I wanted to elaborate on my Best Friend Jason Kenney’s “poor counsel,” in which he advised the Albertan government to reach a “compromise” with the two Baptist schools that refuse to adhere to Bill 10, a law signed in by the previous conservative administration that obligated all schools to form a Gay-Straight Alliance or Queer-Straight Alliance should the students request one.
Shortly after these comments made the news, David Climenhaga of Alberta Politics pointed out that as a human rights issue, there is no reasonable way to compromise between Queer lobby groups who largely wish to enjoy the same privileges as anyone else and religious lobby groups who want to continue bludgeoning us out of existence.
Just to elaborate: the “Gay Agenda” has largely been about accessing the same civil sectors as anyone else, and enjoying the privileges that we are supposedly afforded by virtue of being a Western democracy. But religious reactionaries campaign from legal exemptions to treat Queer folks equitably in the name of their faith, thereby re-ifying the nature of cishetero privileges by making them, well, privileges rather than rights.
So I would like to see Climenhaga’s question repeated until it’s mainstream: “Where, exactly, do you plan to compromise?”
Along comes an NDP government, and what do they do? They have enforced an imperfect PC law passed in March 2015 that, to paraphrase what Mr. Kenney says it ought to do, tried to balance fundamental rights to free association, freedom of religion, and life, liberty and security of the person in a prudent, thoughtful and balancedway. Since then, in December 2015, the NDP has passed amendments to the Human Rights Act to specifically protect citizens from discrimination on grounds of “gender identity” and “gender expression,” further inflaming the religious right.
Mr. Kenney, apparently, thinks the NDP needs to compromise, to push the law back to some point where sexual minorities have fewer rights and bigots who practice their bigotry in the name of religion have more scope for their anti-social behaviour.
So he owes it to Albertans who may some day consider voting for him to tell us just how far he thinks these modest legal protections should be pushed back. Under Mr. Kenney’s “compromise,” will the line be drawn somewhere between threats and actual violence? Will cultish “treatments” that try to “cure” gay people – violating their fundamental right to security of the person – be allowed or even encouraged?
Where is this “compromise,” Mr. Kenney? Where is it?
Shall it be legal for Catholics to preach for my death and eternal punishment, but only from the hours of 8 AM to 12 noon? Shall it be legal to assault me but only half to death? Or shall we split hairs and decide that any hour of school counselling a Queer kid receives is 30 minutes of support and 30 minutes conversion “therapy”? Shall hate speech be permitted, but only on certain months? Where’s the compromise, Kenney?
It is clear that there is no meaningful way to compromise on this issue. And so we should be grilling any would-be policymaker on what they mean. Don’t accept weaselly phrases like “compromise,” push them for precise answers. There is no way the religious claims that Queer kids must be abused is in any way reconcilable with the notion that Queer kids have inalienable rights. To support a compromise is to support the notion that some animals are more equal than others, as long as we pay lip service to faith.
Climenhaga includes this stinging barb directed at the Albertan Christians lobbying for continued snowflake status in law:
In the name of freedom of religion, there appear to be no restrictions whatsoever on what these schools may teach their students other than a vague requirement they take into account the provincial curriculum. They could be teaching anything, and I’d wager some of them are! So how is this different from the religious schools in other countries that we regularly get our knickers in a twist about? Other than the fact, of course, that many of those foreign madrassas are mostly not supported by anyone’s taxes, as ours are.
“How are these schools different” is an excellent question, David. I’d like to know, too.