Warmest solidarity greetings from Socialist Action/Ligue pour l’Action socialiste for Pride Week 2015. We celebrate the growth of queer liberation internationally. The latest victory is the spectacular referendum win for same sex couples on May 22 in Ireland. 62.1% of the votes cast approved gay marriage, making Ireland the 20th country to do so, the first by popular vote. It was a serious blow to the Catholic Church, which blocked divorce, abortion and helped to keep homosexual acts illegal – as recently as 22 years ago.
But let’s remember that there are vast areas of the world where things are actually getting worse, notably some African countries and now-capitalist Russia.
Queer members of SA/LAS participated in organizing the February 6, 2014 rally and march in Toronto against the Putin regime’s anti-gay law. Our speaker at the rally noted that the early Soviet Republic was the first state in the world to decriminalize homosexuality and abortion. Sadly these gains were reversed in the 1930’s with the consolidation in power of the privileged, self-serving party-state bureaucracy headed by Joseph Stalin and his murderous security apparatus — of which Vladimir Putin is a direct descendant. While acknowledging its repressive past on queer issues, it is no accident that today, among “less developed” countries, revolutionary Cuba leads the way.
In Canada and Quebec, we have made significant gains through decades of struggle, but there is far to go. Look at Ontario. The furor over Blue Jays baseball player Yunel Escobar’s anti-gay slur in 2013 demonstrated an increased awareness of homophobia. This increased awareness has several sources. At its heart is the determined struggle by queer rights activists and their allies. This resulted in victories on three fronts. The passage of “Toby’s Law” mandated inclusion in the Human Rights Code of gender identity and gender expression. The Accepting Schools Act addressed the issue of anti-gay bullying in the schools, particularly in Catholic schools. And a new Ontario law bans so-called “conversion therapy” on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children, and prevents medical practitioners from billing OHIP for it. The legislation proposed by New Democrat MPP Cheri DiNovo won unanimous support from all three parties at Queen’s Park on June 4.
However, a federal law regarding transgender rights remains stalled in the un-elected Senate. And reactionary Catholic school boards continue to obstruct the formation of Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA’s). As with all human rights “protections”, enforcement is key. We call on all human rights supporters to demand dissolution of Catholic schools into a single, secular school system. Not only would this advance the interests of LGBT students and other minorities. It would save up to $1 billion a year that could be better spent in classrooms.
The scandalous rise of homelessness is another issue that particularly affects queer communities and other minorities. We demand that Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal provincial government, and municipal governments, provide safe spaces for all the homeless, especially street kids, among whom queer youth are heavily over-represented. Lives are at stake.
The health system is another issue. The government’s priority is ever more cuts and privatization (including the notorious P3’s) while the system remains largely unresponsive to the needs of LGBT people and other minorities. We have to stop this.
While our struggle on these issues and many other fronts continues, we also need to look at what kind of society we want, and what we actually have. Queer rights will never be safely ensconced in the capitalist system. “Divide and rule” remains the practice of the tiny, obscenely rich minority who call the shots in the economy and the state. The massive income inequality gap continues to grow, and won’t be reversed without mass action.
Bay Street governments have done little, and cannot be relied upon to address this crisis, despite uttering hypocritical “anti-poverty” mantras. The present provincial government does not even support a liveable minimum wage. It has offered only miniscule increases in the abysmally low “welfare” rates, while pretending to prepare people for jobs that don’t exist.
In a socialist society, housing, food, education (at all levels!) and healthcare will be human rights, as they are today in Cuba, despite the U.S. blockade and very limited resources. Public ownership and workers’ democratic control of the commanding heights of the economy are essential for production to be for human needs, not for private profit.
We invite you to join us in this fight.
Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialist