Church vs state battle may end in court
TORONTO–A fight is brewing between the Catholic Church and the Ontario government over the question of gay-straight alliances in schools. Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten is insisting that all of the province’s publicly funded schools must establish clubs specifically targeting the bullying of gay, bisexual and transgender students and that students take the lead in the group, including naming the club. Meanwhile a new Catholic school document recommends a generic name for these clubs — steering clear of student dialogue groups called “gay-straight alliances” (GSAs) that are deemed too controversial by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association. The church also wants strict guidelines on how the groups operate, while the government insists students should be in charge of them. Stay tuned for a fight that may well end up in court.
Ottawa to clarify law
OTTAWA–The federal government is moving quickly to make it clear foreign couples who marry in Canada have a legally recognized marriage and can also get divorced here. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said: “I will be looking at options to clarify the law so that marriages performed in Canada can be undone in Canada.” Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government had no intention of reopening the issue of same-sex marriages and there is no hidden agenda at work.. The issue centres on a single case involving a foreign lesbian couple, who were married here and returned seven years later seeking a divorce. A government lawyer argued that, since both lived in jurisdictions that didn’t recognize same-sex marriage — Florida and the U.K. — the marriage licence issued in Canada wasn’t legally valid, and thus a divorce couldn’t be granted.
Gay rage alleged
VANCOUVER– A Crown prosecutor has urged a B.C. Supreme Court judge to reject a "homophobic rage" defence when sentencing a 65-year-old man convicted by a jury of the August 2004 stabbing death of a 79-year-old man in a Downtown Eastside hotel. Prosecutor Geordie Proulx told Justice Gail Dickson at a Feb. 6 hearing that George Phillip Holt "lost it" when Reginald Haynes offered him $50 for oral sex. Holt had gone to Haynes to get money to buy crack cocaine, he said. The court heard that Haynes died within 10 minutes of being stabbed 134 times on Aug 27, 2004. A jury convicted Holt of second-degree murder in November 2011. He was not arrested for the killing until December 2009. Defence lawyer Steve McMurdo told Dickson that Holt had been sexually abused in mental institutions and was "very uncomfortable" if he was touched in any way by a male. "He does not respond this way if he is touched by a female," McMurdo said.
Pansexual support group
SASKATOON–The Avenue Community Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity in Saskatoon has started a new support group for bisexuals and pansexuals after two women inquired if there was one. Cateryna Matieshin, 18, a co-facilitator of Bi-Group, says bisexuals and pansexuals face specific issues. “People are less understanding of us,” she says, “and it’s harder to come to terms with being bisexual or pansexual, because you want to be able to call yourself straight or gay.” Matieshin, 18, called the Centre in September looking for a support group and was put in touch with Selene, the other co-facilitator, who realized she was attracted to women three years ago and is now coming to terms with being bisexual while married to a man. The Avenue Community Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity in Saskatoon will also soon be home to a new sexual health clinic for men. The clinic will offer a full range of testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in a queer environment.
Girl Guides consider trans members
OTTAWA–The historic Girl Guides of Canada is wrestling with a very modern question: Whether to allow transgender girls — children who were born male but identify as girls — into their troops. “Our board is seeking advice from medical and law professionals, and will deal with requests on a case-by-case basis,” said Deborah Del Duca, CEO of Girl Guides of Canada. “Girl Guides of Canada strives to ensure environments where girls and women from all walks of life, identities and lived experiences feel a sense of belonging and can fully participate.” The volunteer service organization was recently asked if they would allow transgender girls into their organization. The Canadian request was made after a Colorado Girl Scouts troop was asked to include a transgender girl into their ranks. The American group eventually agreed to admit the child.
TORONTO–Ontario’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans community has celebrated a 25th anniversary milestone. In late 1986, the provincial legislature passed Bill 7, an amendment to the Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC) prohibiting discrimination against gay and lesbian people.
Bill 7 came at a time of increased awareness of the need for gay and lesbian rights following bathhouse raids by police, which mirrored widespread social discrimination. “It is easy to forget that before this turning point in our history, the law said it was fine to deny a rental accommodation, a seat in a restaurant, a hotel room, a job, a mortgage or a membership in a union to someone simply because of their sexual orientation,” said NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo.
OTTAWA–Organizers of Capital Pride are worried the City of Ottawa’s proposed expanded smoking ban will hurt attendance at this summer's Pride festival. The proposed bylaw will effectively prohibit smoking in all outdoor areas under the city's jurisdiction, including Marion Dewar Plaza, the venue for Capital Pride celebrations. “If the proposed bylaw goes through, we hope that this year's festival season will have a grace period and [provide] education from Public Health for all festival attendees," says Loresa Novy, chair of Capital Pride.
– Compiled by Peter Carlyle-Gordge