Tomorrow's leaders call for equality today - New Democratic Youth of Canada

 

 

 

 

" ... we feel that it is time for the Government to show leadership on the issue. Indeed, the Government has not traditionally granted same-sex couples rights by their own initiative; the courts have had to persuade the Government in the direction of greater equality."
New Democratic Youth of Canada

 

 

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"We do realize that this issue is controversial, yet we hold that rights are just that: tenants that are inviolable, and must be represented as such under the law. We expect the Government, then, to act accordingly."
New Democratic Youth of Canada

 

 

 

 

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Legal - Canada

April 8, 2003

Tomorrow's leaders call for equality today
New Democratic Youth of Canada

The following is the brief sent by the NDYC to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (April 4, 2003).

Who we are

The New Democratic Youth of Canada is the youth section of the Federal New Democratic Party. Due to our Party structure, we are comprised of the youth sections of the Provincial parties. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) Committee is a part of the NDYC, and its chair sits on the NDYC Executive, and liaises with the LGBT Committee of the Party as a whole. The Committee, which seeks to represent the LGBT communities on behalf of the NDYC, has members from across the country, and has campaigned on a number of issues, greater legal equality for transgendered persons and same-sex marriage among them.

Where we stand

The NDP has long stood in solidarity with sexual minorities; it has introduced legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, only to have it rebuked by the Government and other opposition parties. Like the Federal Party, the Committee believes wholeheartedly that same-sex couples should have the option to marry, and to have those unions legally recognized by the state, complete with the rights, privileges and responsibilities afforded to heterosexual unions. We do not feel that half-measures such as "civil unions - but not marriage" suffice. We ask that the Federal Government take a principled stand, and allow for the legalization and recognition of same-sex marriages. Two other nations, Holland and Belgium, have already followed suit.

We feel that as a nation, we cannot, in good conscious, simply let the courts determine the rights of others. While we as the NDYC have been greatly encouraged by the decision handed down by the Ontario Superior Court in July of 2002, we feel that it is time for the Government to show leadership on the issue. Indeed, the Government has not traditionally granted same-sex couples rights by their own initiative; the courts have had to persuade the Government in the direction of greater equality.

The case for same-sex marriage

Canada prides itself on being a nation of tolerance and equality. Yet the refusal of the Government to fully recognize same-sex marriage is nothing less than second-class citizenship. Considering the strong contribution scores of LGBT peoples make to their communities, from paying taxes to their involvement in community associations, this is highly unfair. Indeed, while some same-sex couples may not hold marriage as an option for them personally, the general consensus of the LGBT communities is that people should at least be allowed the choice. For clearly, there are same-sex couples that have been in committed relationships for a great deal of time, who feel that the civil validation of their unions is highly desirable.

How, then, does this issue relate to youth? Aside from the fact that many LGBT youth hope to marry their same-sex partners at some time in the future, the legalization of same-sex marriage means something more. It means that Canada is moving closer to becoming a nation of true tolerance and equality. Given that LGBT youth are often harassed for being "out" as LGBT or even associated as such, it is only all too clear that there still exists much homophobia in our society. If the Government takes the position that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, it will be one major step in lessening the social hostility felt towards LGBT persons.

Regardless about one's personal feelings about homosexuality, it nonetheless remains that every person ought to be afforded equality under the law. History tells us that the championing of equality is generally heralded at some time or another - the question is when. Today, not allowing women the vote would be a foolish notion. But this was not always the case. Thus, the defense of the current definition of marriage as a legally recognized union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, often under the banner of "family values", is outdated. For it denies one stark truth: that there are many kinds of families - or units of co-dependent and co-sponsoring individuals. Same-sex couples and their children have already been recognized as a kind of family by scores of Canadians. Indeed, children raised by same-sex couples do not consider their parents to be anything less on the basis of their sex. Thus, the definition of marriage should be extended to meet this reality.

Conclusion

The LGBT civil rights movement has made numerous advancements over the years. From the decriminalization of same-sex activity between two adults in private in 1969, to the current debate about same-sex marriage, we are encouraged by the increased awareness of the issues facing LGBT peoples. Despite the inflammatory views of some organizations, REAL Women Canada in particular, same-sex couples deserve to be able to live and make their lives in the context of full equal rights under the law. We do realize that this issue is controversial, yet we hold that rights are just that: tenants that are inviolable, and must be represented as such under the law. We expect the Government, then, to act accordingly.

Nathan Hauch
Chair, LGBT Committee
New Democratic Youth of Canada

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