially LGBT people of colour, to educate their communities about the truth of their lives so fewer straights, like the one I mentioned above, cling to the lie that homosexuality is not a natural part of the human condition. And we also need to ensure that our movement stops being so lily white and does a better job of walking the "inclusive" talk we often preach.

Monday, November 10, 2008

New poll: Who should be the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada?

As the Liberal leadership race starts to heat up, I thought I'd start a new poll on the subject. I've listed the declared and likely/possible candidates on the right of this page (in the order of strength, as far as I can tell), leaving out some names that have been mentioned but have, in my opinion, little hope of garnering much support. I'll keep the poll up for the foreseeable future to gauge support for each candidate.

Please expect a declaration of support from me for one candidate in the coming days or weeks.

On another unrelated note, the issue of Proposition 8 in California continues to stir emotions. It's nice to see various "churches" facing the consequences of their promotion of discrimination in law. If any other group of citizens in the U.S. had seen their duly-gained rights voted away by an ignorant, religious majority, there'd be considerable violence in the streets. Kudos to the protesters for keeping it civil. And God bless Arnold Schwarzenegger.


After less than 12 hours of voting in the poll on the right, it seems I greatly underestimated support for Gerard Kennedy, at least among my own visitors. Could it be that Mr. Kennedy has a great deal of strength among Liberal grassroots despite his Dion kingmaker status, plus his strange disappearing act following the 2006 leadership convention? We'll have to see.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fighting back in California against bigotry...

I can imagine how angry many LGBT citizens must feel in California or Arizona or Florida or anywhere else in the United States right now. Voting to exclude gays and lesbians from the lifetime commitment, responsibility and benefits of civil marriage is nothing more than pure bigotry that has no place on this Earth! Supporters of equality held a rally last night in Santa Monica. The following article was sent to me by activist blogger Julie Phineas at Lez Get Real and I thought I'd re-post it here verbatim:

Lez Get Real's own contributors were at the Prop. 8 Protest Rally held in Santa Monica, CA earlier tonight.

Streets were closed in the area to accommodate the gathering. Here is what happened at that rally, as reported to me via text message from p.Johanna:

"There was a reverend speaking and also another woman, who said this is a human rights issue. The crowd was really hyped. They said we need to stay angry! We need to keep going against Prop. 8 and towards civil rights and equality in the U.S. The crowd cheered in unison 'Yes we can! Yes we can!' They said we shouldn't be violent, but that we should work together to not be at the back of the bus anymore. The crowd yelled 'Equal rights! Equal rights! News channels began to arrive and it seemed like they didn't know this event was happening. A call was issued to march on the Mormon Temple at 10777 Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles at 2pm tomorrow November 6th. Bring your signs and video cameras.

Jerry Brown the State Attorney spoke saying that the marriages performed between June and yesterday are still valid. They are fighting for us and it's a legal mess. They are working around the clock on this. Jerry Brown says that we need to walk together, to walk in solidarity. The crowd yelled together 'Yes we can! Yes we can!'.

Javier Angulo called for a Chicano clap. The crowd yelled 'Si se puede! Si se puede!'. A helicopter flew overhead, and the crowd cheered at it. Javier Angulo quotes Martin Luther King Jr. saying that he had a dream and Obama made part of that dream come true. He says that now our fundamental rights have been infringed upon, but hold onto hope - all the votes have not been counted. Regardless, he said to take pride in achieving social justice. He said that the Latino community is often overlooked, and that Latinos value social justice. He says we have an ally. At that point everyone, even other nationalities chanted 'Si se puede! Si se puede!'. The helicopter shined its light on the crowd. He said they were shining the light on discrimination.

At that point, the woman began to speak again and said that bigotry is not only here, but in Arkansas, Arizona and Florida, but said that years to come the people who voted Yes on Prop 8 and in the other States will be ashamed of themselves. The crowd cheered 'Shame! Shame!'. She said that we are on the right side of history. Now, we're mad. And when we get mad, we work harder and we work smarter. The opposition will wish they didn't mess with us. At that, the crowd went crazy. I would often hear, 'TAX THEM! TAX THEM!'

She continued by saying that if we look at Prop. 22 we lost by a higher margin. This time we were within 5 points. That is enormous progress. The crowd yelled 'Not enough! Not enough!'. They were very angry! She went on to say that we make a promise to our opponents that we will gain our rights back, and we will crush discrimination. She said don't lose heart; use this as a push; don't give up... vow to continue the fight. She said to talk to everyone you know and tell them why the vote was wrong and how it was wrong from the start. Tell them how the majority was tyrannical to the minority, she continued. Tomorrow we will march on the Mormon Temple. The crowd cheered. The emphasis seems to be against the Mormons, and to fight against them. The crowd cheered in unison 'Equal rights! Equal rights!' There was a sign next to me that said 'You can't amend love.'

At that point she told us the rally was over. She said that tonight do not take it to the streets. We aren't taking it to our streets, she continued, tomorrow we take it to theirs."

Impolitical has a great post on this issue too today.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Land of the heterosexual free...

Like most queers, I have bittersweet feelings following last night's historic win by Barack Obama in the U.S. presidential election.

Of course, I'm elated that a great man will now occupy the highest office in the world. The message sent to all by electing an African-American man named Barack who opposed the Iraq war will have profound significance and change the world. I wish him and his team the best of luck as they begin the battle to put America back on its feet.

