Xtra / Jan 14 99

Counsel's cover:
David Corbett does Kim Campbell's famed nude number (winning her a Warhol moment as prime minister).
Xtra! Jan 14, 1999


Xtra's two solitudes

Only dis connect

On the question of same-sex coupledom,
the record of one gay paper reflects a hidden agenda.
(If not the one you might suspect)

"Opinion is just opinion. 'News' is reality."

I wrote that line in 1999, looking back a few years, pondering opinions left in the dust of Ontario's "same-sex spousal rights" juggernaut of the mid-1990s. Among those opinions were my own, shared with the few other people whose doubts about that impassioned drive had also seen print in our major local gay and lesbian medium -- only to be swamped in a sea of reportage utterly unreserved.

Nearly every news story on that front in Xtra! had assumed (if often just implicitly) that this latest gay fight was the right one. Over the past few years, as we've gone from mere spousal rights to gay marriage, I've sensed that going on still. To test that sense I dug in issues of Xtra! going back to January 1999, assembling the record below.

Be warned: it's a long one (the Tedious Issue truly a slog), in two files covering more than 100 issues, most in considerable detail. At the top of each year is a summary of key trends I found in the paper's treatment of the topic (there's a wrap-up at the end). Below, for each year, is my evidence, offered in two columns.

The left lists pieces I judged "spouse touting," the right "spouse doubting" -- categories not always crystal clear. My assessments were based not just on what any piece said but on likely assumptions behind, or beyond, what it said -- often suggested by how its text was "framed": its placement; its headlines and "flags"; its images and captions; whether it was noted on the cover and, if so, how. (Do not be too taken by exclamation marks: Xtra! casts almost all cover "draws" as dramatic surprise.)

An easy scroll from top to bottom offers a sense of the weight given each "side"; for that "framing" you may have to ponder the details.

I was frankly surprised at how massively "news" has overwhelmed mere opinion. Not to mention more considered thought. But I was not surprised to see that news reflecting what was presumed to be prevailing gay (and progressively liberal) "public opinion." In other words: reflecting "reality."

That's all "news" ever does. Reporters endlessly assure us: "I'm just the messenger. I have no agenda of my own. I just tell it like it is." Even as their reporting shapes "what is." The world we "know" is mostly the one they show us. They create "reality" as surely as do ad execs, investment bankers, or arms dealers (who can often be more honest in acknowledging their effects).

Founded in 1984, Xtra! is the offspring of a political project that had cast itself as "a newspaper." The Body Politic, birthed by gay radicals in 1971,was not an end in itself. It was a means to an end: social, cultural and political action, to promote gay liberation. It had an agenda -- overt, conscious, and unabashed.

Its spawn can often have an agenda presumed, unconscious, and occasionally arrogant. It goes by the name of "journalism." An editor at Vancouver's Xtra West! once said: "First and foremost, we are a newspaper. We report news." (She is, I am relieved to report, no longer there.)

I don't know if anyone now working for Pink Triangle Press, publisher of three local "newspapers," would share her sense of the task. But I do know that any organization of a certain age and scale can lose a sense of its founding goal. Caught up in everyday tasks, its agenda comes to rest not on grand visions but in the mundane business of simply staying in business.

The record here, set up in neat "Yes / No" style (even as some stories hint "Maybe"), might seem to suggest forces in conscious contention, haggling in the halls of 491 Church Street for space in the paper they produce. I suspect that they don't have time for haggling. Let alone time to stop, sit down, and discuss what they're doing. Or why. They're too busy just doing it -- often led by little more the presumptions of their jobs.

Or by "professional standards." Eleanor Brown, long Xtra!'s managing editor, lived by the "ethics" of journalism. She had a nose for scandal, a knack for flip headlines, a reportorial "skepticism" more snarky than investigative. Cub reporters in her charge learned, as an Xtra! minion once told me: "People get ahead here by being nasty."

And, given unforgiving deadlines, one may guess eager cubs glad for "reliable sources" skilled in the art of the press release. Despite occasional frets on the spousal front from Xtra! editorialists, even despite shots at the too-respectable lobbyists of Equality for Gays And Lesbians Everywhere (in particular over their waffling on the age of consent, not recorded below), Xtra! news hounds just down the hall might well have been EGALE's PR firm. If, at times, one maybe run by The National Enquirer.

What's reported here reflects, I suspect, less "spouse touters" or "spouse doubters" than people simply inclined to say: "I'm just doing my job."


M v H

Dark victory
Faceless pals:
One facing palimony.
Litigious (if anonymous) lesbians
M & H. See Jun 3, 1999


Scanning Xtra! for what made "news" (or generated "opinion"), I wanted to note not just pieces on its pages, but how those pieces were presented. You'll see here which ones got a mention on the cover (called a "drawline"), a few featured as the main cover story, related images described. I've given full headlines, attention-getting (and "news"-defining) "flags," the size of images, and their full captions. Many stories get related "sidebars." Some coverage comes in small news "briefs," a few running beside, and sometimes related to, the lead news story.

You'll also find what I've called "involvement devices" (a term I picked up from PR): those "Have your say!" bits that, like "public opinion" polls, are designed to ensure that "your say" will likely have no effect -- beyond making you feel "involved."

These elements stand out on a casual read -- even for readers who may just skim, or skip, the substance of a story's text. Barely noticed (even in media assessment), they set the frame. And suggest the framers' frame of mind.

