3 min

Who we are

Bad laws an excuse for police harassment

Credit: Xtra West files

It’s 2004, for Chrissakes! And Canada, not Kansas! So, why, oh why is homo sex being singled out for police hassles?

Just in the last couple of weeks, police have picked on men in Surrey’s Bear Creek Park and in Hamilton’s Warehouse Spa and Bath. And then there’s the 2002 raid on Goliath’s bathhouse in Calgary, the constant police harassment of the Barn bar in Toronto, the police raids of a lesbian bathhouse night in Toronto, hassling the Montreal gay bars, park arrests in Belleville, Ontario…

It’s time to bloody well do something about this.

Gay sex is good. We have our own sex culture, our own way of expressing our desire-our love and lust-and it damn well should be let be.

In Surrey, for example, police say they’re not singling out gays; after all, they’re acting on citizen’s complaints that men have sex with men and men have sex with prostitutes in Bear Creek Park. Is that deemed a problem, by any chance, because the brush cover in the making-out area was thinned so that people became more visible?

If people get off the trail and into the bush to make out, it should be no concern of cops. Let’s be fair, here: if city hall thins the vegetation to make gays more visible if they’re making out, then the police cannot then cite the increased visibility as a reason to hassle us. Solution: men keep to a densely treed area of the park; city hall keeps the vegetation dense; cops find a better way of spending taxpayers’ money than hassling people making love.

Let’s all stand united on this, demanding a reasonable solution that recognizes the reality that men will make out with other men in parks-and there’s no rational reason why they shouldn’t. If police can be reasonable in Vancouver, they can be reasonable in Surrey. If gays can stay off the trails in Vancouver, they can, too, in Surrey.

And why, oh why, are cops still targeting bathhouse sex? An Aug 3 Hamilton raid seemed to pull back the veil of legalese double-talk to reveal the underlying homophobia and sexphobia of the raiders.

“They came in to catch people [having sex],” said co-owner Jamie Bursey. “You wouldn’t run for the video room if you didn’t want to catch people having sex…. It wasn’t a random inspection. They knew exactly what they were looking for.”

Two men were charged with committing indecent acts. How can consensual sex in a bathhouse, a well-known gay-sex venue, ever be indecent? It’s unfathomable, but it’s the state of the bawdyhouse law in Canada today. Homophobic and sexphobic cops have a section of the Criminal Code to draw on. All they need is a complaint from a homophobic member of the community, or-in Hamilton’s case-the special powers for random inspections bestowed on the city’s multi-agency task force, which descends on a business with cops, fire inspectors, health inspectors, and others. (Vancouver needs to learn something from this before a multi-agency task force gets out of control here.)

Let’s face it, laws against consensual gay sex have got to go. Calgarian Terry Haldane, charged as a “found-in” during the Goliath’s raid, is willing to go to the nation’s top court to have the bawdyhouse law overturned.

He shouldn’t have to.

This is a job for Parliament. This is for MPs Hedy Fry, Bill Graham, Libby Davies, and Bill Siksay to fix. It’s time they got the lead out, organized a charge to ditch all the laws against consensual gay sex. Bawdyhouse laws, which are based on the lie that gay sex at bathhouses is inherently “indecent.” Sex laws that outlaw threesomes if anal sex occurs and that outlaw anal sex for men between 14 and 21 while okaying vaginal sex for the same age group. These would be a good and obvious place to start for a minority government.

Every time there’s another gay man hassled by cops enforcing outdated laws-in Surrey, in Hamilton, in Calgary, and on and on-I wonder when Hedy Fry is going to start doing her job. I wonder when Libby Davies is going to speak up and demand change. I wonder when our community is going to tell our politicians that gay sex is good. That gay-sex culture is part of who we are. That bad laws have just got to go-now!

Gareth Kirkby is Managing Editor for Xtra.