Fifteen years after equal marriage – many successes, but much more work to be done

June 12, 2018
Article Source
The Globe and Mail

From a Globe and Mail opinion piece: Robert Leckey is the dean of the Faculty of Law at McGill University

After 14 years, we have chipped a few of the dishes we received as wedding presents. From one angle, our marriage isn’t long. From another, it spans most of the time since the Ontario Court of Appeal made history, on June 10, 2003, by allowing this country’s first same-sex marriages. Like other anniversaries, this one prompts celebration of the past and reflection on future challenges and work.

What has equal marriage changed in Canada? Social scientists are still working out the relationship between attitudinal change and legal change. Canadian society had moved a long way towards acceptance of same-sex relationships by 2003. Still, it seems that access to legal marriage has helped some heterosexuals to understand gay and lesbian couples’ commitment as equivalent to theirs.

For several years, conservative politicians spoke of reversing the change. Such talk has settled down. Access to marriage, formalized by Parliament in the Civil Marriage Act of 2005, has quietly become an established fact of Canadian society.

The Prime Minister has apologizedto LGBTQ Canadians for laws and policies that produced state-sponsored discrimination and violence.

Many provincial education ministries have taken steps to address and prevent bullying for LGBTQ kids and parents. Measures include policies, training for teachers and other staff, and curricular changes. As in Ontario, some of these advances have triggered backlash.

Legal changes to recognize LGBTQ people’s role as parents have been spottier. Family situations have inspired judges to adapt old laws. Some provincial legislatures have gamely taken up the task of adapting parentage law to contemporary realities. Still, some family situations remain vulnerable, threatened rather than stabilized and supported by law.

Equal marriage did not resolve all legal issues for our LGBTQ communities. Transgender people, including Indigenous trans people and trans people of colour, experience violence at rates grossly disproportionate to their numbers. Trans people still face barriers in accessing proper identity papers, services such as health care, and even safe washrooms. Recent federal legislation may represent a step forward. But there is a long way to go, including within the provincially run bureaucracies.

Read more: Fifteen years after equal marriage – many successes, but much more work to be done