Oops! We forgot something along the way to winning our place in the sun.
We’ve done a lot in 30 years in winning equality rights in the courts, occasionally the legislatures and in public opinion. Even a credit union is running ads telling anyone who will listen just how much they love us individually and as mortagage-holding couples.
But wait a minute: there’s the matter of the bathhouse raid in Calgary last December; the bar raid this month in Montreal of all places; the constant harassment of gay bars, sex spaces and porn palaces in Toronto.
We’re only as safe as the Canadian Criminal Code allows us to be.
And that Criminal Code still criminalizes a hell of a lot of consensual gay sex and the real-life recreational choices that we make. You know, that stuff that many of us assumed was legalized when the federal Liberal party decriminalized gay sex in 1969, promising to take the “state out of the bedrooms of the nation.”
Well, the state is still watching gays having sex. We owe the idiots at the Calgary vice squad a big thank-you in a way. Because they’ve reminded us of our unfinished business: making gay sex and gay sexual culture legal.
It’s great having protection from firing because you’re gay, but you should also not have to worry about being fired because police arrested you last night at the bathhouse and your name is all over the paper.
It’s great having the right to put your spouse on your company dental plan, but you should also not have to worry about cops arresting the two of you for inviting a third person home for a good fuck.
It’s great that police can’t arrest you for having sex in your own home with someone you love (or a total stranger), but you should also not have to worry about getting arrested for making out with your lover or a total stranger in the privacy of a grove of trees.
It’s great that police can no longer beat us up in our bars, but we should also be able to enjoy raunchy shows, jerk-off exhibitions and other reflections of our proud, sexually free gay culture without the bar being raided and people arrested. We’re choosing to be there to see it, so how can the state argue it causes harm?
All of these activities can, and have, resulted in charges because laws prohibiting them are still standing in the Criminal Code. Cops enforce what’s in the Criminal Code.
In Vancouver, police chief Jamie Graham has offered to help our community lobby for changes to Criminal Code provisions outlawing gay sex. But he cannot promise not to enforce those provisions while they remain in effect.
“If I can be supportive affecting change, I will,” he pledges.
Let’s take him up on his word. And I challenge the BC Civil Liberties Association to take up the cause of eliminating government from the sphere of consensual gay sex and sexuality. I also challenge the December 9 Coalition, and other local activists, to prioritize this fight. I challenge our national organization, Egale, to light a torch. And I challenge federal Liberal MPs Hedy Fry and Stephen Owen to join with NDP MPs Libby Davies and Svend Robinson and spearhead changes to the Criminal Code. Let’s do this through Parliament, not the courts.
Let’s do it now.
It’s an opportune time, a time when the federal government is cleaning the books, including decriminalizing marijuana. Surely gay love warrants the same liberalization.
After all, Great Britain is doing it. Yes, the motherland of uptight sexual attitudes and the fountainhead of some of the most idiotic sections of Canada’s Criminal Code, is amending its laws.
It’s time. Actually, it’s 30 years late. We dropped the ball.
Let’s pick it up and run with it.
Gareth Kirkby is Managing Editor for Xtra.