There are 76 (and possibly a few more) countries where homosexuality is illegal in 2014. One can keep track of developments in these countries by following Erasing 76 Crimes, which reports on the status of their anti-gay laws and their human toll. In the most egregious cases, politicians harp on about protecting society, particularly youth, from gay wickedness – often from a religious rhetorical bent.
The rhetoric of our own politicians 45 years ago was strikingly similar. What exactly was our strategy that allowed us to move forward in Canada? We need to learn and share that recipe with queer activists everywhere.
The Trudeau Government’s, Omnibus Bill C-150, the Criminal Law Amendment, Act, was brought to the House of Commons on April 16, 1969. This bill which passed third reading in May that year, proposed to decriminalize homosexuality, and allow abortion and contraception, along with other new regulatory measures on a number of less dramatic issues.
In the debate that raged for the next three days in the House of Commons, here are some samples of what was said by opposition Members of Parliament (MPs):
“I do not want to have this kind of debauchery in our nation. I think there is a place for a filibuster. If people tell me to get on with the job, I will say to them: ‘Do you want me to legalize sexual intercourse with the animals of Canada?” – Eldon Wooliams (Progressive Conservative (PC), Calgary North MP)”
Homosexuals are mostly inclined to pervert youngsters and the Minister opens the door ever wider… Instead of voting legislation to help homosexuals cure themselves, since they are really sick, the way is cleared for them to act more freely.” – Martial Asselin (PC, Charlevoix MP)
“Once you legalize a disease you must legalize all others. That would be, Mr. Speaker, something utterly ridiculous.” – Rene Matte (Créditistes party, Champlain MP)
“We are bringing the morals and values of skid row into the salons and drawing rooms of the nation… We are reversing completely values and traditions which have been the foundation stone upon which our western Christian civilization has been established.” – Walter Dinsdale (PC, Brandon-Souris MP)
“We live in an age that more and more is becoming a permissive age. Some say there is no God – that each man should be able to live his own life as he will as long as he does in private. I do not find any support for that philosophy in the scriptures… the Government is saying to the young people of this country: ‘You are in a new age, you are over 20.’ A lad asked me how homosexuality worked and I said, ‘You will have to consult with the Government.'” – John Diefenbaker (Former PC Prime Minister and Prince Albert MP)
In some of those 76 countries, it all sounds kind of current, doesn’t it?