Politics, it is said, makes for strange bedfellows. It turns out that same-sex marriage has been good for Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Why? Well, it’s made it harder to galvanize gay and lesbian folks against him. There just isn’t really any federal law left that explicitly discriminates against us (excluding age of consent laws). It doesn’t mean Harper and his government actually like us. They don’t. But now it’s harder to prove.
Sure, his government has cut AIDS funding. The feds announced a $1-million funding cut from the AIDS Community Action Program for Ontario this fall. The program provides funding for local AIDS service organizations. Apparently it is a part of a “realignment of federal government investments,” which means that the money is, in part, being redirected to research into an AIDS vaccine.
The cuts amount to a serious blow to groups that provide services to people living with HIV/AIDS. But, hey, Harper has cut funding to groups that serve most Canadians. Given his cuts to federal programs to fight global warming (to say nothing of his government’s recent snuggling up to the US government’s position to stop any serious international attempt to cut greenhouse gas emissions) it’s hard to argue that we are being singled out. It seems as if he hates everyone, other than the oil and gas companies, equally.
His government cancelled the Court Challenges program that provided funding for equality challenges brought under the Charter. The program was incredibly important in same-sex relationship litigation during the last 10 years. But it funded lots of other challenges by lots of other disadvantaged Canadian groups as well. And his government closed up the Law Commission of Canada just by taking away its funding. The Law Commission has been a real leader in rethinking the way in which all relationships are regulated, while also supporting same-sex marriage. It was also a leader in rethinking economic disadvantage and crime.
Each step of the way, we are not alone. Harper’s government quietly removed the word “equality” from the Status of Women’s mandate. Seems as if he is, well, just against it. Harper’s been bad news for women, for gay folks, for racial minorities, for the disabled, for everyone who isn’t an oil or gas company.
His agenda is viciously conservative — in the worst ways. Under Harper the Tories aren’t just “compassionate conservatives” who really believe the poor will be better off if they are forced to work. They are the vindictive conservatives who put money in the hands of their friends and don’t seem to give a damn if the poor people that they have cut off welfare starve.
But it is just harder and harder to galvanize any one group against this agenda and it is certainly harder to galvanize gays against him because sure we are suffering, but no more than many other Canadians and, indeed, rather less than some.
So what are we to do? We could try to scream and yell about how bad the federal government really is for gay folks (and there is no doubt that it really is).
Or we could realign our politics and begin to think beyond the gay identity. Because the problem with Harper’s government is, well, a kind of post-gay politics. After formal equality they can pick on gay folks just like he can pick on everyone else. It’s not like its because you’re gay; it’s because you aren’t really, really rich.
The real challenge in opposing the Harper government, from a gay community’s point of view, is that we are going to have to start thinking really hard about what our politics is going to look like in an increasingly post-gay world.