Opinions and Rants

A Gay Canadian’s View On LGBT Rights In America

Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s okay to be American. Some of my best friends are American! I just don’t like it when you shove your Americanism in my face. I’m joking, of course, but from my perspective as a gay Canadian, the United States can be so backward when it comes to equality for the LGBT community.

It’s puzzles us because you and I are so very much alike and gays and lesbians have done so well in Canada. We’ve had gay marriage for a decade and the government doesn’t want to reopen that debate. Our (outed) Foreign Minister made himself Public Enemy No. 1 in Uganda for standing up for LGBT rights – possibly the only time I’ve been proud of a Conservative. We have coast-to-coast-to-coast equality and seven known gay or lesbian Members of Parliament in our national legislature. I feel protected from discrimination and blessedly spared those One Million Moms nutter squawking about JC Penney.

But 2012 has been an excellent year for American progress on LGBT rights: Obama backing gay marriage (ten years after our then-prime minister did), Tammy Baldwin elected to the Senate (twenty-four years after our first gay MP came out), and those four ballot initiatives (seven years after the last Canadian province legalized same-sex marriage). From our perspective, you may be behind the times, but you’re catching up quickly.

Now your Supreme Court will look at DOMA and Prop 8. The struggle continues.

It’s just that, well, don’t you guys still have to struggle every single time there’s a ballot initiative or a court reference? Aren’t you at the mercy of the geographical accident of living in a red or blue state? Doesn’t that seem arbitrary? And despite what your odder Republicans think, Canada isn’t a socialist state; the first provincial government to accept gay marriage was right-wing. David Cameron, the British PM, is pushing ahead with marriage equality plans and he’s a Tory.

So what is it with the U.S.?

Well, first, there’s the law. Take the Defense of Marriage Act itself, which is the legal equivalent of running past your constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause with fingers in ears, yelling, “Lalalalalala I can’t hear you!” You would think that, having been found unconstitutional eight times, this would be a no-brainer for your Supreme Court. Hands up if you trust your Supreme Court.

Also, ballot initiatives. You say citizen democracy, I say tyranny of the majority. Does that sound anti-democratic? Read your John Stuart Mill. Oh, and please force Paul Ryan to actually read Ayn Rand, who wrote that individual rights are “not subject to differences of opinion, nor to majority decision, nor to the arbitrary decree of society.”

And of course there’s religion. I’m confused. The U.S. was founded by people escaping the tyranny (there’s that word again) of state religions. Nothing says non-conformism like…forcing people to conform to your religious beliefs? Huh?

I am not against Christianity; actually, I am a Christian. A gay Christian. A Canadian gay Christian. (Say that repeatedly to a Southern Baptist and his head explodes, I think.) Canadian churches are far from perfect but there’s less of an association here between religion and the right. This seems self-evidently media-driven, and I do understand why so many of my LGBT friends in the U.S. end up anti-Christian since the press seems to relish reporting on every whack-a-doodle fundamentalist who teaches his six-year-old to sing songs about gays burning in hell.

You do have allies in the Christian left, but they need to shout VERY LOUDLY to make their voices heard because right-wing nut-jobs are bullies. It’s time for progressive Christians to throw it back in the religious right’s face: the point of Christianity is universal love, so hating gays makes you a bad Christian. Say it loud, say it proud.

But maybe it all comes down to culture. Canada is more tolerant, I believe, because we like to be known for playing well with others; that’s why a majority of us are horrified when our Conservative government doesn’t play nice. Maybe it’s also our prudish, Victorian streak; we’d rather just not talk about other peoples’ sex lives, thank you very much. It took about twenty years but Canada came around to the notion that inclusion is the best way to keep the peace.

In other words, unlike you, Canadians have never been a revolutionary people; change and progress come gradually to us. We like to think that we value consensus over competition. You lurch toward progress and attain it in leaps and bounds; we evolve, slowly, over time.

Twenty-twelve felt like a huge lurch but why, and how does LGBT America take advantage of it?

Call me a cynic, but I keep thinking about your national ethos valuing success, fame, and fortune. We find that a bit unseemly, really. But you guys can harness it. Use it. Sell it, kids, because it seems to matter to the average American that Obama is on our side, Jay-Z supports us, and Chris Kluwe is awesome. On the flip side, surely everyone now realizes that Victoria Jackson is totally effing nuts and Donald Trump has as much credibility as Donald Duck.

I think Middle America gets it when they work out that Clint Eastwood is a Republican who talks to inanimate objects and he doesn’t care if two dudes tie the knot. I’m assuming Clint’s chair doesn’t care either.

And if all else fails, I can probably fit two of you on my Canadian couch.



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1 thought on “A Gay Canadian’s View On LGBT Rights In America”

  1. Nice essay. It also helps that Canada has hate crime laws that forbid the defamation of minorities and the incitement of hatred. And, as you mentioned, some leading churches have become very gay-supportive. The United Church of Canada, the country’s largest denomination, lobbied in support of same-sex marriage and recently elected an openly gay moderator. In addition, Canadians are sensible and more respectful of their neighbors, hence the political rhetoric is less heated.

What do you think?