Just taking a little break from unpacking and re-installing myself in Home City house, to get out the rage I've been feeling ever since I saw the front page of today's newspaper. It seems our new Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper - a Bush-booster whose election at the end of January sent shivers down the spines of the left and many centrists in this country - has decided to re-open the issue of same-sex marriage.
For those of you who aren't up on this issue in Canada: In June 2003, the Supreme Court struck down the ban on same-sex marriage in two provinces. That had a domino effect, and cases in other provinces led to the same outcome. So there were queers getting married all over the place. Long story short, this led to legislation brought forth by the previous Liberal government (capital-L Liberal is centrist, here) last summer. It passed in the House of Commons, making same-sex marriage uniformly legal across the country, and Canada became the third country in the world with such a law.
Now, I'm one of the many who was slightly frustrated by the way this issue played out politically. Some of us wondered if this was the right place to put political energy, and worried about the ways this struggle for marriage rights rendered invisible the myriad critiques of the very institution of marriage. Nevertheless, in such a climate - for there were the predictable hell-and-damnation arguments from conservatives - one didn't have much choice but to support the legislation, while still longing for a more nuanced analysis of the issue. (GayProf had a great post capturing the complexity of this issue - in the US context - a few weeks back.) It was celebration time when the legislation was won, and life clipped along.
Fast forward to yesterday, when the evil Mr Harper announced that in the fall he will have the House vote on whether to re-open the debate, which could eventually result in a vote on whether to revoke the legislation itself. Make no mistake, that's what the Conservatives want; they opposed the legislation in the first place, and many of them were elected by a newly invigorated Christian Right lobby in the last election. (Sound familiar?) I don't need to spell out everything that's wrong with this picture. What kind of precedent does this set? That legislation was based on human rights principles, which are reflected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court initially struck down the ban on same-sex marriage because denying marriage rights violated the Charter. What the Conservative government wants is to consciously revoke human rights that have been recognized and granted. I can't recall a more sinister political development in this country. It's one thing to oppose legislation, as many vocally and hatefully did last year and in the two years leading up to that deciding vote. It's quite another thing to re-open this kind of human rights question once it has been democratically decided. This is a Very Bad Day for this country.