Same-Sex Marriage in Canada
POLS*1400: Issues in Canadian Politics
Friday November 15th, 2013
Until fairly recently, same-sex marriage laws prohibited homosexual couple’s from married, resulting in difficult times for many couples until the early 2000’s when Bill C-38 passed, enabling same-sex couples the right to marry. Suzanne Lenon wrote a journal article relating the same-sex marriage era to that of the civil-rights movement, outlining the implied white racial normativity present in today’s society. Lenon argues that same-sex marriage is not just a politics of sexuality, but a politics of race (Lenon, 2011; p. 351). Another article written by Nancy Nicol and Miriam Smith contain interviews with same-sex couples, lawyers and political activists. These interviews indicate ways in which the laws have changed with the efforts of those who stood for what they believed in. It outlines the rise to same-sex marriage legality and the challenges lesbians and gay men faced up until 2005 when it became legalized across Canada. Marvin Overby, Christopher Raymond, and Zeynep Taydas together wrote an article focused primarily, using the case of same-sex marriage, on how constituency characteristics affect the voting behaviour of MPs (Overby et al., 2011; p. 465). Though all of the articles share the common theme of same-sex marriage, the first article titled: “Why is our love an issue?” written by Suzanne Lenon is the most fascinating as it outlines that ‘whiteness’ is the unspoken desire of all, and that same-sex marriage can be taken further as it is also a politics of race; it forces us to see the same-sex marriage ordeal in a new light.
As noted previously, the article “Why is our love an issue?” (Lenon, 2011) highlights the idea that same sex-marriage is not only a politics based on sexuality, but also that pertaining to race (Lenon, 2011; p. 351). Same-sex couples wanted to be seen as equal and ordinary, and not have the rights for same-sex marriage be seen as a “special privilege” (Lenon, 2011; p. 355). The article begins by sharing a time not long before same-sex marriage became legalized in Canada; which was in 2005. On Valentine’s Day in 2004, Lesbians and gay men skated along the Rideau Canal of Ottawa together as same-sex couples. The message that “true love does not discriminate” (Lenon, 2011; p. 351) was sent by organizers towards politicians. With the use of secondary data - similar to the data used in the other two articles - Lenon researched affidavits created by 18 same-sex couples in 2000-2001 in Canada. In them, Lenon found common issues of privacy of identity, private intimacy, and private property relations. Lenon also outlines the universal idea of the ‘ordinary Canadian’. One couple mentioned in their affidavit that “being denied a marriage licence suggests that Mike and I do not love each other, and that our hopes, our dreams, our life together do not exist” (Lenon, 2011; p. 354); which inflicts on the privacy of their personal identities. Lenon went on to relate same-sex marriage to that of race - which is what makes this article stand out from the opposing two - in the following quotation: I am not arguing that same-sex marriage is the sole purview of white lesbian and gay couples – it is not; rather as a relation of power that interlocks with class and heterosexual norms, whiteness/white respectability is central to the making of contemporary lesbian/gay subjectivity by facilitating a move out of perceived degeneracy. (357)
Another couple shared an analogy pertaining to this idea in their affidavit by writing “any separate legal regime for gays and lesbians would leave us with second class status; like putting us at the back of the bus”; while a similar analogy in a different affidavit; “The whole ‘separate but equal’ thing is eerily familiar to the segregation of races that occurred in the Southern States and we’d...
Bibliography: Nicol, N., and M. Smith. "Legal Struggles And Political Resistance: Same-Sex Marriage In Canada And The USA."Sexualities 11.6 (2008): 667-687. Print.
Overby, L. Marvin, Christopher Raymond, and Zeynep Taydas. "Free Votes, MPs, And Constituents: The Case Of Same-Sex Marriage In Canada." American Review of Canadian Studies 41.4 (2011): 465-478. Print.
Lenon, Suzanne. “‘Why is our love an issue?’: same-sex marriage and the racial politics of the ordinary.” Social Identities 17.3 (2011): 351-372. Print.
1. This article analyzes the implicit white racial normativity underpinning the socio-legal struggle for same-sex marriage in Canada. I argue that discursive representations of ‘ordinary lives’ require alignment with terms of neoliberal citizenship – the privacy of property and intimacy – that hold whiteness as the unspoken yet aspirational ideal. As a contestation of heteronormative citizenship, same-sex marriage is not simply a politics of sexuality but also a politics of race.
2. This article explores the nature of legal struggles surrounding same-sex marriage in the USA and Canada, focusing specifically on the ways in which the cultural power of law is used to frame claims of injustice and to develop strategies of political resistance. Drawing on theoretical perspectives from the literatures on ‘law and social movements’ and ‘legal consciousness’, the article compares the claims-making discourse and strategies of same-sex couples seeking access to legal civil marriage in the USA and Canada. Based in part on interviews with same-sex couples, lawyers and political activists, the article demonstrates the ways in which the claims of law have been used to frame political strategies in places where same-sex marriage is ‘illegal’, the ways in which claims of legal equality are enacted, produced and explained by same-sex couples, and the ways in which equality discourse is deployed as a strategic political resource in the struggle over same-sex marriage.
3. In the summer of 2005, with the passage of the Civil Marriage Act, Canada became the third country to extend full rights to same-sex marriages. This article explores passage of the CMA, focusing on parliamentary voting behaviour on the free vote used in the House of Commons. Using multivariate empirical analysis we find unusually strong evidence of constituency characteristics influencing the voting behaviour of MPs, a rare outcome given the existing scholarly literature on free votes. In a concluding section, we discuss what these findings imply about the increasingly important debate in Canada about parliamentary accountability.
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