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Gay Albertans vow to keep up the fight against Bill 44


Gay Albertans vow to keep up the fight against Bill 44

DAY OF PROTEST. Activist and former city councillor Michael Phair spoke at the June 1 rally against Alberta's Bill 44.OUTRAGE. Rob Wells at the June 1 protest. While Bill 44 adds sexual orientation to the province's human rights act, many argue that the IMAGE 1 OF 2
Law threatens lessons on sex, sexual orientation
As Bill 44 passed early Tuesday morning, Alberta became the last province to formally recognize gay rights and the first to recognize the controversial idea of parental rights.

"Tomorrow the sun will rise, teachers will conduct their classes, and all will be right with the world," claimed Alberta Progressive Conservative Culture and Community Spirit Minister Lindsay Blackett. Many in Alberta disagree. 

Blackett spoke at 1:30am Tuesday morning at the third reading of Bill 44, which formally adds sexual orientation to Alberta's Human Rights Act at the cost of also enshrining "parental rights." Section 9 of Bill 44 will allow parents to remove their children from class when lessons on religion, sex or sexual orientation are being taught.

In reaction to Bill 44, David Swann, leader of the official opposition said that when it comes to democracy, he is "profoundly disappointed with Alberta today."

The day leading up to the vote was dubbed the "Day of Protest Against Bill 44" by Edmonton's queer community, who were out in visible force throughout the day.

At 11am on the legislature steps, prominent activists from the community held a press conference to denounce Bill 44. The group included lawyer Julie Lloyd who was involved in the Vriend vs Alberta Supreme Court case, which ruled sexual orientation must be included in provincial human rights legislation across Canada. Also in attendance were police commissioner Murray Billet, long-time activist and former city councillor Michael Phair, Kris Wells of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, and Lance Anderson, a gay father of two who along with his husband won a major adoption battle in Alberta.

During the press conference Billet noted that this all started 11 years ago with the Vriend vs Alberta Supreme Court ruling when "a teacher was fired for being gay." Now, the province is "making it so a teacher can be fired for teaching gay," he says.

The most poignant moment came when Anderson, through tears, cried out for the Alberta government to fight him instead of his kids. "I fought this government before to adopt my children," he said. "I won. I'll do it again."

Later in the day families gathered on the steps of the Alberta legislature to chant and show their opposition to the bill.

Like last week's second reading of the bill, the debate was scheduled for late into the night, and people across the province watched it unfold on streaming video online and by commenting via Twitter. In the end the bill passed 35 to 7 with all of the members of the Progressive Conservative party voting for it, even though there had been some rumours that not all members were for it. Premier Ed Stelmach promised that the vote would be a "free vote," meaning members did not have to vote along party lines.

Before the vote even happened Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason vowed "the battle to repeal Bill 44 starts tomorrow." Later Swann suggested calling for a referendum on parental rights.
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We were all kids too.
My response to Luke's comment is a reminder that a significant proportion of the students whom this legislation will affect are LGBTQ. It is so difficult growing up. The least we should expect from schools is that teachers will be allowed to educate, inform, and protect as best they can.

I'll share a few bits related to teaching and openness. In my Grade 8 science class, a very enthusiastic classmate was allowed to present an extensive project about Creationism, however, our teacher made it clear that it was based on a religious text, rather than scientific methods. My Socials class was able to freely discuss our viewpoints about the possibility of same-sex marriage in Canada and the Personal Planning class had open and hilarious discussions about sexuality and health.

Despite my long-standing interest in the rights of LGBTQ people, I grew up in a small town (read: a place that feels distinctly heteronormal, gender polar, and generally socially conservative). Though the legitimacy and existence of LGB people were never denied, it seemed like they would never actually live in this town (Trans and gender queer people never made it into discussions). In grade 10, I asked a close friend, whom I had assumed was straight, whether there were any boys she liked. She just said no. Her quiet request for a handmade rainbow bracelet was a bit of an "aha" moment. So too was my first crush on a girl (along the lines of "what! I like boys AND girls too?")

Until this year I never knew any openly LGBTQ teachers or school employees, though there were several wonderful allies. While my high school felt fairly tolerant, only four people from my graduating class were out. I wasn't one of them. This was in 2007 when about 250 students graduated.

"Tolerant" school environments aren't always truly "supportive" for students and staff. Teachers should feel comfortable bringin
Your Wrong Luke,
With all due respect Luke, many of us.. including me have been or are married to opposite gender partners with children. A significant percentage of us have our own kids. In case you didn't know, gay people now get married and are having kids in many of the same ways
str8 people do and they too are raising their families.
The mind is like a parachute, it functions best when open. The only made in Alberta hypocrisy that exists is in government that says one thing publicly yet still discriminates in many ways. This not about kids or parents.. it is about discrimination.
Hope to see you at all the Gay Pride events Luke !
Hmm so lets see now, the gay community can not on its own procreate, yet they seem to have so much to say on the issue of raising children???
I find that grossly hypocritical.
They Actually Did It!!
Alberta, that last bastion of right-wing religious bigotry, has at last recognized the rights of gay persons. That's good. But allowing parents to withdraw their kids from social education classes is not good. With one hand the Alberta government protects the gay community, and with the other allows bigots and bible-thumpers to pull kids out of class so they (Bible-thumping parents) can continue to brainwash them with their homophobic religious agenda.

The only way we will conquer homophobia is by educating ALL people, whether it is in the school system, on the media or on the web - this includes students in public schools.
Not the point!
@Mike - Thats not the point Mike. The fact the policies were already in place is exactly why we are disputing this. Bill 44 enshrined specific "parental rights" into the Human Rights Act, thus drastically heightening the potential consequences for any infraction and expanded the realm of what is not ok to teach. The fact that this portion of the bill was tacked onto a piece of legislation that was supposed to be a great thing for GLBTQ community (even though it's 11 years late) is apalling. Educators now have to be extremely careful when discussing everything from Biology to Health or they could potential face a Human Rights Tribunal which is far worse than it being worked out within the school system.
This is Ridiculous!!
People are falling right in to the Alberta Progressive Conservatives trap. This bill doesn't really change anything. Parents already had the authority to pull their kids out of classes that they found "objectionable" and schools already send out letters notifying parents about any "potentially objectionable" material in the curriculum . And I'm fairly certain that it's like this in all provinces in some form or another. The bottom line is that ultimately its the parents right/responsibility to make educational choices for their kids and teach them their world view. We as gay people might not like their world view, but until those children are adults, it is not the right or responsibility of public institutions or anybody else to teach world views and morality to children. The issue is not about "gay oppression" or the "Religious right" (oddly enough in a province with the 2nd hight population of atheists, agnostics and secular no practicing people in the country...) it is about individualism vs state interference. Assuming that the parents are not negligent... Children, being minors are the responsibility of their parents and the parents are the ones who decide what their kids learn. Not the schools or the state or gay activists. That said... This bill is a diversion meant to shift Albertans focus from all of the economic and infrastructure mismanagement that happened during the boom and now during the recession. All of the PC governments critics have been duped by this trick. I strongly suggest that you get with the program and focus on real issues, not something that for the most part, is a rehash of policies that are already in place...
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