This year opens with a lawyer playing on a photo-op that made a justice minister famous (and if briefly, Canada's first female prime minister). And quiet doubts about his case, in an editorial nonetheless wishing the cause well -- setting a familiar pattern on the "doubting" side of this ledger.

You'll see a critique of EGALE's cautious "respectability." And EGALE's every move making "news." You'll find eager scribes chiding those Ottawa lobbyists for "shuffling" -- even as they lobby hard, in the name of "equality," to get same-sex pairs into the tax man's grip.

You'll see nasty politicians "squirm," "cave," "buckle," "pawk pawk pawk," and "squeal like pigs." And a nice gay one twitted for daring suggest that gay marriage may not be our most pressing worry. And Xtra! itself willing to drop the ball (at least for a while) when its local community is pressed by cop busts.

You'll find an "earthshattering" Supreme Court ruling -- with "unfortunate side effects." And marriage mavens, ever "tough," telling us we must "take the good with the bad." This year's tally:

Lead news stories: 4 / Other news stories: 10 / Sidebars: 8 / Briefs: 31 / Features: 2
Lead news stories: 2 / Other news stories: 1 / Briefs: 1 / Editorials: 4 / Features: 2 / Columns: 1

Spouse touting Spouse doubting
Main cover story  Noted on cover Main cover story  Noted on cover
Jan 14, 1999:
Queens' counsel
Lawyer David Corbett files community suit against feds

(Cover pic: Corbett replays Kim Campbell's 15 minutes of fame)
NEWS LEAD (essay by Brenda Cossman): "Wake up call: Activists light a stick of dynamite"
(1-col pic: "Kaboom. Lawyer David Corbett is the man with the matches.") Class-action challenge by the Foundation for Equal Families to 58 federal laws biased against same-sex couples. (But Brenda thinks it may be too big to fly.)

4 SIDEBARS: "The big 58"; "The background"; "Who's on our side" (PFLAG, CLGRO, EGALE); "The money" (half a million bucks, to be raised by a new "national community effort dubbed Equal Families Canada")

2 BRIEFS: "Feds promise immigration changes" (same-sex spousal sponsorship); "Still waiting for benefits" (federal workers)

Jan 14, 1999:
EDITORIAL (Rachel Giese):"The people's court"
"One of the problems I've always had with individual court challenges is that they focus too narrowly on the struggles of (usually) one couple, as opposed to creating broader change. ... [But] the issue is being addressed in a much more inclusive and comprehensive way than, say, the battle for gay marriage that's happening in the US." (So good luck anyway....)
Jan 28, 1999:
2 BRIEFS: "Feds squeal like pigs" (at suit); "Mike Harris appeals spousal rights" (court ruling)
Feb 11, 1999:
NEWS (Frank Prendergast): "Just guess: Confusion over new immigration 'victory'"
"How homo relationships are to be assessed is anybody's guess."
Feb 25, 1999:
3 BRIEFS: "Spousal bill fails" (gay MP Réal Ménard's private member's bill); "Budget blues" (tax laws won't recognize same-sex spouses; EGALE "disappointed"); "New stationary" (sic?; new board faces at EGALE, among them Dale Akerstrom, a federal employee who "filed a sucessful human rights complaint demanding spousal benefits" in 1992)
Feb 25, 1999:
Marriage Yes, Sex No
Gay group fights our inoffensive battles

NEWS LEAD (essay by Brenda Cossman): "No sex please: National lobby group stands up for respectable rights only"
(3-col pic: "Tough talk. EGALE executive director John Fisher lobbies the feds.")
"If EGALE is all we've got, what exactly have we got?"
Mar 11, 1999:
NEWS (Tyrone Newhook): "Real relationships are heterosexual: Alberta Tories introduce law forbidding spousal rights"
(1-col pic: "It starts here. Ralph Klein is testing the waters for continued anti-gay legislation.") 'Here we go again,' says activist Murray Billett of Equal=Alberta.'"

3 BRIEFS: "EGALE lawyer denies accusation" (Laurie Aaron "swears he's not giving up law for a new career as a drag queen" -- despite evidence gathered by Xtra [uncited and maybe irrelevant: story reports an EGALE media gripe]); "Homo lawyers present" (David Corbett, & Doug Elliott hope to be named Law Society benchers); "The survey says" (42% favour equal same-sex benefits)

Mar 25, 1999:
5 BRIEFS: "Feds cave an itty bit" (on same-sex suvivor pension benefits); "France is for het lovers" (unmarried couples -- gay or not -- denied benefits of matrimony) ; "Czechs okay partnership bill" ("Other nations with gay partnership laws that grant nearly every right of marriage include Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden"); "Danish pol marries lover"; "Alberta talks tough" (premier says he'll use the Charter's "notwithstanding" clause to block gay marriage)
Apr 8, 1999:
NEWS (Vern Smith): "Equal but not the same: Alberta may give ground in order to preserve 'sanctity' of marriage"
(1-col pic: "Lip lock. Alberta Premier Ralph Klein can't get the 'm' word out.") But can live with "registered domestic partnership."

BRIEF: "Feds officially squirm" (at recognizing same-sex spouses for benefits & income tax; BC to recognize same-sex survivor pension benefits)

Apr 8, 1999:
Spousal Wrongs
Supreme Court weaves coupledom into social safety net

NEWS LEAD (essay by Brenda Cossman): "The full monty: Spousal rights mean you'll be on the hook for years to come"
(3-col pic [from The Full Monty]: "Hats off. The Supreme Court Of Canada takes the marriage oath back to the bare essentials.") Court deems exes long-divorced entitled to spousal support.

