Gay Reform: the right prime minister at the right time

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As has been recorded in Canada’s history, the gay members of our country rejoiced and were totally surprised by an announcement that changed the landscape for the rights of this marginalized section of our society.

Gerard Veldhoven

As has been recorded in Canada’s history, the gay members of our country rejoiced and were totally surprised by an announcement that changed the landscape for the rights of this marginalized section of our society.

Whatever political path we follow, the absolute positive ideas we develop and are handed by our politicians must be respected and treasured, especially if it deals with human rights.

I am referring to the statement made by then federal Justice Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau when he said the following: “The State has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” This astonishing development stunned the citizens of this country, as it was not an idea shared by many in Canada.

I well recall that day and a sigh of relief engulfed me thinking this tremendous revelation would change the lives of thousands of people within the borders of Canada.

In a further development, when Mr. Trudeau became prime minister he set out on another venture, again fulfilling a promise. He introduced Bill C-150, nicknamed the Omnibus Bill, to Parliament and on May 14, 1969 it passed by a vote of 159-55. It was then passed by the Senate and the bill became law on Aug. 26, 1969.

Thus, Canada decriminalized homosexuality. A brave and yes, timely decision by our politicians to at least make certain that this bill took away that being gay or lesbian was no longer a criminal offense. Of course, we must remember that equal rights were a long way into the future.

Also, most deemed homosexuality as a mental illness, which as we know, was also rejected later on by the medical profession.

Pierre Trudeau was ahead of his time and the gay community celebrates him as a man of his word by taking homosexuality out of the criminal code. Other politicians such as, the federal MPs Svend Robinson, Bill Sisksay and Libby Davison have introduced similar since. The other was Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin who introduced the same-sex marriage bill that was passed in 2005.

Trudeau was the first of Canada’s leaders to break the mold. However, the NDP has consistently fought with true convictions for LGBT equal rights, more than any other party. Nevertheless, thank you Pierre Trudeau!

Comments and information are welcome: lgbtconnectionsgv@gmail.com

Gerard Veldhoven is a former Amherst resident who is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears weekly in The Amherst News.

Organizations: NDP, The Amherst News

Geographic location: Canada, Amherst

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