April 2, 2018, marks the 20th Anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Vriend v Alberta, which made discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal across Canada.
Twenty years ago, I remember a jubilant Thursday evening. My co-workers at A-Channel did not seem to think it was such a big deal. They bemusedly tried to peel me off the ceiling so I could focus on my job, lighting the evening news. When I made it to a gay bar that night, it felt like the weekend came early, combined with Mardi Gras, Halloween and Christmas.Our post about the Vriend case in 2017 was one of the most read articles on the Calgary Gay History Project website to date. In honour of the 20th Anniversary, some new work has been written about the trials. Of particular note, is the accomplished Paula Simons and her work in the Edmonton Journal:
On March 19th, the University of Alberta hosted a forum and panel discussion for the Vriend anniversary (which Simons also moderated) called Pride or Prejudice? Celebrating LGBTQ2 Rights. The panel featured many of the legal minds working on the case in the 90s. This discussion of LGBTQ2 legal history was recorded for those of us who could not make it to Edmonton and is posted online.
The video is recommended viewing. There are many colourful recollections from the panellists that develop the story of the legal tussles encountered. Moreover there are interesting anecdotes, like Vriend v Alberta being cited internationally, such as in a recent court challenge in Belize which struck down their anti-sodomy laws in 2016.
So on Monday, take a moment to be thankful for the Vriend decision, and to all those who assisted in carrying us to victory some 20 years ago. Pause also to consider the approximately 400 million LGBTQ2 persons globally who live under the threat of criminal imprisonment, violence or even death because of who they are and who they love.