Sunday, June 25, 2006

Homosexuals Turn Up the Heat on Harper Government

But may be missing the parade for the "dykes on bikes"

Believe it or not, there is a time and place for public dancing in crotchless leather pants. Believe it or not, there is a time and place for men to wear women's clothing in public. And there is even a time and place for members of the same sex to ride on floats together and kiss each other in public.

That's right, folks: it's gay pride time again.

Perhaps the most visible and recognizable tactic of those fighting for gay rights and acceptance, "freak parades" have become the centerpiece for gay pride holidays all across the world.

Some credit gay pride parades with helping advance the promotion of tolerance for gays and lesbians. Some claim these parades only increase tension between homosexuals and the rest of society. This is all entirely debatable. One thing that is certain is that gay pride parades are a commendable use of the constitutionally-entrenched right to freedom of expression that every Canadian possesses.

This year, gay pride activists in Toronto -- home to one of the largest gay pride parades in all of North America -- have mixed what some consider to be a healthy dose of politics in with their festivities, in particular taking aim at the governing Conservative party over a pledge to hold an open vote on re-opening the issue of same sex marriage for parliamentary debate.

But these activists -- while their hearts certainly seem to be in the right place -- may have their heads entirely in the wrong spot. Trying to turn homphobia into a political issue may be fair enough. But trying to turn it into a partisan political issue is simply a bad idea.

For one thing, if there is anything gay pride activists have failed to adequately address, it is homophobia among members of all Canada's political parties. For example, Mary Pollack, a former Liberal candidate for BC's Surrey riding, at one point, while serving as the Chairperson of the Surrey School Board, spent one million dollars trying to bar text books from school libraries. The books in question portrayed same-sex families in a positive manner. Courts eventually forced her to allow the books. Joe Borowski, a former Manitoba NDP cabinet minister, wrote a number of articles in the late 1980s that many people considered to be homophobic.

In other words, homophobia is not a blight that is restricted to the Conservative party. While more critics of the Conservative party take aim at them with these accusations, there has been, is, and will continue to be prevalence of this problem within Canada's other parties as well.

Another problem with the stance these people are taking regards the opinions of homophobes. " I think the message from the Prime Minister about reviewing marriage has given homophobes a feeling of power," said Kyle Rae, a co-founder of the Toronto gay pride parade. " It gives them a license."

But doesn't failing to have this debate at all give these "homophobes" (and not everyone who opposes same sex marriage can simply be dismissed as such) more power? It gives them the complaint that they are being ignored, and that homosexuals are being given preferential treatment by the government. Certainly the latter is not true, but what if the former were? It is certainly better to have the debate.

James Loney, the Canadian hostage recently freed in Iraq (who also happens to be gay himself) said, "I think Stephen Harper's intention to reopen the same-sex marriage debate is providing a forum for people to express what I think is a kind of intolerance and a very narrow view."

Loney, who, after his terrible ordeal, must have a full understanding of people with narrow views, must not think that it is also narrow to deny dissenters the opportunity to express their views. It is every bit as narrow as the bigotry that he is speaking against.

Like anyone else, homosexuals have the right to be politically active. Like anyone else, homosexuals have the right to lobby and influence their government.

But they must also recognize that even those who ignorantly hate them have these same rights, and must be allowed the same opportunities to do so. Most importantly, they must recognize that homophobia is not a partisan political issue.

When they do this, the time when they can wear their crotchless leather pants in public everyday will be that much closer.

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