But yesterday's votes in a handful of states on the issue of gay rights were a major blow to equality and freedom yesterday. While Obama's victory shows that Americans are turning the page on their Republican/war-mongering/racist/neo-conservative economic past, they appear to be regressing badly when it comes to their queer brothers and sisters.

California narrowly voted 52% to ban same sex marriage in the state.. This could reverse all of those beautiful expressions of lifetime devotion we witnessed thousands of gay couples make this summer. The state's attorney general, Jerry Brown, has said those marriages will remain valid, although legal challenges are possible.

Furthermore, anti-gay measures in Arizona, Florida and Arkansas were passed by the requisite margins. Glancing at various other ballot measure results from last night, it appears that heterosexual Americans did very well for themselves, like in California where they even failed to approve a social conservative measure that would've forced teenage girls to get parental permission before obtaining a legal abortion. Or in Michigan where medical marijuana was approved.

But sadly, Americans seem to be in no mood to embrace equality based on sexual orientation. Very sad, indeed. Obama himself refused to support equality, saying instead gays should be contented with less-than-equal civil unions. So while heterosexuals in California will continue to drink from the fountain of marriage, gays will have to contend with the lesser tap around back for a while yet, it seems.

Exit polls in California showed Proposition 8 was most favoured by African-American voters, while Whites were largely opposed and Latinos divided. Today, those same African-American voters are undoubtedly elated at finally breaking through with an historic win in the Presidency. I very much share their joy at this symbolic victory. Racism is evil and Obama's win last night is huge in the ongoing battle against it. Most people of colour I know are, of course, also very supportive of queer rights. For those friends, I truly share their joy.

But for the majority of African-American voters in California who voted yesterday to promote discrimination against gays and lesbians, I have little enthusiasm. How can one group understand so clearly the evils of discrimination, yet so disgustingly support discrimination against another group of citizens? It's beyond hypocrisy. Discrimination in law, whether based on race, or gender, or sexual orientation, is simply wrong and perhaps one day all Americans will understand that. Of course, that's a topic for another day perhaps.

With Manley out, things are looking good for Iggy...

With yesterday's predictable announcement that John Manley won't be a candidate for leader of the federal Liberal Party, I think it's becoming increasingly safe to say that this race will become a two-man fight between Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae.

Rae's already confirmed he's in, as has Dominic LeBlanc. Ignatieff is all but confirmed as in. I still have my doubts that Gerard Kennedy will run, and I haven't heard much from Martha Hall Findlay. There's talk that David McGuinty will throw his hat in the ring, but I have a feeling that most Liberals will no longer be willing to embrace third-tier candidates who want to come up the middle. We tried that last time and it clearly didn't work out.

This time, I'm sure that Ignatieff will be far and away the favourite to win. I haven't made up my mind as to who to support. I'll only say that in 2006 it seemed that Bob Rae ran a virtually flawless campaign, and openly admitted that all of his baggage was well-known. He placed a distant third. Ignatieff, on the other hand, ran a decent campaign but made serious gaffes along the way, hindering his ability to grow his support at the convention. Still he managed to grow his support from 29% to 45% of delegates by the end.

This time, I'm sure we'll see an even-better campaign from Iggy, designed to put to rest any unease some Liberals (myself included) may have with him. Despite Rae's considerable qualities, there's nothing he can do to rid himself of his NDP past. That's why Iggy will be the man to beat.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hoping the American Right gets its comeuppance today...

It all comes down to the next 12 or so hours and then the most exciting election in recent American memory comes to an end. We all remember the horror of watching George W. Bush claim a second mandate in 2004, despite his lies to the nation and the world about the Iraq war. That 2004 vote was coupled with major victories against same sex marriage in most states, except for Arizona which narrowly voted not to ban equality in its state constitution (unsatisfied, bigots are trying again in that state today). The result was an incredible depression for progressive Americans, who had witnessed their country literally and unapologetically embrace the corrupt Right. It's been glorious watching the Republicans struggle this year against the backlash. They even put up their most "liberal" candidate as their presidential nominee in John McCain, shunning the legacy of the last 8 years to try to eke out a victory. It doesn't look like it's going to be enough to stop the call for change.

With an Obama election, the U.S. has the opportunity to correct the profound mistake that was George W. Bush. The message a Barack victory would send to the world, as many already know well, will have profound historical implications. As John Ibbitson wrote so well in the Globe & Mail on the weekend, Obama has the potential of being one of the greatest presidents the U.S. has ever known. The stars have aligned nicely in this race for this incredible candidate.

But victories in the various referenda also taking place today on the issue of same sex marriage will also have a major impact on the issue of equality across America. The most important vote it seems is in California where thousands of gay couples could see their marriages dissolved if more than 50% back Proposition 8 today. It must be truly horrifying for many to contemplate. Polls have gone both ways on the issue, so it's anybody's guess how tonight with turn out. Similar votes are taking place in Arizona and Florida.

It'll be very bittersweet should Obama prevail across the nation, but voters in these states vote to deny or take away marriage rights from same sex couples. A victory for equality in California and the other states would constitute a major blow against the bigoted Right in the U.S. The sort of depression that set in among progressives following the 2004 U.S. election would likely be transferred over to the American Right in 2008. And how appropriate that would be. It's the result I'll be praying for tonight as I watch CNN.