EDITORIAL (David Walberg): "Singles of the world unite!"
"The powers that be ... are trying to make Siamese twins of us all, soldering our limbs together with laws which expand the defintion of spouse. ... The Supreme Court Of Canada has recently decided that a wealthy spouse may be financially responsible for a poorer spouse well beyond the end of the relationship, and for reasons unrelated to the relationship." A survey conducted for Xtra! showed that "gay men and lesbians most likely to have financial needs -- those who are older or poorer -- are overwhelmingly without a traditional spouse. ... perhaps the state should acknowledge friends, multiple lovers and other unconventional relationships, including extended chosen families. If that seems too confusing, and if we're really concerned about those in need, perhaps we should reconsider the whole idea of doling out financial rewards by association -- so that getting your teeth fixed has nothing to do with who you know."

Apr 22, 1999:
NEWS (Heather M Ross): "Hands in pockets, shuffling feet: Why did EGALE not jump into spousal rights lawsuit against Ottawa?"
(2-col pic: "Advisor. John Fisher says EGALE really is tough.") Left it to the Foundation for Equal Families, if advising: "both working toward the same goal."

BRIEF: "Ignore spousal rights this time?" (gay Liberal candidate George Smitherman says cuts to health care a bigger issue)

May 6, 1999:
Love is hard work
Are open relationships an emotional burden?

FEATURE ("Mixed media: ideas, opinions & analysis," by Kamal Al-Solayee): "The Joy & Agony of Non-Monogamy: Why one man sometimes just isn't enough"
(2-col pic: "Casual encounters": two guys entwined; one dick.) "Monogamy, my boyfriend says, is a plot concocted by mainsteam society to break down the radical spirit of the gay community. ... Quite often, gay men's inability to commit to a monogamous relationship stems from a refusal to take emotional responsibility seriously...."
May 6, 1999:
EDITORIAL (David Walberg): "Free love & marriage"
"It's one thing to come to terms with one's fears and insecurities. It's another things to construct a relationship around pandering to them." Text doesn't (otherwise) mention marriage.
May 20, 1999:
2 BRIEFS: "Quebec grants spousal rights?" (bill proposed); "M versus H" ("The long awaited Supreme Court Of Canada same-sex spousal rights decision will be released today")
Jun 3, 1999:
Spousal rights victory?
Supreme Court decision in context (page 11)

NEWS LEAD (Gail J Cohen): "The faceless M & H: Still anonymous after all these years"
(2-col graphic: "Pictured. M & and her ex H": cartoon; "?" over faces.) "It may be the most celebrated ruling on same-sex rights in Canada, but the two women whose case validated homo unions in the eyes of the law choose to stay veiled in anonymity." (Officially touting -- if wondering?)

SIDEBAR: "The basics" ("The next Ontario provincial government must decide by November what to do about the Supreme Court Of Canada's earth-shattering M v H decision")

NEWS (Shawn Dearn): "Revolt in caucus: Liberal cowards hide spousal rights away?" Bill C-78 has "a catch": it calls same-sex connections not "spousal" but "conjugal."

BRIEF: "Feds buckle, offer benefits!" (to Canada Pension same-sex survivors)

Jun 3, 1999:
Spousal rights victory?
Supreme Court decision in context (pages 9 & 25)

EDITORIAL (Gareth Kirkby, Xtra West!, Vancouver): "The taming of queers"
"Congratulations to those who want to settle down with a 'life partner' and enjoy the sanction of the courts. But remember, gay culture also celebrates other ways of living our lives as sexual and loving people. And, by the way, make sure you see a lawyer to work out your prenuptial agreement. You don't want to lose an eye, or an arm and a leg, in a future split."

FEATURE / "Mixed medium" (Brenda Cossman): "Clean up your Act! What M versus H says, & what it means"
(2-col graphic: Smiling cartoon-grooms: "Not yet. The Supreme Court Of Canada goes out its way to state the decision has nothing to do with marriage.") "Some of us have won the right to sue our exes. And a bunch of us have won the right to be sued and make the big pay out. And pay we will."

Jun 17, 1999:
NEWS (Philip Hannan, Ottawa): "Het marriage wins out: Reformer says homo parenting is 'gender deprived'"
(2-col pic: "What the...?" Justice Minister Anne McLellan "backs the Reform Party.") "The Liberal federal government has appealed to populist prejudice by supporting a Reform motion that legal marriage excludes homosexuals."

BRIEF: "Quebec passes rights bill"(equal pensions, insurance & taxes for same-sex couples)

Jul 1, 1999: No related stories (Cop swoop on Bijou takes centre stage, subject of Jun 25 "News Flash!" -- Xtra!'s 1st extra since the 1994 spousal rights "shame")  
Jul 15, 1999: Ditto  
Jul 29, 1999: Still ditto Jul 29, 1999:
BRIEF: "Wedding bells!" ("We want the right to be obnoxious too," U of T gay group says, staging on-campus mock nuptials. "We're not advocates of marriage by any stretch of the imagination. But as an institution it provides a certain legitimacy that should be available to all relationships." Doubting, but still touting?)
Aug 12, 1999: Bijou bust & further cop crackdowns dominate news pages  
Aug 26, 1999: Still....  
Sept 9, 1999:
BRIEF: "Lawyers vote for spousal rights" (Canadian Bar Association backs the cause. Doug Elliott, lawyer in M v H, announces awards: pro-marriage gay MP Svend Robinson a Hero; Martha McCarthy, lawyer for M in M v H, an "Ally" as het advocate for homos)
Sept 23, 1999:
NEWS (Philip Hannan, Ottawa): "New Dems want homo marriage: Dissent is there, but very, very quiet"
(1-col pic: "No pressure. New Democrat Nelson Riis changes his spots"; had supported Reform Party anti-gay marriage vote.) "Moral," not socialist, dissent.
Oct 7, 1999:
Panic in Queen's Park
Tories scramble as gay legal reform deadline looms

NEWS (Eleanor Brown): "Pawk, pawk, pawk: Tories avoid talking as spousal rights deadline looms"
(2-col pic: "M versus H." Attorney-General James Flaherty: his "minions are suspiciously silent on the Supreme Court Of Canada's orders.") Six weeks to D-Day. Tom Warner of CLGRO says: "They know they have to do it quietly."
NEWS (Tom Yeung, Vancouver): "First national survey still in limbo: EAGLE's tough rhetoric warns of court battle"
(1-col pic: "What's up?" John Fisher "denies he was pressured to talk.") Court fight over ownership of data from "first truly national gay and lesbian survey."

BRIEF: "Spousal rights at Ford" (Candian Auto Workers rep says: "They waited until they were forced")

Oct 21, 1999:
3 BRIEFS: "Ontario won't commit" ("Tom Warner says gay men and lesbians must push the Tories to change spousal rights laws -- within the next two weeks"); "Pension win" (feds settle in BC same-sex case); "Federal benefits" ("The first ever federal law to provide same-sex benefits," to surviving spouses of civil servants, receives Royal Assent)
Oct 21, 1999:
Survey says...
Straight people love us -- but there's a catch

FEATURE ("Mixed medium," Sean Saraq): "Dangerous popularity: What price have queers paid for gaining mainstream acceptance?"
(2-col graphic: cartoon boys in bed with cat.) "The rapidity with which the general population has accepted gay and lesbian people is not without caveats. It's a particular kind of acceptance, one which could backfire in the long run, if recent trends in the US are any indication."
Nov 4, 1999:
Howdy, pardner
Ontario acknowledges same-sex partners: What does it mean for couples & our community? (pages 11 & 12)

NEWS LEAD (essay by Brenda Cossman): "Separate but equal: It's up to heterosexuals to take up the cudgels now"
(4-col graphic: "Loving couples. Little Mikey [Harris, twice, in propeller beanies] hated it, but had to do it.") Province passes "An Act to Amend Certain Statutes Because Of The Supreme Court Decision in M v H," revising 67 laws distinguishing between same- & opposite- sex couples.
"There is nothing separate about the rights and responsibilities that have been extended. ... So what is the squawking about 'separate but equal' [echoed in this story's headline]? To save face with its own family values constituency, the Harris government decided not to call same-sex couples 'spouses,' but instead to call them 'partners.' ... We are now in the same boat as straight unmarried couples. Why not let them fight the rest of the battles for us?"

3 SIDEBARS: "Still not spouses: Tories legislate segregation" Same-sex couples recognized "in a way that the courts have already ruled to be an 'appalling doctine' based on segregation"; "What it does" (details); "They really like us" (listing one oblgatory Tory, the Attorney General, 8 Liberals and 10 NDPers in support)

Nov 4, 1999:
Howdy, pardner
Ontario acknowledges same-sex partners: What does it mean for couples & our community? (page 29)

COLUMN ("Fluid xchange," HIV/AIDS issues; Ann Silversides): "Roommates no more: PWAs with lovers risk losing disability support"
"The negative impact is a completely predictable result of the equality rights legislation, but it appears to have taken a lot of AIDS service organizations by surprise. ... Lawyer Douglas Elliott, who argued the supreme court case that led to the Ontario changes, calls the effects on PWAs 'an unfortunate side effect.... It is necessary to take the good with the bad. ... My heart does go out to people I see in my office. ... I'm sure some people will rush for the closet.' But it seems that, unless you live alone, the closet will be no place to hide."
Nov 18, 1999:
4 BRIEFS: "M may appeal 'partners' law" ("Not willing to settle for third class status, M is seriously considering going back to the Supreme Court Of Canada to ask the court to rule that the Ontario legislation has failed us again"); "Marriage case in court" (man seeking leave from work to marry his boyfriend); "What's up with the feds?" ("Rumours are swirling in Ottawa about a same-sex spousal rights bill being introduced very soon -- but nothing specific has been said"); "EGALE meets in Ottawa" (announcement of annual meeting, with phone number)
Dec 2, 1999: No related stories  
Dec 16, 1999:
Finding religion
Why are so many queers flocking to the church?

(Cover pic: Boy & girl in robes, with halos, gazing heavenward)
FEATURE ("Mixed medium," Christina Starr): Divine Determination: As Canadians leave relgion like rats from a sinking ship, queers are fighting their way back in. Are we crazy?"
No: we just want to be "affirmed."

NEWS LEAD (essay by Brenda Cossman): "Ignoring the courts: Putting minority rights to majority votes"
(2-col pic: "Screwing you real good: Alberta Premier Ralph Klein tests the waters.") Alberta politician [not Ralph] plans private member's bill to ban gay marriage, suggesting use of the Charter's "notwithstanding" clause. "Marriage may now seem like the final and obvious frontier for gay and lesbian rights.... But the rules of the fight are changing. We can no longer assume that legal victories will translate into legislative ones."

