Remember those road trips as a kid? Sitting in the back seat, no seat belt to speak of, the wind whipping through your hair because dad had the window down to air out the smoke from his cigarette. It didn’t matter if you were going across town to grandma’s or across the country, those car rides seemed unending. Are we there yet?
I watched happily this weekend as Canada celebrated right along with our American cousins over the Supreme Court decision overturning the ban on same-sex marriage across the United States. I was moved to tears, watching video of the news trickling out and people reacting to the decision with such emotion. It was a joy that couldn’t be dampened despite the hatred that exploded from the extreme right, some comparing the decision to 9/11. Honestly, 9/11. It’s ridiculous, in an absurdly sad kind of way. Imagine what it must be like, being a person who feels that two people celebrating their love for each other is comparable to the murder of thousands in burning towers? It’s pitiful, in the truest sense of the word. I feel pity for those people.
On top of that wave of hatred surfed the geniuses who boldly expressed their intention to escape the newly gay-loving America by moving to Canada. We must accept refugees from countries which promote such terror-marriages, right? Well actually…..these people may be dismayed to realize that on July 20, 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. That’s almost a full decade ago. It was actually legal in most Canadian provinces and territories before that date, but that was when the federal government approved the law on a national level. Perhaps these folks will be comforted by the fact that, 10 years in to our 9/11 marriage policy, Canada is doing just dandy (I couldn’t resist).
So perhaps Canada won’t be receiving a wave of American refugees after all. It should be noted that gay rights haven’t been universally accepted in Canada. The Canadian Conservative party were vocally opposed to the advancement of gay marriage rights before they took office in 2005, although they have generally yielded to the tide of popular support for equality since then, and the current Conservative government has even begun to publicly advocate for gay rights. When a gay Ottawa teenager committed suicide in 2011 because of bullying, the Conservative party produced an “It Gets Better” video, urging youth to reach out for help and promoting the Kids Help Phone. The video was rudimentary at best, and did receive its share of criticism, but it was one of many steps towards accepting and embracing equality across the political spectrum.
Legally, the Canadian landscape has not been free from the religious liberty challenges which threaten to be the overwhelming response to Friday’s SCOTUS ruling. The proposed law school at Trinity Western University, a Christian university in British Columbia, has inspired boycotts by law societies in various provinces because TWU adheres to a student “code of conduct” which basically prohibits same sex relationships. Law societies argue that this bias prevents graduates from TWU from practicing law given the protections for same-sex couples enshrined in Canadian human rights codes. The outcomes of these court cases remain to be seen, although preliminary decisions suggest that TWU law school graduates will be eligible to join bar associations across the country.
So as monumental as Friday’s ruling was, there remains a long road ahead for LGBTQ communities in the United States. There are sure to be religious challenges of various forms. Hatred and intolerance don’t disappear overnight. Sexual orientation is missing from many state human rights codes, leaving the door open for states like Indiana to toy with the urge to take giant leaps backwards in terms of equality. Fortunately, those in favour of equality have found their voice; they are loud and they’re proud, and they are amplified by this glorious virtual network that shines light in the darkest and dustiest of places.
A blossoming discussion about equality can only be good for every group that is marginalized. Someone on Twitter poignantly remarked that all three women on the Supreme Court voted in favour of overturning the gay marriage ban. So, without 100+ years of fighting for gender equality, other forms of equality would remain that much more elusive. And as with gender issues, race issues, and others, the fight for full equality for the LGBTQ community will continue for years.
There are women on the Supreme Court, a black President in the White House, and same-sex marriage is legal across North America. Are we there yet? No, but just imagine where the rest of this journey will take us.