Canada will announce a new dollar coin (known as the “loonie”) next week meant to commemorate 50 years of LGBTQ rights in the country — 1969 was when Canada officially repealed its sodomy laws, under then-justice minister Pierre Trudeau — and yet the planned announcement is upsetting people on both sides of that divide.
You know exactly why the Christian bigots are angry, but why are supporters of LGBTQ rights upset? Because they say that the “decriminalization” of homosexuality occurred in name only, and that gay people continued getting arrested for years after the law was passed.
In other words, the coins are celebrating something that never really happened. It would be as if the U.S. celebrated the end of racism with a coin honoring the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Yes, it was a big deal, but plenty of problems persisted…
York University historian Tom Hooper said the coin commemorates a “myth,” since the sweeping changes to the Criminal Code introduced in 1969 — which decriminalized sexual activity between men over the age of 21 in a private setting — were modest, and police and courts continued to criminalize same-sex relations afterward.
“I feel like they’re putting this myth onto a coin. They’re stamping this coin with 1969 and right next to it ‘equality’ and there was nothing in 1969 to do with equality,” said Hooper, who studies the history of LGBT rights in Canada.
“Even the people who supported the Criminal Code reforms were arguing that we were a mental disease. So this was not about equality.”
Not every gay person (or even activist) feels the same way, but that opposition isn’t insignificant. Hooper plans to hold a protest event just before the new coin’s unveiling next week.
On the flip side, you have conservatives saying the government shouldn’t be celebrating something they feel is a divisive issue. As if treating LGBTQ people with dignity and respect is somehow a debate worth having. A group called CitizenGo Canada has already launched a petition against the “politicization of our coinage”:
Most Canadians are not homosexual and find the idea of homosexual sex to be unappealing or even repulsive. They respect people’s choices, but they would never choose homosexuality for themselves. So why should this divergent and unpopular sexual practice be highlighted on our circulation coinage?
That’s… dumb. They make it sound like the new coin will depict two men having sex. (It will not.) Nor will it “showcase some people’s bedrooms.” (The petition literally says that.)
Their concerns can be dismissed because they oppose the mere existence of LGBTQ people. The other side at least has a valid point — though I would add that there’s never one date on which an issue of this magnitude ever gets resolved completely, so 1969 is as good a date as any to commemorate.
The official design for the roughly three million new coins will be released next week.
(Thanks to Dorothy for the link)