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Advocacy group wants coin, stamp, to celebrate 50 years of gay decriminalization

Canadian government curtailed buggery and gross indecency charges in 1969, though arrests continued

Jeremy Dias, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, stands in the centre's office in Ottawa on December 19, 2016. The centre has proposed a commemorative stamp and coin for 2019, to commemorate the 1969 curtailment of laws that had criminalized homosexuality. Credit: Dylan C Robertson/Daily Xtra

An Ottawa advocacy group has filed proposals for a 2019 stamp and coin commemorating the 1969 repeal of laws that criminalized homosexuality in Canada.

The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD) made both recommendations in September 2016.

“Seeing yourself reflected in a stamp, in a coin, in a symbol, is very important to queer and trans people who often don’t see themselves included,” executive director Jeremy Dias tells Xtra. “Now is a great time for queer and trans people to sort of take into account where our human-rights movement has been going for the past 50 years.”

Dias says the idea came up in the summer, after the group heard from people who took part in the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City. “We were discussing the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality, which is also the 50th year since Stonewall.”

In 1969, Canada’s federal government curtailed the criminal charges of buggery and gross indecency, with then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau famously saying “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

Since then, both charges were used less often to criminalize consensual gay sex, but arrests persisted. For example, police used bawdy-house laws in the 1981 bathhouse raids, while Criminal Code section 159 (which may soon be repealed) prohibits group sex.

“We need to recognize 1969 as what it was. It was a step; it didn’t do everything,” Dias says.

CCGSD proposed a theme for a coin and stamp, but did not include suggestions for specific images.

Canada Post says it’s still discussing 2019 stamps. “It should be finalized in spring 2018 with letters going out to everyone who submitted a topic or idea. The 2019 lineup itself will be announced publicly by news release in late 2018,” said spokesperson Phil Legault in an email. The agency’s website says Canada Post commissions multiple designers for each stamp.

The Royal Canadian Mint follows a similar process. “It can take from a year to 18 months for a new coin to move from concept to reality,” spokesperson Alex Reeve said in an email. “The Mint also regularly conducts market research to assess the popularity of proposed themes,” according to the agency’s website, including “emotional and commercial appeal with our coin buyers.” The finance minister then approves of all designs.

Both agencies do not confirm what proposals they’ve received.

CCGSD is also planning to ask the heritage department to deem the year an official milestone, which would prompt funding for education and commemorative events.