BRIEF: "New names at EGALE" (New board; e-mail address leads to permanent executive director John Fisher)

Dec 16, 1999:
Disco church?
Circuit parties provide spiritual communion

NEWS (Matthew Hayes): "Priests of the circuit: A disco is just a different kind of church"
(3-col pic: "Black & Blue. The boys at Montreal's Thanksgiving circuit party find relgion in the masses.") "The closer you got to the centre of the dance floor, the closer you got to channeling the positive energy, the spiritual energy, there." (Touting alternatives? Or just a seasonal hook? A note leads to the "Bottoms up" event listings for a "complete rundown of New Year's Eve parties")
Dec 30, 1999:
NEWS (Eleanor Brown): "You'd better really love each other: Because once achieved in Quebec, gay marriage is forever"
(1-col pic: "A 1994 betrayal." Provincial Liberal leader Jean Charest: "counting on Quebecers to have short memories, says activist Claudine Ouellet.") Interview with Ouellet, a lawyer "who had an integral role" in Bill 32, extending "common-law relationship rights to homos," planning a challenge to the Quebec Civil Code definition of marriage. "If we gain the right to marry, it will be forever, because divorce is federal." (Doubting? But still touting?)


Doug Elliott

Douggie Do Right
"Take the good with the bad"
Heart-felt regards to the "unfortunate." See Nov 4, 1999 & Feb 24, 2000


Dominating news pages in the first months of (what got called) the 21st century: Bill C-23, a bid to "modernize" our lives. "Recognition" sees "delirious optimism"; regulation raises questions about who is, or is not, a common-law "conjugal couple" -- and why social benefits should depend on our sex lives.

See the same questions trashed as a "smokescreen" when asked (if disingenuously) by right-wing pols doing "stupid pet tricks." See Xtra! ask when we'll get "equal" treatment on tax forms -- and warn that if we lie about joint income we could go to jail (implicitly urging not bold resistance but sensible submission). See a headline on homo couples denied home ownership -- the story telling of none, but touting our "healthy disposable incomes."

See a lawyer "too cute to be straight" (but he is) get beyond spouse touting -- in a piece flagged "Spousal Rights." Michael Leshner, poster boy of that '90s cause, comes back demanding a marriage licence (already going on about "choice"); see "Same-Sex Spousal Rights" become "Gay Marriage," an EGALE board member eager to join others marching to the altar -- via the courts.

Year's end sees two same-sex couples ready to wed by a different route, a religious ritual offering "a loophole in Canada's marriage laws." We'll see lots more of them (the boys anyway) in 2001. And beyond.

Lead news stories: 2 / Other news stories: 24 / Sidebars: 11 / Briefs: 13 / Features: 1
Editorials: 3 / Columns: 1

Spouse touting Spouse doubting
Main cover story  Noted on cover Main cover story  Noted on cover
Jan 13, 2000: No spousal related stories
Jan 27, 2000:
NEWS: "Promise ignored"
(1-col pic: "Up to her." Elinor Caplan: "Will new minster follow up?") Previous Immigration minister poops out on allowing same-sex couples to enter Canada as "family"; new minister "did not return Xtra's calls."

BRIEF: "More on marriage" (opposite-sex definition of "marital status" in Ontario Human Rights Code ruled discriminatory)

Feb 10, 2000:
NEWS (Philip Hannan, Ottawa): "Homos are not 'family': New party pushes same old anti-gay CCRAP"
(1-col pic: "Bah humbug. Moderate MP Keith Martin's pleas were ignored.") The (then) Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party reaffirms the heterosexual family as "the essential building block for a healthy society."

BRIEF: "What about taxes for same-sex spouses?" (Ontario tax form still uses opposite-sex definition; province, stalling, waiting for feds to amend Federal Income Tax Act; phone and fax numbers given for Ontario's top tax man: Ernie Eves)

Feb 24, 2000:
The Scoop on New Fed Gay Relationships Bill!
(pages 11 & 13)

NEWS LEAD (Jesse Clarke): "Widowers still doomed to poverty: Lawyer hopes to force feds to pay pension benefits"
(2-col pic: "Do right. Elliott wants to push Ottawa to pay up.") "Douglas Elliott believes that the federal government has been robbing queers on the backs of their dead lovers. Ottawa's legislation for common-law same-sex partners isn't retroactive. ... Some are fearful -- about retroactive taxes.... Elliott dismisses this concern, suggesting that it's the same argument used by governments which want to deny homos full rights. "It seems to me that discrimination is discrimination."

NEWS (Philip Hannan, Ottawa): "Delirious optimism: Our relationships are about to be recognized"
(1-col pic: "Smilin'. Bob Gallagher [of the Foundation for Equal Families] is happy but tough.") "Modernization of Benefits & Obligations Act" (Bill C-23) pending. "Just don't call your partner a spouse, because Ottawa is refusing to recognize gay marriage." Lists benefits for "gay couples who have lived together for at least a year"; quotes justice minister: "We are extending not only benefits but obligations" -- none listed, if reporting: "The cost of the changes will be minimal as some couples may actually find themselves paying more to the government. For example, some may no longer qualify for GST credits for lower income earners because they will have to combine their incomes for tax purposes."

Some Liberals MPs joined Reform in threatening to withhold support unless benefits are extended to non-conjugal relationships, "like siblings who live together." John Fisher calls this "a smokescreen" to mask anti-gay bias: EGALE isn't opposed to wider benefits, but Bill C-23 targets "inequalites that have been ruled unacceptable by the courts."

