Saturday, March 1, 2014

Two steps forward in America, one step back in Uganda

Another good (and bad) week for common decency.

1) Freedom of religion.   That's the excuse a lot of business owners used well into the 1970s when they refused service to Blacks, Asians and Native Americans.     So it was good to hear Gov. Janice Brewer of Arizona veto the so-called "religious freedom" bill that would have allowed people to do business with gays and lesbians.    It followed the same flawed logic as segregation.    You just can't deny service to someone without a good reason -- for example, they're a known gang member.    9 million people in the States are openly gay, roughly the size of New Jersey.    Why would you turn away a revenue stream like that?    Really.

2) Also this week, a federal court in Dallas struck down the portion of the Texas constitution that bans gay marriages.    That's now two of the eleven Confederate States, and cases are pending in five more.    The march is relentless and that's a good thing.    If this ruling stands, nearly half the population in America will have marriage equality.     What two people do, as long as it's consenting and there's no abuse, is really none of my business.

3) Unfortunately, the regression took place in Uganda, which has now decreed a life sentence for gays and lesbians and even prohibits advocating for LGBT people.   Upon signing the bill the country's President, Yoweri Museveni, said that one of the reasons he was signing the bill was that he didn't "understand" homosexuality.

For the record, sir, I don't know what it's like to be gay (even though I have been falsely accused numerous times of being gay), but that doesn't give me the right to discriminate against LGBTs.   I don't know what it's like to be a visible minority but that doesn't give me the right to discriminate against people who don't have the same skin colour as me (white).    I'm not a woman and I will never know what it's like to be a woman -- and I will plead guilty to some male chauvinism -- but I have never discriminated against, or hated, a woman because she's a woman and I never will.     Homosexuals, people of colour, women -- they are not my enemies, they're my partners.

It wasn't that long ago in Canada that women couldn't file rape complaints against their husbands, but we changed that.    We once forbade women from getting a loan without a male co-signer, but that was changed too.   People of colour once couldn't be in the same sections of a theatre as whites (yes, in Canada) but we saw sense in that.    And gays and lesbians were granted equality in employment and housing a long time ago -- I think Québec was the first, in 1979, when most in that province would have still been opposed to the idea.

People evolve -- I know I have on this issue.   Some people, and some countries, not near fast enough.    If we boycotted with our tourist dollars those states that still discriminate, it just might change minds if sales tax revenues began to dry up -- it certainly did with South Africa and apartheid when the petrodollars of tourism dried up (today, not only is the country free of course, but so is the LGBT community).

The EU member states and other European countries have cut off foreign aid to Uganda.    The US is threatening to do the same.    Meanwhile, Canada has only said the law will "impede relations" but otherwise is doing nothing (for now).    We have to do something.    Last year, our remittance to Uganda was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $41 million.   A lot of it to "on the ground" local groups, many of which are blatantly anti-gay.    We all know how PMS personally feels about the overall issue of homosexuality, but he has scrupulously enforced our laws here as they are.    Isn't it time he "stood up for Canada" and said he will not tolerate in any way what Uganda is doing?   He's cut off all aid to Mali and a big chunk to Haiti for their human rights abuses.    Why should the home of "The Cranes" be any different?

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