Monday, June 12, 2006

The Racing Gay Glacier in Canada

How embarrassing it is that we are the prissy, hoary aunt and uncle of the First World. The United States is shocked, shocked by fellatio and adultery, while hiding our high divorce and infidelity rates. We are likewise allegedly terrified that in Massachusetts homosexuals are legally marrying -- and for some indiscernible reason think that these civil ceremonies somehow threaten religious unions. Huh?

A bit North, the editorial-pages director of the Ottawa Citizen, Leonard Stern, predicts a last gasp of anti-gay, anti-same-sex-marriage voters this fall. In PM Stephen Harper's kabuki in Canada, the rural aged will get to vent and go off quietly to crunch on the tundra.

He looks on both sides of the border and sees accelerated social shifts, the cultural glacier sliding right along.

"A population can, in one generation, reject a whole set of inherited prejudices," he notes. He supports this with a lot of U.S. stats. Key examples include:
  • Percentages of Americans who say that homosexual relations are always wrong have gone from 80% two decades ago to 55% four years ago and surely less now.
  • Recently, 89% said homosexuals deserve equal job rights.
  • 30 years ago, most people wanted to ban gay elementary teachers. Now 70% are indifferent.
  • Meanwhile the percentage saying adultery is always wrong has gone from 70% in 1973 to 80% in 2004.
The overall trends he cites are parallel to acceptance of gays and a lesser extent, gay marriage. Simplistically, we can say that homosexuals have come out, people know them and find no problem, and most see that same-sex marriage harms nothing. Stern adds that "a growing body of research suggests that sexual orientation is part of our hardwiring, like skin colour. The biological dimension makes it harder to label gays and lesbians as deviants who have made perverted lifestyle choices."

While our states were slamming their aunt and uncle windows, most Canadian provinces were getting on with life. Here, 19 states shuddered in paranoia, to a one fearful of the contagion from Massachusetts.

Yet, Harper was able to reel in the reactionaries for his recent minority government with promises of a free vote on repealing SSM. Most of Canada would rather deal with real and present problems, like the economy. A few are like the snapping turtle that won't let go.

Yet, as Stern notes, "Most of these holdouts are rural folk or people older than 60. The data are clear on that. Very soon, resistance to gay marriage will be concentrated in seniors' residences and on disappearing farms.

"I suspect Harper is personally reconciled to the inevitability of gay marriage, but feels compelled to hold a vote to appease parts of his political base. So let them have their vote. It'll be their last stand."

That's a little sad, but it's sadder still that we here lag behind them.

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