4 SIDEBARS: "No immigration" (EGALE: "It is preferable that immigration issues be addressed in separate legislation"); "Reform warns of the sex police" (calling it a 'benefits for sex bill': 'if nothing happens in the bedroom, one does not qualify'); "Religious wrong" (Canadian Family Action Coalition says it's wrong to "make the sole criteria for extending benefits private sexual intimacies"); "What you can do" ("Action alert" from EGALE)

INVOLVEMENT DEVICE ("Talk amongst yourselves!" -- online Xtra! "Koffee Klatch," Letters page): "What do you think of Bill C-23? The federal government will recognize same-sex couples living together for one year or more as common-law couples. Is it a wussy effort or a heroic one?" (Runs continuously to May 4, 2000 issue, and in Jun 29)

Feb 24, 2000:
The Scoop on New Fed Gay Relationships Bill!
(page 9)

EDITORIAL (Paul Gallant): "Common law is just too common"
"Symbolically, it's all quite dramatic ... winning a battle is, from a sentimental perspective, a heartening thing. But what exactly have gay and lesbian people won? ... For the sake of symbolic equality, queers have accepted cold-hearted common law, where relationships are codified and regulated according to a time-table rather than to a declaration of intent. ... In this the rightwing critics of Bill C-23 are bang-on. Who's to decide whether two sexually involved roommates will constitute a couple?"
Mar 9, 2000: Issue unavailable. Julia Garro's "In Holy Matrimony," Mar 9, is noted in the next issue -- in a letter from "www.rentapriest.com"  
Mar 23, 2000:
NEWS (Philip Hannan, Ottawa): "Last gasp: Protecting the 'inherent nature of the human race.'"
(Flag: "C-23"; 2-col pic: "No public good. Peter Stock of the Canadian Family Action Coalition disses homos.") Religious Right testifies before parliamentary committee against Bill C-23.

NEWS (Gail J Cohen): "Judicial activism: Retired justice urges gays to keep at it"
Peter Cory tells lawyers: "As members of the bar, you have to be fearless in representing unpopular people and causes."

4 BRIEFS: "Ralph Klein's a coward" (premier absent as Alberta passes ban on gay marriage); "Grits nix marriage" (Liberal Party convention says No); "NAC fights back" (National Action Committee on the Status of Women crashes parliamentary hearings, "politely," to say Yes); "Pension benefits" (MP Svend Robinson tells same-sex survivors to apply soon)

Mar 23, 2000:
I wanna marry a lesbian millionare!
COLUMN (Marnie Woodrow): "Who wants to commit to a lesbian?"
"The bride will carry a bouquet of frost-damaged crocuses; the groom will look great in her Doc Marten galoshes. Ladies and wimmyns (and gents), we introduce to you the first annual CBC network 'I Want to Commit to a Lesbian Millionare' contest. ... A folllow-up video will be aired in 10 years. Or five. Or three. In the event of an unexpected separation, the CBC will film the poignant moments of rupture instead."
Apr 6, 2000:
NEWS (Philip Hannan, Ottawa): Gay marriage by stealth: Het clause satisfies no one"
(Flag: "C-23:"; 2-col pic: "Woman of the hour." MP Carolyn Bennett, who joined three others on the justice committee in voting against an amendment "forcing a het definition of marriage" into Bill C-23) "'This minister [Anne McLellan, Justice] has caved in to her own Neanderthal backbenchers,' says gay NDPer Svend Robinson."
Apr 6, 2000:
EDITORIAL (Paul Gallant): "Hooray for sexless marriage"
"How do you know if you're a couple or just very close roommates? ... Do you and your co-resident share meals or do you have separate meal arrangements? Do you ever attend social or family events with each others' family or friends or relatives? ... If you answered yes to these and 28 other questions, you may very well be in a government sanctioned relationship for the purposes of social service programs like Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program. ... Ontario does not ask anything like, 'How often do you and your co-resident have sex?' Your welfare benefits hang on whether you share the cost of a pizza -- but not on whether you're sharing a bed."
Apr 20, 2000:
NEWS (Philip Hannan, Ottawa): "Destroying innocent lives: Blood-sucking homos continue to stymie family values politicians"
(Flag: "C-23"; 2-col pic: "Earnest. Out MP Réal Ménard did his darnedest to win over Bloc Québécois colleagues (and was very successful).") Bill C-23 passes third reading. "Same-sex partners are all but a step from becoming equal to heterosexual common-law couples." Canadian Alliance (former Reform) MP says: "Their ultimate goal is to destroy the institution of marriage...."

NEWS (Tom Yeung, Vancouver): "Spousal battle not over"
(Flag: "Immigration"; 1-col pic: "Left out. Chris Morrisey with her partner Bridget Coll.") New bill "doesn't actually mention homos."

BRIEF (1 of 6 "Tidbits"): "The annual Parliament Hill fundraiser for Equality for Gays And Lesbians Everywhere is coming up next month."

