2 min

The Liberals & the 69 position

I'm waiting for new ideas from the party of the Charter

Is the Liberal Party of 2009 ready to embrace the spirit of ’69? Or are they just flirts who don’t follow through?

When the Liberals marched in Pride this year, they did so under the banner “The 69 position.” It was a clever strategy. They were referencing a 1969 omnibus crime bill, which liberalized the rules around contraception and abortion and partially decriminalized gay sex. It harkens back to a day when their party had the cojones to introduce sex-positive legislation into the House of Commons.

They were also referencing, uh, reciprocal oral sex. The implication: we’ve sucked your dick, now it’s your turn to return the favour, electorally speaking.

The passage of the bill was an ambiguous moment in gay lib. For once thing, it stopped well short of striking the buggery provision from the criminal code: anal sex was permitted only in private, in groups of two (threesomes and orgies were still banned) and participants were required to be 21 or older. Perversely, those caveats gave police the green light to harass us at our local watering holes, resulting in an uptick in bar and bathhouse raids.

Yet undeniably with the passage of the bill, everyone in Canada became a little bit freer — the effect of easing restrictions on abortion, contraception and anal sex cannot be overestimated. State-enforced morality took at hit. The right to sexual self-determination won the day.

Great. Kudos to the Liberal Party, at least as it was under Pierre Trudeau. Their subsequent record leaves something to be desired.

Supporters love to call the Liberals the party of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, since Trudeau fought so hard to bring the document into being. Yet this is the same Liberal Party that, since 1993, fought every Charter case we pursued all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada.

We spent two decades in front of judges fighting for pension benefits, the end of book seizures, the ability to enter civil unions, and eventually gay marriage. It was an exhausting, expensive, time-consuming exercise.

It didn’t have to be that way. Like the Tories before them, the Liberal government of the day sent lawyers to argue against us. They fought and fought. With every victory came a decision by the government to appeal.

The only example of the Liberal Party acting of its own accord to extend rights to us was gay marriage. But even then, they let us tucker ourselves out with multiple court cases first. We’d won in the courts in more than half of Canadian jurisdictions before they ever introduced a gay marriage bill. Better late than never, I guess, even if just five years earlier Liberal ministers were saying, “civil unions yes, gay marriage never.”

In other words, the Liberal Party is more like the guys we fucked at a bathhouse many years ago. We were generous with them when they were generous with us, but we don’t owe them any residual debt. Whatever fond memories we have are just that: memories.

However, if they’re ready get down ’69-style again, I’m up for it. I’m willing to take them at face value when they embrace their secular, sex-positive, libertarian past.

How about a new omnibus crime bill that updates the law to reflect a new generation of gay-friendly, vibrator-loving, premarital sex-having, porn-watching Canadians of all orientations?

How about modernizing our family and divorce law to reflect the fact that marriage is no longer a lifelong commitment? How about protecting our privacy on the internet, including the freedom to access explicit images and video?

How about striking the dozens of antiquated sex laws that are still on the books, including restrictions on erotic mail, lewd performances, prostitution, polygamy and, once and for all, sodomy?

Michael Ignatieff spent the summer saying that Canada needs big ideas. Bring it on.