The Surrey School Board is back in the news again, as two lesbian moms seek $5,000 in damages to their dignity, and a new board policy, following a June 2004 public meeting that they say got out of hand and exposed them to “homophobic, hate-filled rhetoric.”
At issue is whether school trustees adequately controlled the meeting. The moms-Kim Forster and Carol Pegura, say the board facilitated in their being discriminated against by failing to keep speakers on topic and allowing homophobic rhetoric unrelated to the issue facing the board-whether three gay-friendly books should be okayed for use in kindergarten.
But BC’s civil liberties group, long a friend of gays and lesbian rights, says the moms are asking for too much. The purpose of public meetings is precisely that of allowing the public to express its opinions, uncomfortable and brutal as they may be, says the BC Civil Liberties Association. Democracy requires that “people have the ability to freely make their views known to the decision-makers,” says BCCLA policy director Micheal Vonn. If the school board loses, it could have a “chilling effect on public meetings,” she adds. “It could mean that the place of meaningful public debate could become extremely narrow because of fear of saying something that someone will take offence to.”
The hearing began Nov 15 and is expected to last another two weeks. It takes place at 605 Robson St, 11th floor.
WESA COMES THROUGH
The West End Slo-Pitch Association has wrapped up their 2004 softball season with a large donation to gay causes. GAB Youth Services and the Little Sister’s Legal Defence Fund shared a cheque for $4,800 from the association, which celebrated its 26th year in 2004. For more information on WESA go to www.wesa.net.
SIKSAY: TRANS RIGHTS NEEDED
Bill Siksay, the gay MP for Burnaby-Douglas riding (he holds the seat formerly occupied by Svend Robinson) is taking on trans rights as the federal NDP critic for Canadian human rights. Siksay is introducing a private member’s bill in Parliament in the new year, hoping to kick-start an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act to protect transsexuals and transgendered from discrimination. You can email Siksay directly at Siksay.B@parl.gc.ca, or participate in a community session Nov 26, 6-8 pm, at Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, 800 Broadway East at Fraser St.
ATTACK ON GAY MARRIAGE
Rob Moore, a Conservative Party MP for Fundy, New Brunswick is introducing a private member’s bill (Bill C-268) on Nov 28 to define marriage as “the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.” Though it is difficult for private member’s bills to pass, it is not impossible and Egale-Canada’s national gay lobby group-is encouraging all gays and lesbians to contact their MPs before the vote.
Go to www.equal-marriage.ca. Just click on Step 1: MP Action, and go from there.