May 4, 2000:
NEWS LEAD (Frank Prendergast): "Don't lie on income tax: Denying same-sex relationship could land you in jail"
(Flag: "Spousal Rights"; 1-col pic: man behind bars: "Or else. Kathleen Lahey says once Bill C-23 goes through, you've gotta be out.") When Lahey, "a lesbian law professor at Queen's University" [and avid gay marriage advovate], informally asked Revenue Canada whether they would go after couples who filed separately, she was told, "and I will quote: 'You wanted it. You fought for it. You got it. Now you deal with it.'" Leahey calls this "a step backward." (But neither she nor this article suggests resistance. Still touting: the "inevitable.")
May 18, 2000:
BRIEF: "Leshner nuptials?" (Crown Attorney Michael and Mike Stark, lovers for 19 years, refused a marriage licence by City Hall. "A group of gay men and lesbians plan to fight Canada's marriage laws in court.")
Jun 1, 2000:
NEWS (Elisa Kukla): "Couples can't get bank loans" Marketing Magazine says "financial institutions remain reluctant to recognize dual incomes when same-sex couples apply for joint mortgages" -- calling it a "big financial mistake ... considering that many gays and lesbians are professionals with healthy disposable incomes." (Story reports no couples who "can't get bank loans.")

BRIEF: "Marriage" ("The fight for gay marriage is moving to the fore": Leshner plans suit; Quebec couple in court; EGALE board member Cynthia Callaghan and partner apply for licence in BC)

Jun 15, 2000:
NEWS (Krishna Rau): "Crashing the party: Activist ignores threats and applies for marriage"
(Flag: "Spousal Rights"; 2-col pic: "Eating it, too. Mike Stark and Michael Leshner want the cake": stabbing one) "For Leshner, laws that prevent gay men and lesbians from marrying are like vampires. 'We should put a stake through the marriage legislation as we would through Dracula. It's not, per se, advocating marriage in the least. It's advocating choice." Story reports BC NDP government's attorney general "in favour of gay marriage."

2 SIDEBARS: "Divorce rights" ("Under orders from the judiciary, the province is now protecting the rights of the 'divorced' same-sex ex"); "She'll sue" (Claudine Ouellet challenges federal definition of marriage: "We have to avoid the separate but equal trap." David Corbett of the Foundation for Equal Families says: "This will be litigated." EGALE asks the Senate to intervene; it does not)

BRIEF (sidebar to story on the Canadian Alliance): "Stupid pet tricks" (Juicy quotes from Alliance members on Bill C-23)

Jun 29, 2000:
NEWS (Nicola Luksic): "Too cute to be straight: Acitivist Bruce Ryder a bit sheepish about his own wedded bliss"
(Flag: "Spousal rights"; 2-col pic: "Pass it on. Law prof Bruce Ryder, married with kids, has taken on gay rights fight.") "I'm proud to have rightwingers call me a gay activist," says the straight lawyer who defended Bill C-23 -- if saying it's just the beginning. Hopes to see recognition of non-conjugal connections ("being in a sexual relationship shouldn't be a base for benefits") and partnership registration ("far more preferable than [the state] imposing definitions and obligations on people").
Beyond spouse touting: Bruce Ryder was working on the Law Commission of Canada study that would produce Beyond Conjugality in Jan 2002. Here's he's fit into the touting frame.

2 SIDEBARS: "Are you conjugal?" ("You want a crisp, clean-cut definition of 'conjugal'? Too bad. ... Ryder worries than more couples will find themselves under the scrutiny of the state"); "How they voted" (Yeas, nays, and not voting on Bill C-23; list of all MPs; small pic: "Local highlight. East-end MP Dennis Mills comes around! (Maybe send him a card?)")

Jul 13, 2000:
NEWS (Rory MacDonald, Ottawa): "Politicos & pundits" (Flag: "EGALE Gala"; 1-col pic: "Liberal. Toronto MP Carolyn Bennett.") Pol-studded event raised $7,000; EGALE address and phone number provided.

2 BRIEFS (Philip Hannan & Rory MacDonald, Ottawa): "Royal Assent for C-23" ("After almost 30 years after the first gay protest on Parliament Hill in 1971, homos gained another step toward equality last month"); "Orser settles" (gay figure skater Brian Orser's ex asked $5,000 a month in palimony; details of settlement unavailable)

Jul 27, 2000: No related stories.  
Aug 10, 2000:
NEWS (Ab Valasco): "Passports ignore same-sex spouses ...which ticks off homo travellers"
(Flag: "Bill C-23") Application options for marital status: just single, married, widowed or separated. Irate applicant says: "It was insulting that they can still do that."
Aug 24, 2000:
"Gettin' hitched in BC!"
NEWS (Tom Yeung, Vancouver): "The fight out west: Criticism comes from self-hatred, says EGALE member"
(Flag: "Tying the knot"; 2-col pic: "The happy couple. Cynthia Callaghan and Judy Lightwater are going to court."); 2-col pic: "The cake. Murray Warren and Peter Cook have a human rights complaint": faces tipped-in over bride and groom on wedding cake.) Warren-Cook "mad" EGALE is ignoring them, backing their board member Callaghan.

NEWS: "Who are they? Eight couples are fighting for marriage in Ontario"
(Flag: "Court case") Martha McCarthy (of M v H), representing six lesbian and two gay male pairs (unnamed), warns: "The religious right has said they will intervene."

NEWS: "The rabbi & the lesbians" (Flag: "Love Story") Couple who "could have been formally married" in Holland find a friendly rabbi in Vancouver. "The only missing detail is a marriage licence" -- applied for and refused.

