The marriage debate is back and chances are we will be addressing this issue often over the next five years before we can rest easy for awhile. The current vote will be on whether the Federal government should draft a new law that takes marriage away from same sex couples and replaces it with all the stuff of marriage but not the name.
A wake up for Queer Canadians. We in queer communities need to put some effort into protecting rights hard won. Most Canadians support us and in an ideal place we wouldn't have to deal with this stuff. It not an ideal world and we can roll the dice and let all those nice liberal Canadians defend our rights or we can launch our own strong offensives alone and or in concert with others when we can.
Howard Dean the Democratic party Chairman, in Montreal to address the Federal Liberal Leadership convention stressed the case for continual campaigning. Colorado software millionaire Tim Gill provides a good example of the kind of effort required. Gill who is gay spent a lot of money and built some strong organizations to take on anti gay, anti progressive candidates and ballot measures.
One target of Gill's effort was Federal Marriage Amendment sponsor, Colorado Rep. Marilyn Musgrave. She won by 3 points despite running in a strong republican seat. Kenneth Sherrill, professor and director of Hunter College's Center for Sexuality and Public Policy, said little enough action is taken in local and state elections. Sherrill told Salon.com, "Progressives have been so focused on national politics, that we've lost track of the pipeline. I've heard Tim Gill say, 'If we'd had the wisdom to head Musgrave off in the state Legislature, then we would not be in the position of having to deal with her in Congress.'"
Gill and Sherrill are right of course. Support for people at the municipal level builds a farm team for provincial and federal politics. Yet rarely do more than 35 to 40% of voters take part in municipal elections. People build public profiles usually at this level of government and then have enough exposure to run for higher office.
All the break throughs in queer rights have come at these junior levels of governments. Some examples include the city of Ottawa being the first jurisdiction in Canada to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Provincial governments refusing to appeal supportive equal marriage decisions. Gay pride proclamations started at municipal councils. All of these efforts lead to educating the public of the injustices visited upon queers everyday due to a lack of legal protection.
Today we are dealing with cards that are already dealt federally. Fortunately it appears there are just enough MP's in place to defeat the Conservative governments motion to reverse the law allowing queers to marry. The vote will be close but if 12 to 15 MP's were to change their mind the vote could be lost.
What happens if Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are elected to a majority government in the next election? Who will be the candidates in that election for the Conservative party? We know that social conservative groups are working hard to sign up members to the Conservative and Liberal political parties. Their effort is based on getting people in place for a chance to win election to Parliament.
The people chosen to run in elections will hold ambitions to overturn the rights of queers to marry. They will also work to change other laws affecting a woman's right to choose and use the federal budget to eliminate funding to resources our communities benefit from.
Our rights are as good as the next election. Who will be in the Parliament of Canada to protect our rights? Will there be enough of them to defeat any attempt to strip away our achievments to date?
Do you want to start? Take a few minutes and write you local Member of Parliament. Tell them to defend your rights. It does not matter if the Member is supportive or opposed. They all are receiving letters, phone calls and emails from the social conservatives demanding the Member vote to take away our right to marry.
You can find good information here on equal marriage and the contact information for your Member of Parliament.
This article has been posted at Canadian Queers and on Peace Earth and Justice (http://www.pej.org)