Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Asking and Telling

After last week's flurry of excitement, including the support of eight Republican senators on the final vote, President Obama signed into law the bill that will lead to the end of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the United States' military, allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly.

As a good, smug Canadian, I'm tempted to quip, "Welcome to the 1990s!" Of the various human rights concerns facing the gay and lesbian population in the United States, this issue would have been one of the lower-priority causes for me. But on the other hand, I'm well aware of the symbolic importance of being able to serve in the military in a country where this is considered an important part of national service and citizenship. It is also an important federal recognition of equal rights and equal treatment regardless of one's sexual orientation.

However, as someone who got legally married to another man six years ago, I can't help but think that it would have been nice if the lame duck session's efforts had been used to repeal DOMA, or address any of the other relationship recognition issues that are still facing the United States. The ability to serve and die for one's country is important, but the ability to have one's love for others be acknowledged by the state, and granted equal privileges and rights (such as inheritance, hospital visitation rights, etc) would be even better. And that's without even getting into the host of issues related to challenging the sexual conservatism of the US.

Nonetheless, this is a victory, and should be acknowledged as such!

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

I'm sorry, but too many people live in your province, so we'll have to reduce the value of your votes

I'd like to have something more pithy to say about the fact that apparently the major parties in Parliament have agreed to scrap a Bill C-18, which would have addressed voting inequalities that mean that Ontario, BC and Alberta are all underrepresented in the House of Commons. But at the moment all I can say is that I'm disgusted at just how broken our parliamentary system is.

It's bad enough that we don't have a proportional representation system. But the fact that now it appears federal leaders are too gutless to defend the principle of representation-by-population in the House of Commons is beyond the pale. The House was always intended to be the rep-by-pop house - regional or provincial balance is supposed to be the province of the Senate, and the Senate was deliberately created as a weaker body for that reason. It almost makes one want to consider moving to the Maritimes or Manitoba or Saskatchewan where your vote can be worth at least twice as much. Frankly, I'm amazed that Harper thinks his base in Alberta and BC is going to let him get away with continuing to stand in the way of democratic reform that would reflect the changing demographic trends in the country. Of course, their votes aren't worth as much, so maybe he's counting on it not hurting all that much! But I'm particularly disappointed by the quote from Carolyn Bennett, who indicated that the Liberal party wanted "robust provincial consultation" on the bill. About what, pray tell? To find out which ones wanted their citizens' votes to be worth more in the House of Commons? Rep-by-pop isn't that difficult. And if we're in a country that has decided to abandon this principle then, to paraphrase the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, this country is passing through a constitutional crisis without even being aware of it.

Bah humbug - this isn't getting me into the Christmas spirit.

UPDATE 3 Dec 11:15 AM: Interesting. A series of press releases, including one from the Conservative Party, are emerging to deny the details of Ibbitson's story. Was it originally true, but then leaks to the press changed people's and party's attitudes? I'd certainly be pleased to learn that this latest example of parliamentary reform dysfunction was not true, or at least being rectified.

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