SIDEBAR: "Vermont" (approves same-sex couples "'legally joined' in civil unions")

Sept 7, 2000:
NEWS (Elisa Kukla): "Ignoring same-sex couples: Stats Can didn't ask about homos in violence survey"
(Flag: "Domestic Assault") "We're still in the dark about abuse in queer households." Sampling of 25,874 people revealed not enough same-sex pairs "to make it a significant test group."
Sept 7, 2000:
Anne Heche!
EDITORIAL (Paul Gallant): "Reading Anne Heche like tea leaves"
"What exactly did Anne Heche say when she wandered up to that house in Fresno post-break-up [with Ellen DeGeneres], like in a scene from a cooly received Psycho remake? ...it wasn't Ellen in the news, it was Anne. Because, unnerving as it is, Anne personifies the hopes and fears of contemporary homo culture. Anne's bird-like body and airhead image produce a perfecr blank screen on which to project our anxieties."
Sept 21, 2000:
NEWS: "Rating MPs: Ohio man looks to Canada"
(Flag: "Gay Rights"; 1-col pic: "Bill Graham: Gay village MP is an A+ kinda guy.") US activist "with some time on his hands" ranks legislators in US, UK, Australia, and Canada -- here based on Bill C-23 and Alliance "hets only" marriage amendment votes.
Oct 5, 2000: No related stories. (Sept 14 Pussy Palace bust dominates news pages in this issue and the one before.)  
Oct 19, 2000:
2 BRIEFS: "Marriage" ("The Canadian Alliance has promised to protect heterosexual marriage in its election platform, also promising "to treat all Canadians equally, giving everyone the respect and dignity they deserve under the law"; EGALE "not impressed"); "Svend's bill" (private member's; to legalize same-sex marriage)
Nov 2, 2000:
"Minister of injustice?"
NEWS: (Philip Hannan, Ottawa): "Grits nix marriage: And age of consent? Mumble mumble mumble"
(Flag: "Election"; small pic: "Say nothing. Justice Minister Anne McLellan fudges.") Anne says the Liberals will defend opposite-sex definition of marriage. Age of consent in "consultation" (no change made to date -- but they're still talking).

NEWS (Philip Hannan & Paul Gallant): "The scorecard: The lowdown on each of the big parties"
(Flag: "Federal election"; 1-col pic: "Ratings. EGALE's John Fisher has the poop.") Lobbyists give New Dems 93%, Bloc 85%, Liberals 66%; Tories 50%; Alliance "absolutely zero."

Nov 16, 2000:
BRIEF: "NS Spouses" (Nova Scotia says any two people living together for three years are common-law spouses)
Nov 30, 2000:
NEWS (Eleanor Brown): "Two gay MPs returned: EGALE's first big election push seems a success"
(Flag: "Federal Election"; 1-col pic: "It was scary for a while.... but Svend Robinson gets back in.") Réal Ménard too. "Canada's national homo lobby group went gangbusters -- and came up smelling like roses."
Dec 14, 2000:
Gay marriage!
NEWS (Elisa Kukla): "Already in the chapel: Brent Hawkes calls the publicity itself his first victory"
(Flag: "Marriage"; 2-col pic: "A packed house. Rev Brent Hawkes reads out the banns of marriage last Sunday -- to thundering applause.") Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto pastor says he's "found a loophole in Canada's marriage laws": reading of the "banns" three Sundays in a row makes it legal -- "a rule brought in many years ago when there was a closer relationship between Christian churches and the state." MCCT lawyer Doug Elliott: "I think it's a delicious irony to use traditional Christianity, that has so often been a foe of gay and lesbian rights, as a weapon to advance equality." Banns may be challenged but Hawkes is happy: "The media attention has been overwhelming."

SIDEBAR: "Sky versus Brent" (Flag: "Meow") "Cat fight! Queer activist and theatre maven Sky Gilbert is challenging Brent Hawkes ... to a political duel over the policing of sexuality," citing his lack of support "when our places of pleasure [the Bijou and the Pussy Palace] are under attack."

NEWS (Ariene Clement): "A contested will: Dead gay man can't rest in peace"
(Flag: "Death, Taxes & Squabbling"; 2-col pic: "Sign here. Grant Keable's last will is being contested by some family members.") A friend got everything; Mom nothing; family claims dementia.

Dec 28, 2000:
Love story
Gay couple prepares for double wedding

(Small cover pic: Kevin Bourassa)
NEWS (Elisa Kukla): "Love at first sight: Magic moment four years ago leads to marriage"
(Flag: "Reading the Banns"; 2-col pic: "Staying together. Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell say the secret is the support of family and friends.") Jan 14 wedding date at MCCT for "a director at CIBC, a big bank" and "a web developer at the Sony electronics company" (with a lesbian couple also to be wed, unnoted in this story).

SIDEBAR: "Dissent denied" (Challenge to banns at MCCT's Dec 17 reading, by Rev Ken Campbell, "long-time thorn in the gay community's side," rebuffed by Rev Hawkes.

FEATURE (facing page, by Elisa Kukla): "A pure & platonic love Two hot & heavy lesbians deceived 16th century lawmakers"
(Flag: "History"; 3-col image: "Royalty. Margaret, the daughter of Charles the Fifth of Austria, was eventually appointed vice-king of the Netherlands.") "Unattractive" princess and "prize of feminine beauty" get away with it: "There was no proof they had a physical relationship."



Go on to:
Only disconnect / Part Two  (2001-2002 & Conclusion)

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Xtra!... Two solitudes
Ideas  in play  (List of contents)
Gay marriage? Wrong question  (Lead page)

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November 2002 / Last revised: December 27, 2002
Rick Bébout © 2002 / rick@rbebout.com